Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why I Twitter

It's how I found out a plane had safely crash-landed in the Hudson. And how Lance Armstrong recovered a missing bike. CNN uses it to report breaking news.

And chances are you're sick of it.

So what's the deal with Twitter?

I like to say it's not blogging, but it's not instant messaging or email either. It fills some other void. Recently I had a chance to talk with Evan Williams, the Nebraska native who founded Twitter (and before that).

But do you really want to know what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch? Celebrities have certainly gotten on the bandwagon. But so have a lot of normal folks.

Here are a few reasons I like it:

1. It allows someone to quickly and easily broadcast a short message to their "followers." Sometimes I'll post a link to a story I've done, or send a short blurb known as a "tweet" about some news item. On election night, I posted updates from the campaign headquarters of a US Senate candidates. That's useful, and I could get tweets out more often than I could on the air.

2. Networking. I've corresponded with the weekend anchor of ABC's World News. A lot of the people I follow are in the field of journalism, so I see what stories they're working on and how they approach them.

3. Solicit feedback. I might tweet that I'm going to be talking to the governor, and ask folks for subjects I might want to cover. Take advantage of what other people know.

4. It's not Facebook. You won't get invitations to join someone's "mob war" or take a quiz. And you won't read one of those "25 Things About Me" lists. If you like the status updates in Facebook, you'll like Twitter. That part is similar. But without all the other stuff.

5. Someone can follow you without you following them. On sites like Facebook and MySpace, you "friend" someone. With Twitter, if someone chooses to follow you, you don't automatically follow them back. For the twitterati like Ashton Kutcher, they might have 500,000 followers, but only follow 500 themselves. So you only follow the people you find interesting.

But there are some arguments against Twitter.

1. Some users think a little too highly of themselves. Those with a big ego will let you know how great they are.

2. The site itself is down a lot. As Twitter explodes, the site hasn't scaled well. A lot of folks don't use it on but rather from a dedicated Twitter app.

3. It's not Facebook. Posting pictures requires a third party app.

4. It can be a huge time suck. You can't be on all the time. And it's super annoying when you see ten messages in a row from the same person. That's a good way for me to unfollow someone.

All that said, follow me at

And expect another post on my blog soon with comments from Ev Williams' recent visit to Nebraska, as he talked about monetizing the site, rumors of selling to Google, and where he sees Twitter going.

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