I really love to watch them roll!
John Lennon - Watching the Wheels, 1980
Earlier this year, I said that I would blog more, what I should have said, but didn't really realize was I would micro-blog more. I have been spending a lot more time on Twitter lately, even though I signed up two years ago in April 2007. Back then, I couldn't really tell what the point was. What could you actually communicate in 140 characters. In fact, the founders of Twitter back then saw it more of a tool to merge mobile SMS with web. Now, I guess I can't get enough of it. Find me at @johnnewton
As some people in Alfresco started to get into Twitter more and saw how other open source projects were using it, I became more curious. However, it really took off for me in mid-January. People who I tracked and respected were also on Twitter and they were putting up the links, blogs and thoughts that influenced them. This became a much better way to dissect the blogosphere and understand what was going on. I also found great advice on Twitter that said think of it as a river - you don't drink the river, you drink from the river. If you don't try to consume the whole think but just sample, you will find it a much more satisfying experience.
I started to find the mini-content compelling. I also found the power of the Retweet (RT) and started to pass on what I was reading as well. I asked my friends on Twitter what tools should I use on my Mac to consume Twitter and learned about TweetDeck, a great multi-channel Tweet machine. If you are familiar with the concept in psychology of Flow, Twitter had all the flow of a video game and what became clear was that it was simpler and more addictive than Facebook, which had become more of an occasional dalliance for me. The multi-channel input of TweetDeck, Web and SMS, meant that I could share what I was doing at conferences and meetings like the CMIS face to face or the Accel Stanford Symposium.
It's really like getting sucked into a vortex once you realize what Twitter is. But it is really hard to describe. Some people have described it as a very simple, disciplined email of 140 characters. Eric Schmidt poo-poo'ed it as a poor man's email. John Battelle described it as real-time indexing of live conversations, which he said is "insanely interesting". Anyone who is addicted to it, knows that it is so much more than any of those. It is an open API, which means that there are lots of tools like the Twittercounter that allows you to chart the growth of your followers. Or the addictive Twitterfall that I refuse to go near again, because I would never get out. It is also a community of people that you can ask any question and probably get an answer. There is also constant tagging of information with the # character linking to any subject such as #Alfresco. This makes it a very powerful search tool. It also makes it a constantly moving and evolving taxonomy based upon people and concepts that is self-adapting.
I have been struggling to find a metaphor for Twitter and have yet to find one. A roman forum where everyone gathers? A party telephone line where anyone can listen in on your conversation and you know that's what's happening? Twitter really is something new and something evolutionary at the same time. It's extremely simple. The open API makes it extremely adaptable. And there are hundreds of your friends telling you what's on their mind and what they are looking at or doing. Everyone seemed to be acutely aware of my trip to DC with my son. It was extremely cool to share thoughts with the whole world during Obama's inauguration. It's search. It's a categorization of the world.
It's also growing hyperbolicly. Look at the stats on alexa.com. No wonder Facebook felt compelled to copy Twitter. It is really, really addictive. I have found ways to control use, but I have no intention of stopping as some people have. What I have found is that peak impact of anything I write is between the hours of 4pm and 7pm GMT, so I can spend some time posting then. It is also much quieter in the morning UK time, so it is a good time to see what is going on in the world. Much better than the portals or even news sites, although it doesn't completely replace them -- yet.
There are already spoofs on Twitter that talk about the next big thing after Twitter. There is even talk about nano-blogs, whatever they are. I can't really imagine what's next, but I think Twitter probably still has an amazing future going forward.