Twitter in 140 Characters or Less: Trivial

I wrote this as a draft and didn’t post it. Now I’m doing so as a way to edit history to make me look pre­scient. Except that at the time of posting, history still dis­agrees with me. Ah well.

As far as I’m con­cerned, there are two pos­si­bil­i­ties regarding twitter. One is that I get it: it’s cross-​​platform version of what the Facebook status update feed does. The second pos­si­bility is that I don’t get it at all, and there is in fact some crazy emergent magic about the exis­tence of tweets in people’s lives that is obscure to me but exists and jus­ti­fies an enormous degree of upcry and hul­la­baloo amongst the tech­no­log­i­cally literate and celebrity tech­nology jour­nal­ists alike.

But even if the second case is true, and I doubt it, there is no con­ceiv­able way that twitter could justify the actual current degree of upcry and hul­la­baloo it is causing. It’s a meme bubble. The bubble will pop. Holy crap people, it’s a single-​​line com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool. Big freaking deal.

I’m reading reports that dis­missing twitter as an “I don’t get it” is so 2009. And maybe I don’t get it. I mean, I under­stand that it rep­re­sents a slightly dif­ferent com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool: a short mes­saging system that is easy to publish to, including phone mes­saging options, allows for a collated syn­di­ca­tion of all your friends tweets into a single, easily digestable stream, and allows for people to sub­scribe and unsub­scribe as they wish. Similar to RSS-​​reading blogs, but simpler and swifter to do, and simpler and swifter can put a tech­nology over the hump into wide­spread use.

But who cares if the wide­spread use is a trivial one? Not that there’s anything wrong with triv­i­ality. Some argue that only newbies use twitter for trivial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but they don’t suggest what a non-​​trivial use of twitter might be, and all the tweets I’ve seen can be fairly sum­ma­rized as trivial. I know, I know, the Iranian rev­o­lu­tion. But from what I’ve read, twitter isn’t actually getting much use by pro­tes­tors, who are mainly using phone mes­saging. The western media is fixating on the twitter traffic because we can’t see the phone messages.

Someone some­where is replying, yes, but that’s only because twitter pen­e­tra­tion isn’t as high as it will be. Once you stop com­plain­ining and start using it, it will become a true rev­o­lu­tion! To answer that we should turn to acknowl­edged twitter-​​lover Clay Shirky, who points out that com­mu­ni­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tions are only ever iden­ti­fi­able in ret­ro­spect. So if the world is fas­ci­nated by twitter for what the rev­o­lu­tion that it might be, I don’t find that very compelling.

Not that it matters. Either twitter is a rev­o­lu­tion, will be a rev­o­lu­tion, or neither. Unless someone finds a non-​​trivial use for a one-​​line message delivery service, then it’s a choice between a trivial rev­o­lu­tion or a non-​​trivial rev­o­lu­tion. Twitter in 140 char­ac­ters or less: trivial.

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