Tag Archives: tweeting

Live-Tweeting While Reading Is Stupid

23 Jan


A disturbing trend has emerged recently. Lots of young people hear about some new article, read it, and live-tweet their reactions to it. The practice drives me nuts, but I think it brings up some broader points about how society uses Twitter.

This latest habit (I hesitate to use the overused word “trend”) has emerged over the last year. I’ve noticed it acutely with three articles in particular. “Getting Bin Laden” by Nicholas Schmidle (New Yorker), “The Shame of College Sports” by Taylor Branch (The Atlantic), and “The Obama Memos” by Ryan Lizza (New Yorker). In each case, I saw groups of people (including, but not limited to, journalists) live-tweet their observations and favorite quotes from each piece.

Live-tweeting simply isn’t effective while reading. Each of these three articles is lengthy, complex and delivers an involved argument. Picking out one quote or observation in the middle of it nearly always misses the broader argument of the piece. I want to hear what other people think of these pieces, but the most valuable service journalists offer is analysis and careful consideration of the arguments. That simply isn’t possible on Twitter, in 140 characters, while trying to read something.

In 99 cases out of 100, the Twitter user would benefit from taking a step back and writing a blog post when they finished reading the story.

Now, this is not to suggest that live-tweeting itself is bad. To the contrary, I think it’s wonderful when used properly. At press conferences or when following breaking news, for example. In those cases, live-tweeting is the fastest, most effective way of getting news and instantaneous reactions (which are most often accurate).

This brings up several larger arguments about Twitter. In my mind, the service does three things really well: 1) It allows users to rapidly scan various services for information, 2) It allows users to share links to other content their followers might be interested in and 3) It allows information to spread much more quickly than any other existing technology. Beyond that, it breaks down.

Observations shared on Twitter are rarely insightful and, at best, simplistic. After all, who can fully share their thoughts in 140 characters? Even the best writer has to condense and oversimplify their arguments to fit within that space constraint. So, I see Twitter as an ideal location for information sharing and a horrendous spot for sharing opinions and observations.

So stop live-tweeting as you read other literature. Write a blog post when you’ve finished and had time to digest it. Tweet me a link. I’ll gladly read it then.

Photo: Adikos

119 Million Twitter Accounts Considered Dormant

5 Apr


Bad news for Twitter and their multi billion valuation. An insider granted Business Insider access to some of the company’s user information. That analysis showed that there are fewer than 21 million active Twitter accounts and more than 68 percent of the 175 million registered accounts could be considered dormant. In order to be considered “active,” a user must follow at least 32 people. A more generous definition considers an active user anyone who follows more than eight people, in which case there are 56 million accounts.

Now, those figures aren’t nearly as bad as they sound. Other popular social networking sites like MySpace (41 million) and Huffington Post (30 million daily) have similar reach as Twitter. They aren’t good either.  The numbers suggest that the importance of Twitter are vastly overstated. Certainly organizations relying on Twitter to convey information to customers could be overestimating it’s reach.

It almost sounds to me like Twitter is creating a niche for itself. Certain parties (celebrities, reporters) will use it to share quick tidbits of information amongst themselves and a small contingent of interested people, but the vast majority of people don’t care or won’t follow them.


5 Unusual Uses of Twitter

26 Mar

The rise of Twitter means we can share information with the world pretty much whenever we want. That’s led to some creative uses of the technology. Some of them have been life-saving. Some of them have been tragic.

1) Bank Robbery: Annemarie Dooling (who describes herself as a “Jet setting, Manhattan drinking, design obsessed sicko” who is also a web producer for an unnamed “popular talk show website”) was just at a bank some normal day when all of a sudden a robber came inside. Shortly after, she began tweeting about the robbery and about her missing trackball (which is why she can’t make calls). The tweets continued until after the police interviewed everyone and let them go. She praised the teller for their response during the crisis.

2) During Childbirth: You don’t really for that to be a private moment. Not if you’re the CEO of Twitter’s wife. Sara Williams, wife of Evan Williams, tweeted throughout the experience from the moment her water broke through the first diaper. The first tweet about the child birth read “Dear Twitter, My water broke. It wasn’t like Charlotte in Sex and the City. Now, timing contractions on an iPhone app.” Perhaps thankfully, no tweets came during the hardest part of the procedure.

3) A Miscarriage: It was just a normal day at the office for Penelope Trunk, chief executive at Brazen Careerist. Then, during a board meeting, she realized she was having a miscarriage. She cheerfully tweeted the news to her followers:
The internet exploded in outrage. How could a woman share that type of personal information with the whole world? Trunk was unapologetic and explained she had already endured two abortions and a miscarriage. Having the miscarriage then saved her from having to go through with an already scheduled abortion.

4) Drowning of a Child: Shellie Ross sparked a nationwide outcry when she tweeted about her son’s drowning right after it happened. That afternoon, she tweeted about a rare batch of fog in her neighborhood. Just 15 minutes later, she called paramedics because her child had fallen into the pool. Then, she posted a tweet which read, “Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool.” Five hours later (after her son passed away) she posted again “Remembering my million dollar baby” with an attached picture. Ross says she was outside when her son fell into the pool. Her profile is Military_Mom.

5) During a Heart Attack: Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher suffered a major heart attack in late 2010. Doctors said it would have been fatal if not spotted early on. Christopher was rushed to a hospital in the back of an ambulance tweeting the whole way. Here’s a sample:

Colleagues immediately rushed to his aid and offered words of support. Thankfully, Christopher’s condition stabilized. He now has returned to work for Mediaite.