Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Twitter is a whitewater sport

I have succumbed to Twitter.

Hmm. Succumbed sounds more derisive than I mean to be. Perhaps surrendered is the better verb. Or bowed. Or gave in.

My fear had been that by signing up with the microblogging service, I would open the floodgates to more and more information. And Twitter -- with some 75 million accounts and averaging 600 tweets a second -- did not disappoint. This is how it felt:

You see, after being laid off last summer, I found myself in a hellacious state of withdrawal, severed from the multiple screens that had put the news of the world at my fingertips. I was out of touch, uninformed.

So I subscribed to RSS feeds, to breaking-news and keyword alerts, to email notifications on new blog posts and aggregated headlines. Soon my in-box and home page were full of news, views and other things I should know.

You'd think I'd be content. But I wasn't. Lurking in the shadows was Twitter and its immediacy.

If, for instance, I couldn't make it to South by Southwest, the annual music and media conference in Texas, Twitter users were more than happy to let me know what was occurring there in real time by posting to a common hashtag (#sxsw); ditto for the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (#sabew) in Arizona.

For event after event, I no longer had to hope that some hapless reporter might stumble on what I wanted to hear from the keynoter or workshops; Twitter obliged. The tweets won't offer a comprehensive play-by-play account -- remember Twitter's 140-character limit on posts -- but they'll give you the highlights and the money quotes.

Better still, conference hashtags can birth more focused offshoots -- #futureofcontext, for instance, for the South by Southwest workshop on giving news consumers more context for stories. And best of all, tweets can include links to related material and other smart discussions.

Yes, I opened the floodgates to all of that. And if I'm not really mindful of my time, I'll bob in the information rapids for hours.

ADDENDUM: Smart advice on Twitter time management from Steve Buttry.


Greg Waldron said...

Great insight into Twitter - I've yet to sign up for it. You hadn't posted for a while and I was hoping you'd landed a job.


Job interview/tryout -- but, alas, not an offer -- took me away from the blog a bit.