Missing the point of twitter

When people look at Twitter and say, “What’s the point?” it might be better not to answer them.

It strikes me that, “What’s the point?” is often what depressed people ask of life itself. I think it’s a statement dressed up as a question; the statement might be “I feel miserable”. From this place of unhappiness comes this apparent need for life to have a point. I guess at the other extreme, happy people often say they feel their life has purpose, but I wonder if this isn’t the same kind of rationalisation of a feeling.

So many narratives of organisational life seem to start from an assumption about things having to have goals. As if without a goal, nothing happens. But there are other ways to look at life, which see actions as emergent rather than being the result of purposeful decision-making.

Rambling on here, the other thing about points is that they are sharp and focussed. Twitter isn’t a very pointy product, it’s more of a mesh of little connections (my velcro analogy again). It’s not like being poked and prodded, it’s about exposing more surface area for others to connect with.

14 thoughts on “Missing the point of twitter

  1. John Bell

    Having spent some time lately with some blogging “heavy hitters” who dismissed Twitter as an aggravating and pointless format, I couldn’t agree more. I felt like I was with the old-timers saying “I don’t get what those crazy bloggers/twitterers/text-messagers get out of this thing…”

    So much of what is happening in new tech development is emergent ideas waiting for us to play with, experiment with, find applications for.

    I for one plan on using Twitter to help communicate during a conference we are running the online experience for in London.

  2. the chaotic edge

    What’s up with Jaiku and Twitter?

    Johnnie Moore posted recenty about people missing the point with Twitter. His post was interesting enough that I (finally) signed up for both Twitter and Jaiku – I figured I needed hands on experience to draw my own conclusions about

  3. Life 2.0

    The River People

    Here’s a pearl of wisdom that caught my attention from this post on Johnnie Moore’s Weblog – So many narratives of organisational life seem to start from an assumption about things having to have goals. As if without a goal,

  4. Taylor

    I realize this is an older post, but someone just mentioned it ON twitter, and I was curious 🙂

    Twitter strikes me as being the online equivalent of standing in line at Starbucks…you hear conversations around you, bits and pieces of lives of people you recognize but don’t necessarily know intimately, and when something interests you, you toss in your opinion.


    Referred your article to someone who recently asked me: “What’s the point of twitter?”

    It had the effect I wanted. I think they better understand to be a bit more optimistic and not in need of an end goal.

    It’s a format, a medium for connection.

    Bring on the velcro!

  5. Vajra

    You have touched on something that has bothered me for a long time: the notion that any activity must have a result that is valuable to the observer, regardless of the value it has to the actor. Interestingly, the observer often discounts the actual experience of the actor for a reductive, and, ultimately, depressive economic model. Using all our tools and toys, attributes and talents is

    The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

    Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees

    Is my destroyer.

    And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

    My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

  6. Kevin

    I dunno. I think its more useful as a short-term novelty item than a real-world application.

    I honestly don’t see much other than “OMG I’M SO DRUNK” or “I AM PROCRASTINATING” from college students texting from their phones. I, for example, am drinking some pretty low-brow whiskey right now, and am feeling the effects. So I texted twitter informing everyone I am drinking whiskey.

    Ok? Now, I used to be pessimistic by nature, but I’ve recently gone through an self-revolution; now I am brimming with optimism.

    I still say what’s the point?

    “Twitter = asynchronous chat, status updating, link archiving, tiny journaling, personal digital presencing system. Beyond Blogging.”

    Blogging is generally more than “OMG I AM SO DRUNK” or “Geeze this class is boring.”

    Twitter could have a good use; however, its use is determined by those who use it. Those who use it are generally like me: drunk ‘dialing’ a message because they’re sitting in their apartment drinking alone. Pure boredom.

    I don’t care if you’re about to vacuum, Linda! Shut up and effing do it already!

  7. kyussmondo

    Here I am asking, what is the point of Twitter?

    I have had a Facebook account for 2 years now and Twitter just seems a lot like Status Updates to me. With Facebook I have everything in one place…photos, videos, status updates…it also acts as an email replacement and an IM replacement with the people I want to share this kind of stuff with, my friends. So in reality Facebook is Twitter and so much more. Facebook is my preferred service, but MySpace and Bebo can do similar jobs.

    It just seems like yet another avenue for bloggers to try and pimp themselves a bit more and plaster their names all over the net so they can become the next Kevin Rose or Leo Laporte.

  8. Johnnie Moore

    Hi kyussmondo, thanks for your comment.

    As with all these things it horses for courses. I’m currently less active in facebook and find twitter quite a nice low-profile background thing that doesn’t overwhelm me. If I was trying to catch up with Leo Laporte I think I’d need to do a lot more with twitter, my blog and everything else!

  9. dhnicoll

    The value of twitter will materialise over time… check how many inactive twitter accounts there are in 1 years time.

    It’s yet another fad folks.

    Of course you can use it to “keep in touch” or “announce” your presence and activity to a wider audience… but there’s already 101 other means of doing that.

    The more that come along the more diluted their appeal and usefulness becomes.

    I can guarantee that in 1 year’s time teh majority of those that now have a twitter account will no longer be using it

    I’ll await patiently the killer internet app which actually has some true value above and beyond the “next big thing”.

  10. Matt

    During the G20 riots in London, the Twitter feeds of the journalists were aggregated together to give a compelling real-time account of the day as it unfolded.

    So, there is at least one purpose for Twitter: getting multiple perspectives (in one-sentence updates) of a significant news event as it happens.

    Mind you, I haven’t seen any others.

  11. matt

    asking the question, “what is the point of life itself?” and asking, “what is the point of this service I’ve subscribed to that I must waste time out of my day updating?” are two separate and unrelated questions. I think that people who want to know why you would waste more time with yet another site that demands you update multiple times a day/week/whatever have a legitimate concern, especially for those of us who don’t have all the time in the world to waste on things that do not offer anything in return. Depression or a pessimistic attitude have nothing to do with not wanting to clutter your life up with a bunch of time consuming useless junk.

    things that I would spend my time pursuing have goals. that is the kind of person I am, I like accomplishing things from day to day, it makes me feel good about myself and my life. the goal doesn’t have to be apparent to me at the time, but at some point I would like to look back and think that I would regret not having spent the time doing that.

    To me, twitter has no purpose. it is an entire social networking site that only does what the status section of facebook does. why would i tweet something when i could just post my status on facebook? more of my friends check facebook more frequently because it has a purpose. It connects you with friends that you may not otherwise talk to all the time or be able to keep in touch with. A good analogy for twitter is the idea of carrying a watch, a cellphone, a gps unit, a blackberry, a camera, a camcorder, and a netbook with you at all times. why carry all that crap when you could do all the stuff that all those things do on a cell phone? Twitter is the useless accessory to Facebook’s iphone functionality.

  12. Johnnie Moore

    Matt: It seems to me with all these social networkings apps, different people like different things. The distinction I’d like to draw is between stating your own preferences and moralising about other people’s.


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