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Twitter Ate My Column

Magazine article Online

Twitter Ate My Column

Article excerpt

'Dear Marydee: Sorry about the missed deadline. I would have written the column on time, but I got caught up in Twitter conversations, and the time got away from me. You know how it is ..."

"Dear Patrick: Yes, I know, the book's a year overdue. I'm beginning to think it may never get written. See, I have this blog, and it's really easy to put together a 400-word post--and I get immediate feedback. Somehow, diving into a 50,000-word book project, knowing that feedback will come at least 6 months after I finish, just seems to lose priority ..."


Those quotes are both nonsense--as is the title for this column. I'm no longer on Twitter (or at least I wasn't when I wrote this). I tried it, in conjunction with a pay-as-you-go texting cell phone, around the time of the 2007 ALA Annual Conference. I had read a number of accounts of how brilliant Twitter was for catching up with folks during a conference.

For me? Not so much. As I wrote at Walt at Random shortly after the conference:

   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.... I'm clearly not the world's greatest social-network
   participant, by personality or preference....

   Twitter? In general, I can't imagine why anyone would care what I'm
   doing at any given time. But ... Twitter to get together during a
   conference seemed at least plausible.... 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
     [Tweets] 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 ... this made the tool useless as a
     "gathering" system: Knowing where someone was yesterday is not real

   * 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....

   So I came back and immediately set my Twitter
   account to "web only" [and shortly thereafter
   deleted the account entirely] ... for you it may be
   brilliant. For me it's the wrong medium....

   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.

A more accurate title for this column would have been "LSW Meebo Ate My Column"--but that's not quite true. In fact, a conversation on LSW Meebo inspired this column--but LSW Meebo (that is, the Meebo Room called LSW) is also one example of what this column is about. As I put it in an earlier message in the Room, "Meebo interferes with blogging interferes with articles interfere with books."

If this was a Proper Article, the title might be: "Negotiating Appropriate Balances Among Social Networking and Different Modes of Communication." Would you read a column with that title? Just writing it makes me want to go read some blogs or watch some YouTube videos or maybe even start a Facebook account ...


We have many more choices for interaction and communication than we used to--more choices than most of us can handle, between social networking spaces, web publishing systems, and all the traditional routes. …

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