Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reflections on my first 20,000 tweets

I just clocked up my 20,000th tweet. A moment perhaps to pause and reflect on what's going on here.

According to twitter I've been tweeting since June 20, 2007 but I'm pretty sure I didn't get serious with it until maybe six months later.

In any event, in the same period I have blogged 763 times. That is, for every blog post since I signed up for twitter, I have tweeted 26.2 times.

I tweet so much that Twournal (which turns your tweets into a book) can't cope. All it'll handle is the last 3200 - which I now make available for download should you so desire.

I suspect the same limitations are imposed on the word cloud I generated of my tweets. But then I guess twitter is all about real time, so what the hey?

The rate of decline in my blog posting is huge. In Jun-Dec 2007 AT (After Twitter) I posted 152 blog posts. 2008 saw a roughly similar rate/month (348 for the year). But in 2009 I posted just 159 times. And this year to this point just 104.

This is partially because Twitter has replaced one of blogging's functions for me; microblogging. In those days of 300-plus posts a year some of the posts would have been a throwaway comment and a link to something I found interesting. Now I do that on Twitter - and I can do that anywhere anytime - something which wasn't available to me on blogger.com back in the day (though now is through some useful iPhone apps).

Blogging remains very important to me for a number of reasons:

1. Blogs are the least silo'd of all the social media: Anyone can find one of my blog posts. Yes with google now indexing tweets that is becoming more possible for twitter, but the 'real time results' window of opportunity for discovery is small. Anyone can discover my blog posts any time and from any where. This increases my ability to connect.
2. Blogs have longevity. What I post here remains until either I delete it or blogger.com goes pop. My tweets are gone before you can say "where's my first tweet"? Most tweet recall and compilation services appear only to be able to index the last 3200 tweets you post. Pah - a drop in my trivial ocean!
3. Blogs are your personal url - a home to store and share everything you care about. Neither twitter (with its light weight architecture) or Facebook (with it's silo'd approach) can match them for that. Doc Searls said it best: "Blogs are the single best representation of the sovereign self".
4. Blogs offer more depth and exploration: Most things can be said in just a few words (hence twitter) but not all. Exploration of ideas obviously benefit from interaction but ideas also need a chance to breathe, to wander, to digress. Blogs are good at this.

Tweeting offers something new. We tweet 'the trivial' - the snarky, the wisecrack. Twitter (and trailing along behind Facebook status updates) lowers the technical barrier to publishing what we think - and in its mobile guise particularly - where and when we think it.

For example there are tens of thousands of tweets in the UK every week in which people tell us they are having a drink. I never once wrote a blog post to say I'm having a beer - I've certainly tweeted that I have.

This creates a new value in aggregation - we express our metadata much more readily, systems, brands and orgs can learn from this about what we want, what we don't like, when we want it and where. And all without positing a single question. Market research without the waters muddies by point of view.

People have always said this stuff to their nearest friends 'in the real world'. Now they publish it for all their friends - and for the world to learn from. It's giving orgs the ability to wikifix by gathering realtime expressed metadata that was never available before.

And I'm part of that - moaning about train delays here, download speeds there, reporting on service good and bad - as it is happening to me.

But that's not my motivation for tweeting - at a rate of almost 16 a day - as I'm sure it's not yours.

Neither is it a desire to gain an audience - just as that's not my motivation in blogging.

What motivates me is the desire to connect with people who care about the same stuff I do.

The trivia is there for two key reasons: First to create that connection with someone else having an 'I know what you mean' moment - or someone who has a solution or a step towards it.
Second, it functions as our rather more sophisticated equivalent of picking the nits out of the next monkey's fur - we maintain our social connectedness through small talk - the weather, the pleasure in a cup of coffee, last night's game or even - to my shame - the X Factor.

Small talk is a very very human thing to do. Twitter is a very very human medium. To succeed in it as business or individual you have to take a very very human approach.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?