Somehow I managed to sign up for Twitter the same week it started to get attention everywhere online. I don’t think me signing up and all the other attention is related. I decided to try it because Tara Hunt mentioned that her office now had a Nabaztag, and that they’d set it up with an account on Twitter, which reminded me that I was kinda curious about the service and might as well sign up and see what it was about (I want one of those rabbits too, but they cost money and all this travel has killed my toy budget). And then the next day everyone seemed to be talking about it, which is one of those things that happens to me a lot, and always makes me feel like I’m about 12 hours ahead of the zeitgeist, which is not really far enough to be useful. Instead I get the annoyance of discovering something only to immediately find it on a dozen blogs and sometimes even the NYT or NPR.
I think it’s a fun little toy, but I’m not entirely sure why it’s getting so much attention except that people like to discover something and then hype it up (er, am I guilty of that too, by posting this?). The idea is that you send short messages, either by SMS or IM or a web interface, that are then rebroadcast to whoever signs up to receive them. There’s also a public timeline of all messages, which is interesting if you ever wonder what random other people are up to at this moment. The entertainment value of that particular feature is probably limited, though.
Services like this have a lot of potential beyond the goofy “huh, my friend Kari is flossing her teeth right now” voyeurism that’s going on right now. If you have a dozen people on vacation or at a conference who want to spend the day wandering around semi-independently, this lets you keep in touch and plan lunch together without having to schedule everything in advance. I could also see it working for a group coordinating an event, where people are off getting things done but need to stay connected without being interrupted by a radio message or phone call. Not all communication requires an immediate reply, sometimes you just need to have a log of what’s going on in your pocket.
Anyhow, there’s a little Twitter display widget on my blog for now, and you can go to http://twitter.com/spinnerin if you want the web page version, or have an account and want to add me. I can’t promise it will be interesting, or that in a week I’ll still be sending updates, but I’ll keep playing with it for at least a bit longer. Maybe until the public timeline gets flooded with new people posting “testing… does this thing work?”.
If I can make time, I want to follow up on this with a post about handling all of the streams of information available to us these days. I’ve been using the internet for about 12 years, and in that time to amount of content we interact with online has increased immensely, as have the variety of ways we can receive that content. I think I might have something useful to say about managing information overload.