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Notes from a Twitter convert

June 21st, 2008 | by Klaus Holzapfel |

Following on TwitterWhen I first heard about Twitter I  thought: No way, Jose! What a useless fad! I even mentioned it in this blog;-)

:: Is this were we are heading?
:: How can 140 character messages be meaningful?
:: Isn’t this exhibitionism on steriods?
:: What happens to my downtime and privacy?
:: Do people really need to know what I am doing at all times?

These were just some of my thoughts. I am clearly an “onliner”  and I was rock solid against it.

Since I wrote the above in past time you might have realized that things have changed a bit lately. See the Twitter plugin in the column to the left ;-)


What made me join?

I knew a lot of very smart friends of mine would be on there but that alone wasn’t good enough. Let them!

But then I ended up in a room with about 50 people at the Boulder Brainjam and many of them were passionate about the same thing. The experience of seeing Twitter live in action changed my mind quickly and I decided to give it a try.

This new form of communication and it really raised some additional questions for me:

:: Looking at my RSS reader – can I handle more content cluttering my day?
:: Will I loose track and totally waste my time?
:: Is this really going to be “useful” at all?
:: Is this worth my time?
:: How do I decide whom to follow?
:: Etc, Etc….

Enough questions. Time for some answers.

My observations
1.) 140 characters really sharpen the communication.
It makes me select my words and forces me to focus and get to the point. Hardly ever do I feel the need for a “double tweet” of 280 characters.

2.) I noticed some remarkable self discipline among the people I follow – excluding a few;-)
They all understand relevance and many of the negative behaviors of web 2.0 haven’t really hit yet – or people are too afraid to get busted. For now this is a place were self-control + crowd control = a working community. There might be something to learn here for the designers of the next generation Internet.

3.) The learning curve is rather short.
After signing up I installed Adobe Air and Twhirl. And that’s good enough to swim with the fish.

4.) It is a great way to see how other people are ticking – when they are ticking.
Many of the great thinkers & infuencers of our time are on Twitter. Following some of them gives me access to their perspective. I might not have to agree but there is always more than one side to the story and this tool helps me to form a more balanced opinion  – right at the time a story is evolving. Not hours or days later.

5.) Listening versus talking
Twitter offers a huge deviation from the conversation style I am used to. Usually you’d expect some sort of balance between listening and talking in a conversation. Otherwise you’d think the other person is not interested, ignorant, full of herself/himself, annoying etc…

On Twitter it is all good: I can talk to the community or directly to others. If they feel like joining the conversation it is up to them. The pressure of receiving an email and feeling the need to reply or being considered rude doesn’t exist. No looking at my inbox and feeling bad about myself.

You might just focus on listening and nobody will consider you a stalker – unlike in a Starbucks if you sit at the next table and seem like you are eavesdropping;-)

Whom do I follow?
I am looking at the Tweets someone has posted – not at their names or status. If I see that someone is too excessive and posts about every meal they order I will not add them to my list of people to follow.

A bit of private information is a good thing though: It makes the “Tweeter” more personal.

But what really triggers me if someone presents their own thinking, relevant and straight to the point.

What’s next?
Some companies (Zappos, Comcast…) have already set some precedence on how they make great use of Twitter. They are tuning in to their customers and use it to present themselves as: “customer service friendly to the extreme”. More companies will follow that trend. This will of course lead to some forms of abuse down the street by annoying or obsessed clients and also by companies that will be trying to hard. Maybe read some of the books discussed in this blog before you hop on the bandwagon;-)

We will see more tools that will engage with Twitter. Twhirl is a nice little client that enhances Twitters functionality quite a bit. But that is just the beginning. We’ll see much mroe of that in the future. I am afraid not all of that will make life on Twitter better.

Some guys will try to build tools that inflate your following or automate replies. I am not looking forward to messages like: “Your tweet has been received and will be answered with the next 48 seconds, hours, days or months.”

Final thoughts
This just provides more discussion points for me every day. Blogging was revolutionary once people caught on to it. Twitter is adding a new layer to how we connect. It is vastly different from everything else.

It is noticable how text messaging was a huge trend in Europe for many years and nobody here really caught on to it. Now the situation is a bit reversed: We are on Twitter – essentially text messaging – and Europe still hasn’t caught on to it yet. Our team in Germany has a hard time explaining Twitter to some of the companies we are talking to. “Is this for real?” seems to be the question we here a lot over there.

Twitter might still be gone one day. The herd of early adopters will eventually move on. But right now it is the tool that comes to my mind when I am thinking about what has changed on the web in the last 12 months.

For all of you that think that I have gone crazy lately:
I hear you and I fully understand where you are coming from. Anybody offering Twitter addiction pills (rebranded M&M’s maybe?) will make a killing. I have a wife and a daughter that keep me in check.

Got to go now – just received some new tweets…most probably some of them are replies to this article already…got the time tunnel going today…

  1. One Response to “Notes from a Twitter convert”

  2. By Michael Sitarzewski - @z3rr0 on Jun 21, 2008 | Reply

    I remember the “No way, Jose!” response. You’ve come a long way Klaus! You live near Boulder now… the rest of the internet is lagging a bit behind now. They will call you crazy for sure.

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