Sometimes Web sites become huge hits while I stand on the sidelines the entire time, scratching my head and being unable to figure out what the attraction is. That’s exactly my take on Twitter, what has apparently become the blogger fad of the day partially due to its popularity at the geekfest SXSW.
The premise of the Twitter service is that being able to update your friends with frequent one-line descriptions of where you are and what you’re doing is somehow inherently interesting. Whether you send in updates via email, from a cellphone’s SMS service or by simply logging in to the site, 5-10 word updates dozens of times a day are the cornerstone of Twitter and its fans.
A few scintillating examples from the current batch of messages received in the last few minutes on the site (you can see what everyone’s up to by just going to the site’s home page, btw)…
“GrammarGirl: Getting a cup of tea, and then going back to dissecting the grammar of “neither.” It’s a real doozy.”
“ericnuzum: Just got done eating dinner and cleaning cat box…not at the same time.”
“ratko: making as many faces as i can with mo of course”
“karmaboy: its 8:30 and I’m already in my pj’s”
“Remy: Officially closing Chapter 1. Two more to go.”
“sharps: midterm complete!”
“huslage: Instant Messaging with my wife. She’s sitting next to me.”
I realize that I am inherently temporally challenged with these identity and activity broadcast services (which is a polite way of pointing out that I’m no longer 18 years old!) but I get the idea of having MySpace friends (I have almost 1000 on my profile) and I somewhat understand the geoproximity cellphone-based services where you can find a friend or two if you happen to be near each other.
But why in the heck would I want to know the moment “sharps” finished their midterm? Or that “ratko” is making faces with mo? Or that “karmaboy” is in his pj’s and it’s only 8.30pm? I realize I’m not their friend, but even if I was, why would I want to have such a level of granularity in my knowledge of others?
My theory: Twitter is in fact the perfect crude technological solution for exhibitionists, for people who are so convinced of their importance in the Big Picture that they believe others want to know exactly what they’re doing at all times.
Or put another way, would you be interested in knowing, or would you just not give a d*mn, if I Twittered that “I’m blogging from my hotel room in Seattle”, for example?
Meanwhile, a quick visit to Techmeme shows that Twitter’s exploding across the blogosphere, as I said in the beginning. Get other perspectives from B.L. Ochman, Andy Beal, Thomas Hawk, Steve Rubel, Robert Scoble and Ross Mayfield, then come back. I’ll wait.
Now, go to Twitter and spend a few minutes reading what’s on the home page, refreshing, and reading it again a few times.
Finally, tell me, what am I missing here? Are the mundane trivialities of people’s lives really so important, so interesting, even to their friends, that services like Twitter are anything other than the latest inane fad, destined to blossom, bloom and die all in a few weeks?