Social radar

Some technologies change the way you do things. Before mobile phones you had to plan where and when to meet people in advance. Before PVRs it was easier to watch TV when the show you wanted to see was on, unless you found a tape which you were at least vaguely sure didn’t have anything on you wanted to watch again, not to mention the ten minutes needed to set the VCR to record… on the wrong channel yet again! Radio, antibiotics, electricity, cars, planes, the internet, the wheel; the list goes on.

Earlier this year Twitter gave me a glimpse of something with the potential to rival even the microwave oven. Twitter is almost pointless in its simplicity: just answer the question, “What are you doing?” In most cases you’ll probably be wondering, “Who cares?” If you need convincing, there’s a very good guide to Twitter on YouTube. The real revelation for me was the power of Twitter on the move. You can still send updates using SMS, but at its peek you could also receive them, either from direct messages, people you were following or (and this was the life changing one) any updates that contained words you wanted to track. I got in the habit of tracking places I was about to visit, giving me local knowledge of things to check out/avoid, traffic/travel problems, other people in the area- what ever people were saying.

Last week could have provided another great example: I tracked ‘Hursley’ which is where I work, so on Thursday I would have got an SMS telling me that the site was closed because of a burst water main. Sadly Twitter has been on a steady decline ever since I started using it, so it was only by chance I checked Twitter before leaving for work. Without tracking, without SMS notifications and without IM, twitter has gone from personal radar to little more than Facebook status updates.

I haven’t given up using it just yet though. In fact I’ve just been cutting down the number of people I follow so I can keep up more easily; 80 is about enough for me. I don’t have any set rules about who I follow like some people, otherwise Martin would have gone just for the amazing number of ‘#’s he gets through! A good way to stay in the list is to make me laugh, and it’ll be hard to beat, “Convinced people are practising yogic flying in the meeting room near me“! After much agonizing I even unfollowed Stephen Fry despite him being nice enough to follow me back- still a huge fan but somehow felt a bit too stalkerish. Having said that, Robert Llewellyn is too interesting to unfollow just yet.


5 thoughts on “Social radar

  1. I’ve rather given up trying to read every tweet. I just go on there and look at the last page or two – sampling rather than reading every word.

    Having various mobile twitter applications helps too in keeping up.

    Impressed with Tweetdeck which is an Adobe AIR app that publishes a set of twitter feeds in a series of vertical panes. Panes can contain:
    1) the standard feed of tweets from people you’re following
    2) a feed of a selected group of people you’re following
    3) a feed of a search term (like tracking)
    4) a feed of @-replies to you
    5) a feed of direct messages
    6) a feed from
    7) a feed from something called twitscoop that I don’t know about.

    The downside is that it basically takes up the whole screen :) I have it on a virtual desktop all its own.

  2. @Andy, it wasn’t me!

    @Dan, good to have someone tweeting about MDM on the list

    @Ian, I don’t read every tweet which is one reason I want to keep the numbers down, to reduce the chance of missing a really interesting tweet in the deluge

  3. Pingback: Data governance is like teenage sex « Notes from a small field

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