Twitter – its all about listening

I have for some time now been struggling with the idea of Twitter. At first I was worried that this was a sign of aging and I had reached my personal limit in terms of new innovations but thankfully I am still filled with excitement about the idea of the new Palm Pre and the possibility of a Google OS netbook – I have also managed to form my Twitter objections into a coherent argument rather than a short grumble so all is not lost. Twitter had troubled me on two main fronts:

  • Its yet more noise. I (like many people) spend a lot of energy trying to make my life quieter and simpler and the idea that everyone I know could be giving me constant updates on what they were up to fills me with horror – it just feels like noise. Now, obviously all the people I know would only tweet with great profundity but even so – that’s a lot of information I don’t think I actually need

  • I am not sure that anything important can be said in only 140 characters.

That being said there have been some striking examples of Twitter being used – in particular around real time news and this move to real time web is perhaps the crux of what is interesting about Twitter. It speaks to the idea of pervasive technology and a confirmation of the underlying assumption of constant connectivity.  Have a read of this as its another take on this thought.

But as ever I wonder what the use is for Local Government – how can we use it – and I think Twitter should be thought about in terms of listening and not in terms of talking and this makes things make much more sense.

If people want to tweet then let them knock themselves out! The most accessible description of Twitter I had was in relation to the way in which flocks of birds communicate – one cheep at a time!! If we can develop ways to listen to these cheeps and tweets, and to select the right ones to listen to then we can can listen and learn to the public. Search companies are already trying this with big global topics like swine flu but if Twitter, or other real time web tools, continue to grow then it should start to be true on a local level as well. Interesting…..

One comment
  1. Shane McCracken

    July 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm


    Best way of thinking about Twitter I heard was to compare it with Facebook.

    Facebook is for getting in touch with people you used to know.
    Twitter is used to know people you want to be in touch with.

    Let’s catch up soon,



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