Sunday 8 February 2009

Twitter and Twits

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

I've been meaning to get to the keys for a while now, but have been crazee busy organising Liverpool's first Twitter festival - or Twestival.

This week has seen quite a few firsts for me, from speaking to sound guys (i didn't have a clue!), to doing radio interviews, and responding to articles in the Independant (about Twitter) so thought I should just share some of that.

Before I made the opportunity to do so - Mike Nolan wrote a great piece on 'Has Twitter gone mainstream' which was going to be the crux of my piece - so go there and read it, and then my comments!

So many work related opportunites for using Twitter, so little time and as with anything, how we prove that this will add value, in order to release staffing to be able to support it upfront. And if we don't release staffing to support it, it'll be crap because it hasn't been supported! A vicious circle if ever there was one.

My beef with the piece in the Independant was first of all the title, 'You don't have to be a Twit but it helps' and secondly that the author seemingly fixated on one instance of how Twitter had been used, by one celebrity (@stephenfry) and discarded all of the 'good stuff' that goes on.

By good stuff, I mean the business networking, the social networking, the learning and teaching, the getting togethers to raise money for charity, the direct routes to people that you'd never have been able to access before... and the list goes on.

You can see my full ranty comment here. This article instigated quite a reaction from twitterers everywhere, and as some kindly pointed out to Terence, the article got a great deal of coverage because someone had linked to it on Twitter - had they not, I certainly would never had come across it.

Terence says "It is time to admit that computers, which have transformed and improved our lives in so many ways, are also doing terrible harm to much human interaction and thought. There are increasing numbers of people who find it easier to conduct friendships through Facebook than to leave their computer and spend time with real, flesh-and-blood friends. The fretful banality of round-the-clock texting and twittering is drowning out real communication and thought."

As you can imagine, this provoked quite a reaction including:

"Why do people like Terence always assume that online & offline friendships are mutually exclusive? I find Facebook *helps* my real life interactions - it's so much easier to organise stuff online than to rely on the old 'chinese whispers' messages which invariably end in miscommunication. Also, I have friends from all over the world that I have met while travelling - the internet allows us to keep up with each others' lives. Being able to talk with people on the other side of the world using the Internet is wonderful."

I feel particularly strongly about this - as increasingly in this very busy global world, applications such as facebook and twitter allow the beginning of a conversation, that might not ever take place 'in real life'. Certainly in my experience, I have got to know several distant colleagues through twitter, and in the absence of a direct relationship before, twitter has enhanced the real life experience.

In addition, and from a personal perspective, as a mum who spends many evenings home alone, using sites such as facebook and twitter allow me to continue conversations, not just with my 'real life' friends, but with a much wider audience. Being able to tap into knowledge that others have, and are willing to share, enhances many aspects of my life.

As with all technology - it won't work for everyone, and you do really need to stick at it and work out what you want from it, but Twitter works for me, and thousands upon thousands of others. And to finish, all I'll say is - don't knock it 'till you've tried it..

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