Those not on Twitter, I've no beef with you. I didn't get it. Sounded completely ridiculous to me (I may have characterized it as fuckin' stupid! a time or two). Well, I was wrong.
I was dead wrong.
And I think it's because someone has come up with a technology that roughly emulates (provided it's used as such), the natural way humans best communicate.
For more than two-and-a-half decades, I have been inexorably tied to the Internet. First on Compuserve, Prodigy (remember that?), and America Online. Then, I graduated to a straight ISP pipe to the wild & woolly Internet, using installed software to access it. Email apps, and especially: USENET readers. I won't go into it, as USENET is pretty passe, now, but back in the day, you had all the world's most inquisitive and argumentative minds there. It was really something to behold, and to be a part of. In the space of a couple of years, I had logged well over 5,000 pages of discussions and arguments with others.
…Well, it was better than watching ER.
Eventually I moved on, started a successful business that's still going strong, but I also kept tabs, followed along, eventually started a blog, and now I'm on Twitter, of all goddamned things.
It really is ridiculous, but irresistible at the same time. But back to my point.
I'm less than convinced that intense, deliberate and thorough debate is where we ought to be. We have our blogs and comments. So, we can toss up our thoroughly considered work there, and those who want can comment, disagree, debate, and so on.
Twitter is an entirely different animal. It costs little time or effort to tweet, and that's its prime virtue. I probably only seriously look at 30% of the tweets I see from those I follow, skimming the rest. I try to get a sense out of the max 140 characters anyone can send. That in itself is an important dynamic. How much meaning can you convey in 140 characters? So, you get good at that. Then you get god at getting a feel for others. Do I want to click on the link? What if I miss something good? There's lots more good to come; don't sweat it.
What it all adds up to is a pretty streamlined way to exchange far more underlying information. Hell, I'm about 500 posts behind in my Google reader, for all the blogs I follow, but I can easily keep up-to-date on Twitter (Facebook, too), and I can act quickly on the things I find — either to Retweet them to my followers, do a Facebook update, a blog, or all three.
To bring this full circle, how did we operate out on the Savannah for a couple of million years? Did we examine every single thing to an exhaustive conclusion, or did we develop sorting skills, and then quickly deal with the stuff we deemed important? I think the latter. And I think that's why Twitter works and will continue to work.
Funny thing is, I think Facebook could be a short lived thing. It's based on friends, and friends can get tired of friends — at least in the sense of too much information, and that's on many levels. Twitter is based on non-mutual followership, which is much more natural to my way of thinking. People are not always peers or equals. We all have things to learn from others, but it's the rare case outside of family when that's mutual.
By the way, my tweets are here.