Twitter-dee, Twitter-dum

At the recommendation of my friend, Randy Elrod, I decided to start “twittering.” I have now been engaging in the practice for about a week.

Twitter Signup Screen

What is twittering? Twitter’s home page says it best:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Twittering (who knew that was a verb, let alone a gerund?!) requires very little time. For starters, you can only enter 140 characters at a time. This means that you must post very short, direct-to-the-point messages. In practice, this means that, as a twitterer (who knew that was a noun?!), you update several times a day, but it takes almost no time at all. I do most of it from my iPhone.

So what’s the advantage? So far, I think there are four:

  1. It allows family, friends, and others to follow your activity throughout the day and keep up with your life. You can even get these updates via your cell phone, as a text message. It’s kind of like the Truman Show meets instant messaging.
  2. It allows you to meet new friends, who tend to be on the cutting edge of technology. I am following several people that I would have never met otherwise. These are relationships—or potential relationships—that may prove very fruitful for the future. We’ll see.
  3. It allows me to experience first-hand a new technology that almost 1 million people are using. It may be a complete waste of time but it is free and the investment of time is miniscule.
  4. It allows me to think consciously about my life. What am I doing now? What kind of story is my life telling? Is this really what I want to be doing? Could I—should I—be choosing something different?

I don’t know if twittering will become a long-term habit. Knowing me, I will eventually get bored with it. But, for now, I am enjoying the experience. I have committed to trying it for 30 days.

If you want to “follow me,” you can do do my joining Twitter.com and officially following me. Just sign up and follow the directions. It’s pretty simple.

Question: So are you ready to give it a try?
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  • http://spencesmith.typepad.com Spence Smith

    Perfect. probably the clearest explanation of what we have been doing on twitter. My friends give me funny looks whe i tell them i twitter…as they should…i guess.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    I’d heard the term, but I didn’t know what it was. I’d intended to figure it out when I had time. I’ll check it out, Mike!

  • http://liveandmove.wordpress.com CAL

    I understand your list of possible benefits here and can find some validity in them. Though I can’t help but wonder if Twitter does more to feed our culture’s proclivity to narcissism than it functionally improves our lives. I have the same question about Facebook , MySpace, Virb, Last.fm, etc. For many folks, in the end, it appears to be all about me, me, me.

    Like anything, I’m sure Twitter can be used to a positive effect—and you’ve put forth some ideas on how to do that here. But my overall feeling is that technologies like these do more harm than good, especially to the younger generations growing up nursing at the Internet’s teat. For all our talk about connectedness via such applications, I wonder if they teach us to focus too much on ourselves and so isolate us from living in true community: where we serve and think of others more often and more highly than ourselves; where we follow St. John the Baptist’s example and seek to decrease, dying to ourselves; where we pour out our lives for the sake of others, like Christ.

    Maybe I’m overthinking it. But I wonder if we spend too little time thinking about who’s steering the ship and where it’s all taking us.

    • Midwestern

      My thoughts exactly! Thanks for putting into words. Why do so many feel their lives should be a reality show? When in fact very few truely care what others are doing and if you DO care then you don't have a life of your own….

  • http://alwayswintertime.blogspot.com Scott Winter

    Mike –

    I started “twittering” this week too. I’m still not sure the benefits, but I also linked the updates to Facebook and so far no one has either complained or encouraged.

    Overall I think it’s fun, just like any other social networking. I disagree with Cal that it is narcissistic, but I do think that it is extremely voyeuristic. My chief concern is how the information could potentially be used (I wrote a little bit about it on my blog), otherwise I agree with all of your benefit points.

    Twitter on!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Cal,

    You may be right; I’m not sure. Certainly, we need to apply some critical thinking here. However, it seems to me that my focus is other-centered—on the people I am following rather than the other way around. It may be voyeuristic, as Scott pointed out, but it could also help me keep up with my friends and, as a result, be a better friend to them. Just a thought.

    Mike

  • Bob D

    Mike,

    How does this constant conversation via Twitter fit into the other goal you celebrated not long ago, namely, checking email just twice a day in order to have large blocks of time to focus, think and work? Seems to me that when folks Twitter they actually fritter away precious time that could be spent reflecting on more Big Picture, long term thinking.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Bob,

    This is an experiment. You may be right. I may come to that conclusion. We’ll see. Right now, I’m enjoying it. (I like learning new stuff.)

    Mike

  • http://www.kylechowning.com Kyle Chowning

    Mike. I’ve recently picked up Twittering as well. However, I’ve wondered if it was “worth” my time. Something about knowing that the Pres & CEO of a major company is doing it, validates my interest and curiosity. Thanks for the validation. Maybe I’ll come to the same conclusions as you do.

