I have actually been threatened to have a Twitter account against my will. My friends devised a plan to redirect all my FaceBook and whatever activity into Twitter so that i would finally be part of the revolution even if i keep on denying it to be a revolution at all.
I have never come in contact with my own Twitter feed, but depending on the way you look at it, that might be the best evidence that it already exists, somewhere.
Even then, i disagree. Twitter is not a revolution.
It will not come to pass, and all my friends who are wasting their time there will keep on doing it indefinitely. In other words, Twitter is a success. But that does not make it any less stupid.
Some many months ago David Bamman @LanguageLog described how it took a long time for him to understand Twitter. His take was that Twitter is essentially natural or colloquial language. Now, of all things, after watching a video about a Twitter client (called LazyScope) i guess i had my own moment of comprehension and i will venture a very different view.
What LazyScope’s creator Ethan Gahng tells us it that the program is not supposed to be just a Twitter client, it is actually meant to fix the real-time web. But WTF is a real-time web?
When you are tweeting, the so-called content flies over the screen. You don’t go after the information, it pretty much gets forced down your throat. Or in less biased terms, the content is being delivered constantly to you without your requesting for it. The web is being pushed instead of fetched.
The curious thing is, way way back in March of 1997 Wired Mag had this issue devoted to Push Media. They told us it was the future of the internet. And we believed it not. Actually, a few years ago Wired itself recanted and listed the Push thing as one of their failed predictions. But if Twitter is the new revolution in communication, then, well, they were right.
Twitter pushes content onto our laps. The twitterlings always scream when they hear this, they tell you that they have actually ordered the content to be delivered, by “subscribing” to each and every one of their channels. But does it make sense to say that FOX does not push its content to me because i have turned the TV to that channel?
Effectively, Twitter works like a TV. LazyScope’s video up there shows it beautifully, with the “items” scrolling down the screen. That is why Twitter is so successful. It is addictive just like TV.
The problem with this argument is that, pretty much, it likens Twitter with SPAM. It is a new streamlined form of our old nemesis the “reply to all” button. Broadcast media. The proverbial “everyone shouting” thing.
It usually is finished with “…and no one listening”, but i do disagree with that. I think people are listening, just as much as people still watch Globo Networks in Brazil. The puzzle is: If we have one side shouting and another listening, how comes it is not communication?
Twitter is like FarmVille. In the sense that it is very good at keeping you engaged, glued to the screen. It is just stimulation, without discourse or ideas. Obviously, the links contain ideas, the content that is being pushed is full of ideas. But the stream itself does not convey those ideas to the people watching.
People tuned to Twitter are not learning, they are just being fed a regular pattern of stimuli.
My guess would be that this all revolves around a failed epistemology: We somehow confused what knowledge and ideas are really about and got into this big mess. Maybe this is pushing too far. But: How can i reconcile my belief that internet (and related tech) does make us think better and the obvious shallowness of twitter?
A long time ago i was admin of a email list, and despite a promising start the thing was rapidly derailing into SPAM. I tried all forms of countering the quality downturn, and although it all failed in the end, one of those tactics had pretty healthy results. I blocked any message that was smaller than 140 characters. (To be fair, it was probably 100, but 140 makes it funnier). Not bigger than, smaller than! And amazingly enough, instead of an incentive to long posts with needless words, this lead to people committing more effort to each post and thus making them less spammy and more interesting.
Thinking is hard. Great tools for thinking do not make it easier. The great tools make it deeper, but never easier. The name of LazyScope is brilliant: It makes it easy for you, you don’t have to engage in thinking, you don’t have to worry about all this information. It is easy. And lazy.
The same brain we use to write Crime and Punishment we use to browse the web. This brain comes equipped with curiosity and tastes that are actually search filters to find what is important information. Those filters can be exploited. That is what makes FarmVille addictive (or Diablo). And the brain is not going anywhere soon, so, yes, Twitter has come to stay. It (or something like it) will keep on being a huge success. But it is not important. It is just a time sink. And it most definitely is not a revolution.