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Twitters 4th Birthday – Let all the Twats Rejoice!

1 March 2010 No Comment

March 2010 not only marks the start of a new season it is also the 4th anniversary since the first tweet was sent. Its amazing to think that Twitter, the global social phenomenon has only been around for 4 short years and grown into one of the top 50 most popular websites according to alexa.com. Personally I was an early adopter signing up for my twitter account in late 2006 after hearing positive reviews about it being the next big thing on other websites similar to this one. Despite my almost non-existent participation with twitter since, I am still going to make a claim that may demonstrate my ignorance and marginalise me from every social user in the world.

“Twitter is just for twats”

Seriously what purpose is there to update everyone about the finer details of your life every 5 minutes with 140 characters. Journalist Bruce Sterling summed it up perfectly when he was quoted saying “Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite ‘The Iliad.’” My fiancee recently had a free twitter account added to her mobile and spent last night telling me pointless pieces of information that famous people had been tweeting. The Honourable prime minister of Australia found time in his busy schedule to let his twitter followers know the following:

KevinRuddPM: A stunning building in the heart of the city bringing the researchers from 3 unis together for the first time. Good stuff. KRudd

KevinRuddPM: Today a $200m investment in a new SA Health & Medical Research Institute for researchers on cancer & other big diseases. KRudd

KevinRuddPM: Great to be back in Adelaide. Partnership with @PremierMikeRann on record investments in road, rail, schools, health and water. KRudd

KevinRuddPM: Amazing facility and great ethos of education excellence for Aboriginal kids. Helps turn closing the gap into a reality. KRudd

Fascinating stuff. Perhaps a link to further information on his tweet may of made this information somewhat beneficial and I guess this blame sits squarely on the prime ministers shoulders, more-so than twitter itself. But still he is not unique with these types of tweets and this absolute dribble has close to 2 million followers!

But alas, the techno-savvy crowd keep plugging it and its been suggested by many bloggers far more qualified than me that it is extremely beneficial for their sites. So I thought I would take a look at what the gurus are posting. You see my major qualm with twitter is that, I have set up a twitter account and now have no idea what to tweet about that my (future) followers would find useful.

So first stop is at problogger.net’s author Darren Rowse twitter account. As a leader an expert in the blogging industry surely he must know what to blog about and to his credit his tweets have some merit (for him mostly). He tweets his new post, post that are worth reading and tweets to get further participation from his readers. There are also a few personal tweets thrown in there for good measure as well. As a blogger twitters use becomes becomes clearer for me in engaging and maintaining your readers, but as a follower I still don’t see why I would want these updates particularly on my phone. At best I guess it can act like an rss feed, but perhaps I simply just don’t get it.

So I decided to dig deeper and try and find some achievements by this simple 140 character social service. And to my surprise there have been some major ones. From wikipedia we get “During the 2008 Mumbai attacks eyewitnesses sent an estimated 80 tweets every 5 seconds. Twitter users on the ground helped compile a list of the dead and injured. In addition, users sent out vital information such as emergency phone numbers and the location of hospitals needing blood donations. CNN called this “the day that social media appeared to come of age” since many different groups made significant use of Twitter to gather news and coordinate responses.”

Also “in June 2009, following allegations of fraud in the Iranian presidential election, protesters used Twitter as a rallying tool and as a method of communication with the outside world after the government blocked several other modes of communication.On June 15 Twitter rescheduled a planned 90-minute maintenance outage after a number of Twitter users and the US State Department asked Twitter executives to delay the shutdown because of concerns about the service’s role as a primary communication medium by the protesters in Iran”.

Major achievements in disaster relief and democracy can not be unnoticed. And these phenomenon have continued with more recent examples of disaster relief in Haiti and Chile and further democratic pushes within heavily moderated China. The power of this social media in the previous examples sure make my attacks seem hollow and ill-informed but I am sticking to my guns here.

You see, these examples are few and largely in the minority. I still don’t care what Paris Hilton had on her toast or what Ashton Kutcher is doing tonight and to think of people checking these tweets to find out this sort of mundane, inane information quite frankly makes me a little sick. Taking away the few legitimate twitterers why on earth would anyone care what Joe Black is doing in his daily life. Twitter receives a staggering estimated 55 million visits a month but that does not make the social media service into something greater than the electronic updates of triviality and pointlessness that tweets so often are. I think the popularity of Twitter reflects society more than the social media itself, and societies concerns of being left behind. Hell that was the reason I signed up in the first place. Only 40% of twitters users are retained which I think emphasises my point.

I am going to finish this post with a quote from the co-founder and CEO of twitter Evan Williams, which pretty much sums up perfectly:

“Whoever said that things have to be useful?”

Let me know what you think about twitter in the comments below.

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