These comments apply only to my own situation. For you, Twitter may be wonderful.
Some of you have already figured out that I’m sort of an introvert, with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances but not too many that I strive to keep up with on a minute-by-minute (or week-by-week) basis. That I enjoy getting together with people at ALA (and occasionally other conferences) but don’t go to great pains to make that happen–and am perfectly comfortable dining by myself.
I’m clearly not the world’s greatest social-network participant, by personality or preference. I probably still have an Orkut account and haven’t been back in more than a year. I probably have a Second Life avatar and have no idea what my name or password are. I dropped out of Ning (Library 2.0 and library bloggers) because it just didn’t work for me–I wasn’t able or willing to spend the time there, and its slowness and confused interface didn’t help a lot.
Or at least I think I dropped out of Ning. I haven’t been back to check; for all I know, I may still have a page there. More about that in a bit.
Twitter? In general, I can’t imagine why anyone would care what I’m doing at any given time. But…well, the use of Twitter to get together during a conference seemed at least plausible. And, breaking with my long tradition of traveling entirely without technology, I’d picked up a cheap text-oriented cell phone (with what may be the world’s smallest QWERTY keyboard) on a Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go basis, with a $10/1,000 text message package…if only so I could contact people I was talking to about future contract or job possibilities. So I thought I’d sign up for Twitter just to see if it would be helpful during ALA. And, after using it (Web-based) a few days prior, cut back “friends” (I’m getting to hate that overused word for people I’ve never met and never really talked to, but who feel some vague connection) to those who I thought would be at ALA.
I didn’t keep the phone on all the time–I just can’t deal with that level of connectedness–but I made a point of checking it at least every hour or two, and did send out Twitters when I was going to be in one place for a while.
My conclusion? For me, for this equipment and service plan, for this type of conference, it’s a flat-out failure. Here’s why:
- One or two of the dozen “friends” was, shall we say, Twitter-happy, with what seemed like an endless flood of little messages. I’m seeing that elsewhere; in one case, where a liblogger is having twitters posted as blog posts, I’m about ready to unsubscribe.
- I don’t know whether it’s Twitter, Virgin Mobile, or the way I was using it, but I got messages in big clumps, sometimes a day or more after they’d been sent. For a while, it appeared that I wouldn’t get any messages until I sent one; I’m still not sure what was actually happening. In any case, this made the tool useless as a “gathering” system: Knowing where someone was yesterday is not real helpful.
- Maybe it’s different at a small or very specialized conference, but there just weren’t any instances in which my “friends” and I had any reason to meet up that Twitter helped with. A lot of that may be because I don’t have that circle of people I want to get together with as often as possible.
The cell phone itself proved useful primarily because of my little 36-hour travel problem (which, after reading Michael Golrick’s ordeal, I realize was only a little problem): It was nice to be able to keep my wife informed without coping with a cell phone, and I even called the airline once or twice to help things along. Naturally, the phone started losing charge halfway through the adventure…
So I came back and immediately set my Twitter account to “web only.” Recharged the phone. Didn’t use it on Thursday. Canceled our Cingular account (which we’d already planned to do). When my wife wanted minimal instructions on the Kyocera/Virgin Mobile phone (we now have two sick cats instead of one, and we’re still not sure what’s going on with the younger one), as soon as I turned it on I started getting a flood of Twitter messages…even though I’d cleared it after resetting the account. I think all the messages were from late Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday; I’m not sure, since I was just deleting them. (For some reason, the phone’s “erase all messages” feature doesn’t actually do anything. I think they’re taking lessons from the social software people.)
Again: for you it may be brilliant. For me it’s the wrong medium, either on the web or on the go–and the last thing I want is various hunks of text that aren’t even real messages from real people!
So here’s the coda, at least for now: I logged on to Twitter, said I wanted to erase my account, went through the “Are you sure?” step, clicked on the appropriate button…
and was taken back to my home page.
Did the process again. Signed out. Was able to sign back in and there’s the same#*!@% home page again.
Sent a help message, basically saying “Is there any way to actually leave Twitter?” We’ll see what response I get.
And this morning, checking email, there’s another new “friend” on Twitter–friending an account that should not even be there.
This seems to be typical of (some) social software applications, and certainly helps them claim very large usage numbers. It’s the Hotel California syndrome–you can check out any time you like, but you can never really leave. I think it stinks; I’m tempted to sue a five-letter word beginning with “f” and ending with “d,” but I won’t for the moment.
If you’re a Twitterer who doesn’t read this blog and you’ve “friended” or “followed” me–well, here’s why you’re not getting any reciprocity. I’m not really there and don’t intend to return. Don’t be insulted. (In any case, why on earth would you be friending me on Twitter if you don’t read my blog?)
If you’re one who does want to follow me both places, I won’t be there; I will be here. (Assuming sick cats, job issues, etc. don’t completely take over my life, which isn’t an entirely safe assumption.)
This post probably makes me sound antisocial. Sorry about that. Fact is, we each have different levels of tolerance for interruption and need for connectedness. I find email, blogs, face-to-face conversations and (for now) Meebo rooms to be connecting at my level. I found Twitter to be enormously distracting and not at all useful, for me, in these circumstances.