Misunderstanding Twitter

The Twitter naysayers have been out in force recently.

After Graham Linehan's comments on Channel Four TV on American lies about the NHS a few journos have been rather disparaging.

Janet Street-Porter calls it a 'middle-class badge of honour... fanned by nerds like David Miliband, fame-addicted slebs like Demi Moore, and techno bores like Stephen Fry.'

Jackie Ashley at the Grauniad completely misunderstands it.

The BBC report that 40 per cent of posts are 'pointless babble' - surely an accusation that can't possibly be aimed at any other form of communication (apropos of nothing, have you seen some episodes of Horizon recently?). We all know that phone voice calls, emails and texts are only ever used for mission critical, vital, life affirming and inspirational communication.

Twitter is a tool. And like all tools it can be very useful. And amusing, pointless, drivelly, arcane, obscure and more by turns.

Is that really so awful?

Comments (6)

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  • 1
    John Seaman wrote on 21st Aug 2009

    I think the difference between email and twitter is that (apart from spam) people tend to follow many more people on twitter and so get many more messages to read. And because the messages are so short you can't say much in them so they're bound to be banal!

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  • 2
    Paul wrote on 26th Aug 2009

    AS Stephen Fry recently said on TMS, it is called Twitter for a reason. It is not called Earnest Debate so what do you expect?

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  • 3
    CW wrote on 26th Aug 2009

    Isn't the point just that there is now a bit of a backlash against all the techno-hype surrounding Twitter? Every time some geek in California burps, the world is swept by another wave of hype about the latest revolution in communications. Yawn. As far as I can see (as a non-Twitterer), it's basically a text message with subscribe/broadcast functionality. A few people are doing clever things with it, most are not. This is not "communication", it's just noise.

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  • 4
    James Christie wrote on 31st Aug 2009

    I'm self-employed and work mainly from home. Twitter's a good way of networking and keeping in touch with what's going on in my field. It all depends who you follow and how you use it. I'm doing some work with a guy in the USA that has arisen from our use of Twitter. If you work in an office in a conventional way then Twitter can seem trivial and pointless, but if you're self-employed it can be part of your strategy for marketing yourself. It's not a matter of doing anything as crude as "hi - I'm brilliant, hire me". It's just a matter of keeping visible, getting good ideas and links, and helping other people who might be able to help you. Of course it's not the only marketing tool, or the most important, but it /is/ useful. It really looks odd to see people saying Twitter has no valid use for anyone because they have no use for it.

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  • 5
    BG wrote on 11th Sep 2009

    As an F1 fan and a Twitterer, I can safely say that I've never had so much useful and interesting information so quickly before. I'm a total non-believer in facebook and myspace, but Twitter is very different.

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  • 6
    PS wrote on 28th Sep 2009

    As with all new things, many of those with limited knowledge of something that others are taking about enthusiastically will pour copious amounts of scorn. It is easier to disparage than investigate and join in. Only by using something can you really understand it and realise the benefits. Throughout history people have declared that they 'don't see the point' of something or 'it will never catch on'. If you include the Luddites who wished to preserve status quo you can cover every piece of technology from power looks (manually operated) to microwaves, the Internet and, currently, health IT systems. I am on Twitter, participating in a newly found community of healthcare 'tweeps' who use Twitter to share their passion and knowledge for improving health through IT. In fact, if it hadn't been for a fellow tweep mentioning it on Twitter I would not be going to the BCS Scottish conference, nor would I have joined BCS. People are doing clever things with Twitter, every technology has leaders. Those that are only using it to talk drivel to their friends are only using it like they do a telephone. Nobody would suggest the telephone is rubbish simply because of the quality or otherwise of the conversations made with it. Dip your toes in, the water's warm. If you do you may find you like it, and if you do join up you can find me there. My Twitter name is @psweetman.

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Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

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