Musing about things I can do with Twitter that I couldn’t easily do before Twitter

Whenever I come across a new social media tool, I don’t tend to jump in just to be cool, I’m way too old for that. [Sometimes I have to wait anyway, because the thing is in private beta and for some reason private betas find it hard to cross the Atlantic, even in the 21st century.] Most of the time, I sign up and then watch. I try and see what people do with the tool. Which is not necessarily the same thing as what the tool was originally designed for. [I guess that comes from having children, and observing them as they develop, flower and come to maturity. A wonderful experience… ]

When I watch, there is some method to my madness. Once I get the hang of what people are doing with the tool, I start playing with it myself. And then I place three gates in the way, gates that must be passed before I really get engaged with the tool:

Gate 1: Is it a Martini thing, anytime anyplace anywhere?

Gate 2: Are the barriers to entry and participation sufficiently low?

Gate 3: Is there at least one thing I can do with this new thing, one thing I couldn’t do before with anything else?

This post is about Twitter’s Gate 3.

Someone started following me a few days ago, can’t remember who it was. I did the usual thing, a quick check on the person’s Twitter profile, a flit through to that person’s blog, a scan of the people being followed, a minds-eye snapshot of recent tweets and a courtesy “Return of the Follow“.

While doing that, I noticed a tweet from someone I hadn’t connected with for a while, Halley Suitt. Yes, a Suitt Tweet.  [Try saying that quickly after a few drinks.]

What Halley said was interesting. She said “Best thing I’ve read all week”, while describing an article in the New Yorker. [And thank you, New Yorker, for not sticking the article behind a paywall”.]

Now that’s useful.

Blog Friends and equivalents let me know what a person’s surfing, Facebook mini feeds show me what someone’s sharing, there are many social bookmarking tools and RSS readers available, there are even shared readers available.

But so far none of them gives me this kind of information as succinctly as Twitter. Now of course the value didn’t come directly from Twitter, it came from Halley. I know Halley. I know she reads a lot. And I trust her opinions, without having to agree with all of them. And when she says “Best thing I’ve read all week” I sit up and take notice. I take a look. I wander over to where she points.

And boy was I glad I did. This is the article she pointed me towards: Twilight of The Books: A Critic At Large.

Fascinating article. There’s a lot I want to say/ask/share about it, but I’ll leave it for a separate post. Tomorrow.

In the meantime, maybe some of you out there have similar examples of stuff you can do with Twitter you couldn’t do before. In this particular instance what got me excited was how person A could let others (others who were interested in Person A’s opinions on a particular subject) know about an object and its rating simply and efficiently.

Comments and views?

12 thoughts on “Musing about things I can do with Twitter that I couldn’t easily do before Twitter”

  1. Well, here’s what I think is a good example: last month I interviewed Biz Stone, one of the Twitter’s founders, in a conference in Seville. The usual way to do so would have been to shoot him some ten to twenty questions, depending on the length, and then hand the microphone to the audience to listen to their questions too. The problems of this approach are well known: a number of people love to listen too much to themselves when asking questions, so instead of just asking the question, they get into some sort of “dissertation” that in many cases makes the Q&A part completely boring.

    Instead, I gave people in the room (some 500 people) my Twitter address so they could send me the questions via Twitter. I was able to get the questions immediately on my BlackBerry, think about them, perhaps group some of them or filter them when I thought it was convenient to do so, and then ask Biz about them, giving each time credit to the person asking the question.

    The result was pretty nice. We were able to ask a much larger number of questions, very succinctly expressed (140 characters!), in a extremely dynamic way, and keeping some control over the whole thing (the moderator actually had some “moderating” role). We were able to cover a lot of useful answers with a very lively interaction.

  2. Thanks Enrique. Great example. We have to keep learning to adopt and improve the tools that emerge, and that comes from usage. Not from sitting on the sidelines criticising everything that moves.

  3. JP,

    Funny you should mention discovering great posts on Twitter: we are considering integrating Blog Friends with the Twitter API so that our users can have short urls to their favourite posts, along with a message perhaps, posted automatically on their Twitter account. Sound useful?


  4. Luke, love the idea, with some refinement….. my hunch is that you need to find a way that allows me to “decide” when and what to tweet, rather than make it 100% automated.

  5. Twitter is funny. I’m a HUGE fan of the service, but I wouldn’t have expected to become one. I think the attraction is mainly in the type of people that gravitated towards Twitter. I also have a Pownce account, which is objectively a better service, but I never login to Pownce and I’m generally connected to Twitter three different ways at any given moment.

    I organize the Seattle Tweetups, I’ve entered into business partnerships of varying degrees with my Twitter followers, I’ve taken on followers as clients, I’ve had just about every question that’s crossed my mind in the last few months answered faster and better than Google ever could, I’ve gotten lots of valuable real-time feedback on ideas/blog posts/site designs… my list could go on and on. As a self-employed consultant, Twitter has given me the water cooler atmosphere of an office and filled the only void I had in my work-at-home life.


  6. There is a usage I love about Twitter: SMS e-mail list.

    It’s quite simple. Imagine you’re a guide in some museum. You’ve got a question and you’re sure at least one of the other guides knows the answer.

    Now imagine you’ve got a Twitter account, your colleagues too. Let’s say these are professional Twitter accounts, dedicated to your job. So are the other guides’ Twitter accounts. Every guide (including yourself) has to subscribe to SMS alert for his professional Twitter account.

    Simply ‘twitt’ your questions. Other guides will receive it instantly as a SMS and will be able to answer so that:
    – you get the answer as quickly as possible.
    – other guides know instantly if it’s worth adding some comment about the first answer.

    We’ve proposed this usage to one of our clients. Simple. Free. Efficient. How could he do this without Twitter?…

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