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Friday, July 25, 2008

Twitter: Why bother?

When I posted on microblogging a while ago, I said I would leave the discussion over the value of microblogging for later. Well later is here :) I have now been using Twitter (and some of it's cousins indirectly through various aggregation services) for a couple of weeks and I thought I'd comment on what value I've found in the idea.

The first impression of Twitter is that it's a colossal waste of time, and just like Facebook or any other social utility, it can be. It's one more thing to monitor, or that will plague you with frequent notifications. It's also one more thing that can be a target for constant tweaking and fiddling, which is more time not spent on things that 'matter'. In my short experience with Twitter, it's also broken a lot, so one might wonder what the point of using any online application with frequent downtime might be.

It does however have it's positive aspects as well, and here are a couple of them:

  • Free SMSes from your desktop: With Natz and I both on Twitter, and her cell details set up on the service, I can easily SMS her from any of the third party desktop Twitter applications by sending her a direct message.
  • Great tool for simple news on your site: If you have a personal or commercial site which you want to update with really short, simple news updates, a Twitter account and the Twitter gadget code may be just what you need.
  • Great integrated tools: Twitter's API has been heavily utilized by third parties to provide great services. One good example of this is Remember The Milk which allows you to add items to your todo list, modify them and receive reminders and lists via Twitter. Combined with Twitter's SMS connectivity this makes for a very powerful productivity tool.
  • It's less distracting than web surfing: This may seem like a strange one, but if you crave just a tiny bit of an online fix before getting down to real work in the mornings, scanning Twitter updates on a desktop tool like Twhirl or Digsby is far safer than actually opening up your browser (which might just lead to much more wasteful browsing).
  • Gain new insight on people: It may not be productive, but it's just plain interesting to see what people get up to every day.

It all comes down to whether any of these outweigh the potential trap of yet another social network. In my case I think they do :)

[Update: 19/08/2008]

Oh well, so much for the most compelling reason to use Twitter. As of last week, Twitter no longer sends outgoing SMSs on their UK number, which was also used for pretty much everyone outside of the USA and Canada. They are looking into carrier agreements to try and make a plan, but I somehow doubt SA will be high on their list of priorities.


Fake Plastic Fish said...

Thanks for your thoughts. What desktop application do you recommend for a PC?

Am now thinking of a post on healthy computer use called, "When emailing, email. When Twittering, Twitter." Or something like that.


Flint said...

Hi Beth,
If you want a standalone PC tool for Twitter I'd suggest Twhirl, but if you're interested in something a little more "converged" you might want to give Digsby a try. It pulls together IM, social networking (including Twitter) and email notification and management. I find this particularly easy because it acts as a single place to disable all notifications when I want don't want to be distracted.
I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts on the post you're planning. I've posted a couple of "Effective Internet Lockdown" articles that you may find related to what you're thinking :)


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