Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Off-topic rant: Why is Twitter taking over the world?

I am not a Luddite. I blog, I love my various high-tech devices, and I am looking forward to the day I can get a computer jack implanted in my head so I can interact with my computer mentally. One thing I cannot get excited about is Twitter, and it keeps invading my life.

There are certainly limited uses for this sort of micro-blogging. The best that comes to mind (for cyclists) is the use by mass transit agencies like Caltrain (mentioned regularly by Fritz at Cyclelicious) to inform riders about issues with service. OK, that works for me, an alert about delayed service doesn't take a lot of detail to be useful.

Where I get grumpy about Twitter is when things I would otherwise care about (read: giveaways) use Twitter as the notification and/or entry system. Recently Fritz has done this (and it's completely his prerogative to run his contests the way he wants, but he did write a post asking for feedback...) and now there is a project to use this tech to track issues with people traveling to Obama's inauguration.

Great idea, but what about people who try to live at least occasionally away from their computers? Isn't one of the big draws of cycling the fact that it takes place outside? Why would I want to take a tether like Twitter everywhere I go? My previous job included a Blackberry, and my current one would if the budget included it, and after that I can say thanks but no thanks.

Maybe I am Luddish (it's a word now) but I just can't think of any person I care enough about to want to read insignificant bits of trivia from at all times of the day. So Lance is on Twitter, whoopee! I'd rather be on my bike than reading a 144-character report about someone else on theirs.


  1. I agree with your viewpoint, although I just joined Twitter after holding out for a long time.

    Likewise I'm not at all interested in hearing anyone's every trivial wittering, but I think I've accepted that there might be the grain of something useful in Twitter, depending on how it's used. So far I haven't had much trouble switching it off though.

    Interestingly, I find myself reading your blog because cyclelicious mentioned it on Twitter. Heh.

    Anyway, hold strong against the tide for as long as you can.

  2. Resistance is... well, you know. :-)

    What role could Twitter or similar services play in emergency preparedness and response? Or would everything just fall to pieces and we should prepare to fall back to semaphores?

  3. @ Treadly - Finding me through Twitter...I'm all sorts of confused on how I feel about that (other than glad YOU're here)

    @ Fritz - For preparedness/response uses Twitter (and similar) may be a great notification tool, similar to the way colleges/universities started collecting student mobile numbers after the VA Tech shootings so the can text warnings to students.

  4. How you envision Twitter as a tool for notification is exactly how we use Twitter for Caltrain and Bike Car notifications. It's how Twitter became useful for me. The social "twittering" stuff is just kind of ancillary.

    It was also tremendously helpful to the photographers during the Tour of California last year. People like me following the Tour on the Internet sent 'Tweets' -- photographers following those Tweets knew when and where to expect the cyclists.

    And of course, Twitter is a well known terrorist tool.