Friday, March 20, 2009

Tweets Ahoy!; or, Twitter isn't really that new folks...

There has recently been a rash of stories, and segments involving Twitter all over the news. In the past couple of months, every major news channel has had at least one mention of the website during a broadcast. Or have used it to "crowd-source", and/or reach out to their viewers in a new way. Even ESPN had an article involving Twitter in the past few days, as well as nearly an entire hour on the radio program "All Night" with Jason Smith on ESPN radio.

All this exposure for twitter is a bit of a double edged sword. See, here's why I think this. I started using twitter about a year and a half ago. I thought I was one of the Johnny-come-latelys to the party, having heard about it a few months before that, but signed up on Jaiku first. In the end, I joined twitter because the community was so much better there. Sure, the site was constantly down, and holy unreliable, but yet I stuck with it because the people were there.

Skip ahead to now, and we see a massive influx of celebrities, athletes, and the like joining twitter. Everyone from Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, to Shaq, have joined and started tweeting. This is all well and good I suppose, as they way I see it, the more the merrier. But, all this attention to Twitter has some calling it a fad, and has led to the mass miss use of the service.

First, let me address the fad angle. It's entirely likely that Twitter is nothing more than a fad, and will die out in a year or so. But, keep in mind that it has been around for quite some time, and unlike some other social networking sites (myspace, facebook, etc.), Twitter opened up the service to let others build widgets and such for any site. You can add your twitter feed to your blog, facebook, myspace, or any other page you want. Meaning that no matter what social network is the next hot network, you can always take your tweets along with you. I personally tie my tweets in to my facebook status messages. That way I can update both at the same time.

As for the miss use of Twitter, well, this happens to any and all websites that get popular enough. Spam happens. Anything that gets enough traffic will eventually have to deal with spam, and spammers. Why? The almighty dollar that's why. Spammers see all that traffic, and think only of the money they could possibly make off it. Thankfully, Twitter is set up in such a way that just because someone wants to read your posts, you don't have to read theirs. There are different levels of involvement, Followers, and Friends. Followers simply see your tweets and that's it. Unless you choose to follow them as well, you don't have to even know about them. Which is nice to keep the amount of spam down.

The other thing is people starting fake Twitter accounts in the name of someone. Like a fake account of a celebrity or athlete, or prominent tech person. For the most part, this is harmless as you can usually tell right away it's a fake, as those who do it tend to either do it for fun and are just having a harmless goof, or THINK they're funny, and are in fact just plain simplistic and sad. Either way, the fake Twitter accounts are kind of silly, and in the end don't get anywhere.

So, as long as there are people on Twitter that I find interesting or are friends of mine, I'll keep tweeting. It's a nice way to communicate, or just get a thought out in the ether for others to digest.

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