NYT on Twitter: From Many Tweets, One Loud Voice on the Internet

April 21st, 2007

Sunday’s New York Times has an article on Twitter, From Many Tweets, One Loud Voice on the Internet. The article covers the basics, e.g.

“Twitterers” send and receive short messages, called “tweets,” on Twitter’s Web site, with instant messaging software, or with mobile phones. Unlike most text messages, tweets — usually in answer to Twitter’s prompt, “What are you doing?” — are routed among networks of friends. Strangers, called “followers,” can also choose to receive the tweets of people they find interesting.

and mention some of the ancillary services, like Twittervision and Twritterholic, but not Geotwitter or Twitterment. :-(

The article was written by Jason Pontin, EIC of Technology Review, who tried Twitter and was somewhat conflicted:

My own experiences with Twitter were mixed. I quickly realized that decrying the banality of tweets missed their point. The only people in the world who might be interested in my twittering — my family, my close friends — were precisely the ones who would be entertained and comforted by their triviality.
    But I also strongly disliked the radical self-revelation of Twitter. I wasn’t sure that it was good for my intimate circle to know so much about my daily rounds, or healthy for me to tell them. A little secretiveness is, perhaps, a necessary lubricant in our social relations. I wondered whether twittering could ever have broad appeal.

I’m not sure I understand the conflict though — he’s right, I think, that Twitter can fulfill an ambient intimacy function, whether its in a personal (e.g., family) or professional (e.g., co-workers) domain. Most people choose twitter for one or the other and, once you have done that, you have total control over what you choose to reveal. The problem arises if your followers are not from the same social group, i.e., a mixture of family and co-workers. While one can solve this with multiple Twitter accounts, it might be interesting to explore a simple context mechanism that could easily be added to Twitter.