Why tweet 00:42 on Wednesday

Every time I tell someone about Twitter/Jaiku/etc the first question is: Why? And rightly so, it is a good question, which I cannot answer. I don’t really use those services much if at all.

Why do people use the Twitters and Jaikus and Pownces of the world, why do people update their Facebook statuses with zeal, and why is there this apparent migration going on from blogging to “micro-blogging” platforms?

Before giving away my vague thoughts on the above, I will promise to stop calling all these services “micro-blogging”. I will call the bits people post on these services personal updates, and I will refuse to think of any awkward label to collectively talk about the services themselves.

Personal updates are great for bloggers who seek a more intimate medium for sharing their thoughts. I suppose there’s a split on how people define “intimate”: some think it’s about limited access, others think their frequent personal updates give an intimate and comprehensive view into their lives.

Social services are great for those who want to limit access to their updates, because on virtually all of the social services users can curate their friends list. You can pick who you want to talk to. Of course this is technically possible outside of Facebook et al, but it’s just not going to happen because of how the value of the expended effort is distributed. There simply is not enough value for me to separately register on 400 different blogs, but there’s value in registering once for Facebook. Metcalfe’s Law etc.

Personal updates are great for bloggers who seek something less formal and less time-consuming. These small updates are great when you want to say something, but don’t want to think about it (much). This results in less structured thinking than what we’re used to in (good) blogs, and in my opinion, less value. Sometimes a posted update strikes a chord with people and a discussion emerges. Most of the time the value of these discussions is in the fast and spontaneous nature of the communication, but for the same reason the discussions tend to stay on a superficial level. Again, it’s a bit of a quality vs. quantity argument.

The ease of initiating and joining informal discussions is an important third point, which probably not only draws in former bloggers to the personal updating loop, but increasingly also the regular non-geeks who join the social networking services. True interactivity between people is always a compelling experience.

As the last point, there is the potential for serendipitous encounters. For me this is the “Jaiku promise” — share what you’re doing and where, and you will bump into friends old and new. This is also what Dopplr is doing. This is the most tempting reward promised by personal updates, but as of now, it hasn’t worked for me. Well maybe it has, twice.

Two things about personal updates that I haven’t figured out:

  • Why didn’t personal updates take off with the status messages used on instant messengers? It could have happened years ago.. but it didn’t.
  • Why are companies so much into the personal updates craze? Seems like everybody has to have a “update your status” or “what are you doing now” field on their website. Again, where is the value for the user? If someone has time to update their status around the web on various websites, I’m doubtful they have anything interesting to say…

One Response to “Why tweet”


  1. Henkka Says:

    Twitter/Jaiku is vital because I’m such an important person that everyone has to know when I’m taking a dump!

    Had to say it.. :)