Twitter surprised me. There’s nothing dull about talking to no-one in particular, that no-one most often being the ether. Contrary to my initial assumption, tweeting is not about the odd fascination with exposing oneself. Well, maybe it is, but something much less tangible keeps people there. Twitter is a new way of being “in the loop”, almost literally. There’s a certain feeling that your banter will be picked up by people, even if it’s limited to groggy “Hello Coffee” morning-chatter.
More importantly, there’s a very odd opportunity for to-the-point conversations, unlike email and soon instant messaging. Email came and went, bogged down by a harsh mistress called spam. Instant messaging hasn’t quite left the stage yet, but being logged on indefinately feels like being on-the-phone all day, an unsettling sensation. Twitter hits a hidden sweetspot between the two: it tickles the urge to being in the know; it’s not bogged by spam (yet) and it doesn’t insist upon itself like your favourite IM app does. Probably most usefully, Twitter allows people to get in touch with you in an unintrusive way and forces them to be concise: write me 140 characters or don’t write me at all. It’s email without the suck.
I see a corporate use for Twitter. As I’ve learned from studying scrum, textual is the worst form of communication. Mostly I find that people have a hard time getting off their asses and actually doing the writing, but when they finally do, they write way too much1. While I do see the occasional need for emails longer than 140 characters, I also marvel at the delightful brevity of tweets. Perhaps Twitter and corporate communication are starcrossed lovers; perhaps they just haven’t met yet. I am sure they’d be great lovers.
Hey you! With the turtleneck and square black Buddy Holly glasses! You wanted to know how to streamline your web/advertising company for that report you’re doing? Jot this down: quick, brief, simple communication—good.
On more than one occasion I’ve had the distinct unpleasure of working with people who think the more work gets done the more emails are sent. ↩