Twitter is noise, but also signal

It seems as though everyone has an opinion on Twitter, the instant-messaging style app that Blogger founder Ev Williams shut down Odeo to focus on (wise decision, that). Pete Cashmore says that it’s another way to blog about your cat, while Karoli at Drumsnwhistles just doesn’t see the point — and in the comments on her blog, Robert Scoble says Twitter hate is “the new black.”

It’s an interesting idea, Twitter — and in many ways a natural evolution of (or accessory to) Evan’s original creation, Blogger. And the name is perfect, since it conveys precisely the kind of instantaneous, frivolous, and maybe even scatter-brained nature of the app itself, like a bird twittering. Not singing, but twittering.

I blame Austin Hill of Billions with Zero Knowledge for getting me on to Twitter, even though he has never mentioned it to me. I signed up because a couple of friends had mentioned it, and then I started seeing Austin’s updates from the TED conference pop up regularly in my Google Talk window as feeds from his Twitter — and on his blog in a little Twitter widget. I thought it was a pretty cool way of sending out short thoughts.

In fact, it reminds me a lot of what my 17-year-old daughter and her friends do with their instant messaging accounts, where they change their login names every hour or two to let everyone know how they’re feeling — complete with many emoticons and other strange characters — or include some lyrics from a favourite song, etc. And they do the same with their Facebook profiles, where they post updates every hour or so.

Is this obsessive behaviour in some sense? Possibly. And I can see the point made by many, that these kinds of continuous interruptions don’t really add anything important. And yet, I still find it interesting. We want to be connected, I think, and anything that helps us do that is useful in some way — even if it results in noise that we have to tune out sometimes.

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