I thought it would be fitting to kick off this first post on my new blog with a look at Twitter. After all, the fact that this weekend the Today programme saw fit to mention it, must mean it’s mainstream now.
I’ve been twittering along with the best of them recently but notice that there’s already something of a backlash brewing – and maybe the first seeds of privacy doubt have started creeping in.
As newsgatherers, there’s aspects of Twitter which could prove invaluable – TweetScan for instance has the potential to be a great tool for coverage of any sort of news event where a lot of people are gathered at one time.
But how public are these Tweets? It’s easy to be bullish and claim anything published is in the public domain, but the closed circle nature of the engagements mean this is slightly more intimate medium than, say, posting on a blog.
It was an aspect which struck me when I blogged
the utterly harmless bit of fun – that was Twitter cartoon day. It struck me that those involved might not wish to be named as participants in something which could be regarded as trivial and, while they might be happy for their identities to be known to those who “follow” them, maybe a wider audience would be an intrusion too far.
It’s a point also made by Andy Dickinson who blogged on the same event asking; “ Am I being rude by posting a link that popped up in a twitter conversation? It feels kind of like e-eavesdropping”.
It’s a difficult call to make and it remains to be seen whether the PCC will be able to get to grips with it in any meaningful way during its deliberations.
But the most often discussed part of the social media movement, of which Twitter is the flavour of the month, is its ability to be distracting or time consuming (i.e. successful).
The influential Bivings Report published a post by Todd Zeigler in which he admits to having doubts about it, or more accurately, doubts his ability to invest enough time into making it valuable: ”I am finding my current Twitter use unsustainable and have more or less abandoned the tool over the last week.”
He cites the example of Hugh MacLead of Gaping Void who announced that he was leaving Twitter because he found it was distracting him from what he really wanted to be doing: writing books and drawing cartoons.
The issue of time spent on Twitter and other social networks is also a concern for those in the Museum world. (The shared issues of the Museum and News industries is something I intend to explore further with this new blog so all contributions welcome.)
At the Museum 2.0 blog, Nina Simon reveals the discussions about time spent and comes up with an interesting classification of users – participant, content provider and company director – depending on how much time is spent.
Interestingly this puts Twitter at the entry point of all Web 2.0 activity. But wther it’s time-consuming or not, surely the hours spent on such activity should be judged on the outcome? Is spending your afternoons learning about a topic, sharing ideas or pushing a service on Twitter any less worthwhile than addressing invites, undertaking telephone research or posting free newspapers through doors?
The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss thinks it’s too early to write it off. After speaking on the Today interview she posted: “…we should all be a little more willing to explore these tools without feeling the need to classify it or nail it down to some definite function when it is still so young. So many inventions were born out of a completely different idea; vinyl records were a spin-off (no pun intended) from a project for talking dolls or some such… It’s far easier to dismiss something out of hand than to be open-minded, creative and playful.”
So right. Be playful and have a private Twitter today.