Looking for Value Where You Don't Think You'll Find It

Wow, everyone got mad at Twitter all of a sudden!

For those of you who don’t know, Twitter is an online communication tool that has been described as "microblogging." Basically you can "post" messages that your "subscribers" read (just like a blog), but the messages are sent out as text messages—140 characters max (that’s characters, not words), and they can be received on your cell phone, rather than just on the web. When you sign on to the Twitter web site, there is a blank box with the question, “What are you doing?” That’s how many people use Twitter: updates throughout the day on what you are doing. Here’s what I say on Twitter.

This prompts many of the "Twitter is stupid and boring" responses. Who wants to know what I had for lunch!? (Lobster bisque and the grilled mahi-mahi, by the way. Very tasty). Maddie already posted a good response to the critics: it’s your choice to have stupid conversations or not, but don’t blame the tool.

But I’ll add this reaction. It hurts a little (Kevin and Cindy) when you tell me that my conversations are stupid and that you flat out don’t care about me. It’s okay, of course. You don’t have to care about me. I’ll be fine. But it hurts nonetheless. Why go on your blog and say that? Why declare ALL Twitter conversations as talking, not communication? Why imply that I have some kind of "ultimate" ego? I have no problem with disagreement or conflict—it’s okay if you don’t like Twitter—but why be mean about it?

I have no doubt that there ARE stupid twitter conversations out there, just as there are stupid blogs, just as there are inane conversations around the lunch table at work. But I’m going to keep talking to people, because by doing that I learn and connect, and that’s valuable to me. Maddie also (in a tweet) pointed to a nice blog post about Twitter, and this quote captures an important point for me:

Twitter is a look beyond someone’s public face, below the more charming and polished persona they present to the world, behind the carefully crafted communication we all use to seem smarter than we are when we let our guard down. While its detractors see a stream of mundane, tedious details, its fans sense something profoundly real and fundamentally human in the quiet musings of both extraordinary events and everyday life.

Twitter fascinates us because it provides a window on the authentic. You can "fake" a blog post, whether you rip off an idea or spend 10 minutes to get a sentence just right. But your tweets are the real you. There aren’t enough characters to support frivolity, and there’s not enough time to pass ideas through the filter of who-we-want-to-be. It’s just you at that moment in time, like letting the world inside your head for just a split second.

I never would have guessed that value would be found in Twitter. That’s one of my big personal lessons about social media: I try it even if when I don’t see what the value will be. Often, by the time we clearly articulate the value, it’s too late—people have moved on to a different medium or tool, or the value is diluted. I get so much more value by acting quickly and taking chances. The value I get from the things that work by far outweighs the time I waste with experiments that fail.


  1. 26.03.2008 at 10:33 am

    Like I said in another comment, I am in the middle on this one. It can be fun and engaging, but as a pure tool, it has it limits with regards to usefulness. But most tools do. I own a snow shovel, but only use it a few times a year. But, someone in Maine uses it a lot more. Twitter is a snow shovel. For some, they use it a lot, but for others not so much. Then there are those that live in San Diego…

  2. 26.03.2008 at 4:51 pm

    Jamie, your lobster bisque and mahi mahi were much better than my chop-chop salad! Thanks for a great morning. Lots of good comments.
    On the twitter value matter, value, I suspect, may be a lot like obscenity–I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. Trouble with that definition, is that it’s all in the eyes of every individual beholder.
    I wonder if much of the twitter hullabalu isn’t about “first” adopters ranting about new toys and others just reacting to rant topics they don’t have high on their current priority list. Rant is a friendly term.
    All of the information and points of view are informative, and some are even colorful and imaginative. I don’t detect any that are personal, but I may have missed something. It happens.
    Seems to me that there are a lot of blog posts on technology, particularly the newest finds and shiny toys. There seems to be comparatively fewer blog posts on other topics related to non-profits and association management. A word cloud comprised of recent topics posted in the clump might be informative.
    Regardless, bloggers can post about anything they want on their blogs. But then, responders can respond in any fashion they wish to those same posts.
    Is first generation technology the only valuable topic in associationland to blog about? Is it time to remember that “variety is the spice of life”?
    Again, my thanks.

  3. 26.03.2008 at 8:53 pm

    Jamie, I certainly didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’d never looked at your Twitter comments before (and in all honesty, probably will not do so again) but I certainly read, admire, and learn from your blog. The difference lies in that what you write in your blog is engaging and communicative.
    As I said in my post, if you like Twitter, then great. There’s nothing wrong with someone talking about the mundane details of their life with their friends, or finding an actual use for it (some have suggested conferences, traveling through old-school Communist islands, whatever). More power to you!
    But, while I admittedly had wicked fun poking at Twitter, my post was really not ABOUT Twitter. It was about social media, and the attitudes that have developed around it. It just so happens that Twitter is a perfect example of what has caused those attitudes to develop.
    And I believe that the people who think social media are valuable (and I count myself among them, to some extent) really need to understand those attitudes, in all their brutal glory, without being too thin-skinned about it — unless they are perfectly happy talking only to their friends and commiserating about those who “don’t get it” with those who “do.”