Following on from my earlier post about how Twitter outages affect those that use it I wanted to comment further about its role and what this form of communication can bring to the table.
Laura Fitton (aka ) came up with a great analogy for Twitter last month by saying "Twitter is my village" - rather than just quick "hello" messages someone's "Village" is the place where you stop and chat when you cross paths just like in real life. Not everyone lives in the same village just as not everyone is online at the same times. The conversation therefore becomes a casual catch-up rather than any real formal dialogue or social pleasantries.
The very format of Twitter is what makes it special. Intended to be a multi-access platform from the word go (web, client application and SMS) the 140 word limit per post cuts out a lot of the rubbish we tend to spout in emails or blog posts making us more honest with our opinions - good or bad we say it just how it is with such a short medium to work with. That's great for communicating and getting the point across; it can really make you think about what you are saying, forcing you to be concise.
Twitter is great for discovery; there are a number of really interesting people I now follow and whose blogs I have subscribed to that I would never have known about were it not for Twitter. The whole friend of a friend scenario rules the landscape and enables us to invite others to come visit our little village.
I think that it is our comfort in this relaxed atmosphere that makes us react so strongly when outages occur. Unlike IRC there is no pressure to keep up with the chat; in a IRC channel you see everything like the Twitter public timeline.
I made reference to Laura's tweet about what Twitter made her and she threw the question open to her village (you can see the responses she got here). My own response to this was that Twitter makes me "more inspired to create thoughtful blog posts" due to catching threads of conversation and then expanding on my own thoughts in relation to them. Twitter is a great source for news and a melting pot for ideas that inspires as much as it infuriates - you can't help but find something to get the gray matter going.
I'm relatively small fry when it comes to Twitter due to time (560 updates compares to someone like with over 6600) and places that I work tend to block Twitter via their proxies calling it "instant messaging" but even small usage let's you make new connections and get involved. Everyone who uses Twitter has their own reasons for doing so, their own objectives and goals that they want to get out of it so there is no rule book or guide on how to Tweet but if you are wondering what it can do for you then the best place to start would be Laura's post with the responses to her question. As Shel Israel says "the answers may be helpful to you".
While Laura's question really got Twitterville thinking it was strange to see the reactions to Chris Brogan's shot at creating an easy way for new Tweeps (Twitter Peeps) to find and connect with like minded people. This was an honest attempt at creating a starting place - which Chris referred to as "Twitter packs" - for anyone to see who generally talked about what subjects by way of having lists of people concerned with general topics such as Social Media, Blogging, Videos and Podcasts etc. In essence a great idea but one which caused a lot of controversy with some people throwing their toys out of the pram and even threatening to leave Twitter due to being on a list.
We allow ourselves to be tagged, categorised, linked to and to be searchable just about everywhere else but the notion of being placed on such a list by someone else divided opinion far beyond what anyone would have expected. Maybe it was the way in which it was done but I can understand why Chris wanted to have an open system that anyone could update.
It just goes to show that you can never really understand how people will react and that what works for one will not work for another.