  • http://liveandmove.wordpress.com CAL

    Just to clarify, I didn’t say that twittering itself is narcissistic. And certainly Facebook, MySpace, et al, don’t have to be either. I didn’t mean to insinuate that you, Mike, or anybody else is too self-focused because of using such communication “tools.” I only meant to take a step back and wonder–looking at the greater whole–if such technologies ultimately subvert or feed that tendency. My bet is on the latter, but I could be wrong. Time well tell.

    Is our culture uniformly narcissistic? Of course not. Are all Twitter users egomaniacs? Absolutely not. Could Facebook help me be a better friend? Yeah, sure it could. My previous statement was more pontification and wonder than anything else.

    I do think it’s wise, however, to look from a macro view and employ our imaginations in discerning where all this is taking us. It’s a good thing to do before blindly accepting any new development or technology. This is, perhaps, something we have done too little of in the last century or two.

  • JAVA4ALL

    Like any tool, Twitter is only as useful and productive as the person who uses it: you can bang your thumb with the hammer or you can build a house.

    Two great illustrations of how Twitter-power has been used for good and not evil can be tracked from the URL’s below.

    The first is Schofield of The Guardian discussing how Twitter was so useful at the annual SWSX music festival in Austin, Texas this year, it could actually change what performances people attended, changing people mid-step in their direction. SWSX even provided a special screen just so people could track comments on the performances, who liked what or didn’t, etc.

    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/technology/archives/2007/03/11/twitter_crowd_goes_bananas_at_sxsw.html

    In the second URL, Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com discusses how Comcast’s undoing may be thanks to Twitterers who are fed up with the company’s pitiful performance and are communicating their service issues en masse and in real time — no way now for Comcast to sweep the dirt under the rug:

    http://www.buzzmachine.com/2008/04/06/one-person-you-dont-want-to-piss-off/

    Likewise, there are some less some wonderful examples, too, one that almost reflects a lynch mob mentality. When a panel moderator at SWSX was deemed “too soft” on a certain celebrity, some Twitterers might as well have been cinching a gossip-tronic noose around her neck.

  • http://emuelle1.spaces.live.com Eric S. Mueller

    Michael, I notice you’re still using your iPhone. I remember last year you posted about some disadvantages of using an iPhone for business. I took my iPaq 6945 on a business trip last week and hit some major limitations, a big one being battery life. I used my supervisor’s iPhone to fill out my timecard before a meeting when my Windows Mobile phone wouldn’t render the Deltek application correctly.

    Would you mind posting an update about your professional level use of the iPhone? Have you found workarounds for your complaints, or just accepted the limitations?

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    I am loving watching what you’re up to, Mike! I was praying for you and the rest of the team this morning as you went on your marathon and I had a place to come to keep track of how it was going. :-)

  • J.

    Have you ever tried talking to yourself? Out loud? Without a computer? It is much the same effect, only people tend to think you are crazy. However, it is useful in the same way, I think, as twittering—but probably less interesting to a true techno geek.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    “Techno Geek”? Guilty as charged. ;-)

  • http://www.datexmedia.wordpress.com Scott Mahler

    Great post! I’m new to Twitter, but I definitly know the advantages of marketing online. Another plus, you get to widen you perspective on all kinds of things.

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  • http://baffingtonandsellers.com Matthew Baffington

    Thank you for your feed back on the medium of Twittering. It is most effective and we will follow these guidelines with all due responsiveness.

  • UCY

    well said cal

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  • http://twitter.com/2020VisionBook Joshua Hood

    I am a huge proponent of Twitter. There is no better way for beginners to market today. It gives you instant access to your targeted community.

    Joshua Hood
    2020visiononline.org

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Been on twitter for years. I seem to connect better with Facebook.
    May be just a process to get used to it. 
    I’ve been told I have a history of succeeding through perseverance.
    Perhaps this will fall in that category.  :)

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  • Lindsay Partridge

    Can you help = I post but my post doesn’t show – why is that 

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  • http://www.donloper.com/ Joshua Steimle

    Michael, I love this glimpse back in time to Twitter’s beginnings and your start using the service.

  • Ngobesing Romanus

    Hi Mike! I must congratulate you , Just one week after starting twittering you have decided to help others to do same.It takes courage you know. I am happy you are offering this help to beginners. I really want to master twittering but it’s not easy for me as a beginner. However, I hope with time I’ll be able to get along. I appreciate the help you are giving.