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Twitter? Come on.

Twitter? What sort of name is that? How could I, with my lofty journalistic intentions possibly subscribe to a micro…

By Ryan Fletcher , in This Cyber Life , on February 27, 2009 Tags: , ,

Twitter? What sort of name is that? How could I, with my lofty journalistic intentions possibly subscribe to a micro blogging site with such a silly name? Birds twitter (the feathered variety), twits twitter and so now do 6 million users- some of which have very impressive resumes.

Ever one to compromise my highbrow principles I signed up and decided to follow some bigwigs about their business. One of my first acquisitions, after trying and failing to find an original and witty user name, was Salam Pax. Pax is the legendary blogger of Baghdad, who documented the run up to the Iraq war as only a native Iraqi with a masterful command of English could.

And then after some searching I got Stephen Fry!!

And then Barack Obama!!

Surely this is better than checking hordes of Facebook updates? Be gone you Facebook plebs!!! Now I can follow a community entirely made up of fantastic, rich, powerful, sexy people who spend their time twittering snippets of interesting informed info!!! I’m part of their world at last!!!

Now I can follow journo/writer types who no doubt I will impress with my forthcoming tweets and further my burgeoning career. I can glean the nuggets of their minds without having to trawl through their tiresome blogs.

In this new fangled world where the constraints of page space does not apply it is quite refreshing. God did not bestow everyone with the talents of Salam, and there seem to be many writers on the internet that write like they talk: a lot and without much to say. So its nice to have the point without the reams of run off that usually accompanies it (seems a bit rich coming from the guy writing this eh?).

The site is also advantageous because you can find out who’s being listened to by the people in the know.

It’s not all good though according to some psychology experts quoted in an article in the timesonline. Apparently the whole thing comes from an infantile desire to continually prove we exist stemming from a lack of identity, and that actually all that twitters is not gold (especially when it concerns what the twitterer had for breakfast).

Twitter may not be as revolutionary as the telephone, and indeed may have been replaced by some other ludicrously named self-indulgent software medium in years to come, but it is pushing the boundaries of how we communicate.

The site has brought us closer to events as they happen – tweets escaped from those stuck in the carnage during the Mumbai attacks, they also emanate from court sessions and presidential debates.

It can help develop quasi-personal relationships in a quasi-professional context in the public domain. For those with an established voice it allows them to seem close by. It remains to be seen which newcomers can tweet loud (or interestingly) enough to draw the attention of the media flock.

All in all I grudgingly give my approval to the stupidly named site- I know its six million users will feel a lot better now.


  • One of the big problems with Twitter, as I see it, is that it is a closed network. Unlike technologies such as the telephone or e-mail, Twitter is controlled by a single company. If they decide to change their end-user license, people are stuck. If they decide to change their API and not release it to the public, none of the software designed to inter-operate with Twitter will work. Likewise, no one is able to setup another instance of Twitter. While anyone can operate their own e-mail server, only Twitter can operate a Twitter server.

    Luckily, Laconica is an open-source Twitter replacement. There are a number of sites that currently run Laconica and they are able to communicate with one another. The largest of these sites is The site will also republish your notices on Twitter, so your friends on both networks can see what you’re saying. I think it would be great if more people took a look at

  • Jesse,

    Actually, email started off as a collection of discrete, closed networks. Over time, however, customers demanded interconnectivity between the different phone networks. Just like Blogger (also created by Evan Williams, creator of Twitter), I think we’ll see Twitter develop into a relatively open platform.

    Twitter today has relatively open APIs that allow it to communicate with all sorts of other services. Open source replacements like Laconica are only as good as the people who join them. Regardless, I’m not worried; I see micro-blogging quickly getting mainstreamed with inter-operability between all of the major competitors.

  • Panamajack,

    You are correct about the history of e-mail. It was not until a standard was decided on that e-mail began to be adopted by business and turned into the killer-app that we all use today. Social networks today are much like e-mail before a standard was set. Social networks will not fulfill their potential as communications tools until they begin adopting open standards like FOAF. At the moment, social networks are much like instant messaging services. Groups of people tend to congregate on certain networks, but are unable to communicate with other networks. This is one reason why instant messaging has not been widely adopted by the business community.

    The Twitter API is open, but the platform is not and it is not federated. A twitter user cannot send a message to someone on, facebook, or myspace. I see no reason why Twitter will turn into an open platform. I think it is up to us to promote open platforms.

    The nice thing about Laconica is that it is compatible with the Twitter API and also includes a Facebook app. This way I can use a service like to send my notices to multiple social networks and encourage my friends on those networks to move to an open platform.

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