Twittering discussions 23:01 on Wednesday

Twitter… what could I say that I haven’t said before? There’s no way to pass on Twitter now that everybody’s suddenly crazy about it.

Unlike IM, you don’t have do a lot of clicking or drag buddies around the screen to set up a group chat. Instead everybody has their own “room”, their Twitter page, and whoever wants to listen can “pop in” and subscribe to the feed.

And just like IRC on a bad day, the so called discussion can get uncontrollably out of hand. It stops being conversation (well, Twitter doesn’t even claim to be that), and becomes random lines of text broadcast by everybody to everybody. It’s like a conversation where nobody is actually listening, but there’s still a lot of talking. In real life that’s highly frustrating. On the net it’s just another input of information you need to dodge.

It can be fun, hilarious even, entertaining, possibly a great way to stay in touch, possibly a way to get you fired, and most of the time, complete and utter (© Simon Cowell) waste of time.

I said earlier that I don’t get Twitter because I don’t see how it is useful in the long term. A more appropriate statement could be that I don’t get how it will be meaningful.

Update on 17.3.: Today I learned a new term from Creating Passionate Users: intermittent variable reward. It’s exactly the same addictive ingredient / problem with IRC. Luckily, most long-time IRC users I know have learned how to control their IRC use. They either:

  • Learn to ignore content while staying online
  • Only log on when they actually want to waste time
  • Log off completely. (This is where I am)

All good ways to stop wasting time clicking on each “funny” link pasted on an IRC channel.

2 Responses to “Twittering discussions”


  1. Tina Aspiala Says:

    Nice to see Skinner being brought into this(I think he and Milgram did some of the most useful psychological research of the modern era)–slot machines, abusive relationships(Iloveyou-Idon’t-Iloveyou-Idon’t), even eating chips (to some extent) all have this specific addictive quality that will catch you even when you’re utterly aware of the phenomenon.

    The second bit about the Twitter/IM feeling of connectedness on some deeper level being not-really connectedness is really interesting, and I can’t think of a study that has covered it. I think there’s something to it, though. Has there ever been another time in history when speed of communication has been so fast that it actually outruns our capacity to communicate content?

  2. Niko Says:

    I’m not sure it’s about the speed of communication alone, more like the combination of fast communication and partial attention.

    Letters are slow, but usually a lot of thought is put into one before it is sent, making the content efficient.

    Face to face conversations are fast, and theoretically a good two-way conversation is also an efficient way to communicate. In practice however, way too often “conversations” are about two people wishing the other person would stop blabbering so that we can get our voice to be heard. Ie. we forget to listen. Not minding whether the conversation includes listening, a face to face conversation is something we’re actively participating in and paying attention to.

    Instant messages however are like conversations without the continous attention, that in my non-educated opinion is required to move any conversation or collaborative thought process forward.

    That said, a chat can be an excellent conversation medium if both (or all) parties are listening. It is like face to face conversation, with the added benefit of giving a bit more time for the participants to think over their responses… (of course a chat loses all the facial cues present in a real conversation — which might be a good thing, too ;).