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.