For a long time, I vowed never to get sucked into Twitter. The idea of broadcasting my every belch and hiccup to the world in real time just struck me as absurdly narcissistic. Of course, I made exactly the same vow about blogging for largely the same reason back in the day and, well, here we are.
And thus it was that I observed myself with detached amusement as Nate Angell (a.k.a. @xolotl...his gang name, I guess) succeeded in convincing me to give it a try when we sat down to lunch (along with Mike Zackrison) at JA-SIG last month. Nate, in addition to being super-sharp about ed tech issues in general, is also one of the best conceptual salesmen I've ever met. Seriously. By the time he was done working me over, I was like, "@Dude, WTF was I thinking? I have to download Twhirl and start tweeting, like, RIGHT NOW!!"
So I did. I gave Twhirl a whirl. Hated it. Then I tried hooking Twitter into GChat. That made me happy for a few hours until I remembered how much I hate GChat. (And don't get me started on the state of chat clients in the Windows world.) Then I found TwitterFox, which I like and seems to work well. (I'm a Firefox extension addict anyway.) Since then I've been tweeting (hate that word) on and off. And now, after diving in and spending some time with Twitter, I can honestly say that...
...I still don't get it.
Actually, that's a lie. I kinda sorta do get it. Twitter is the closest virtual analogue (digital analogue?) to the water cooler. (If you don't know why that's significant, then you must stop what you are doing immediately and read John Seeley Brown.) It supports a range of intimacy modalities, from "I'm speaking to everybody within earshot" to "I'm speaking to somebody specific but anyone nearby can hear me" to "I'm whispering to you and you alone." It supports the discoverability of casual conversation in the same way that wandering over to the physical water cooler does in the office. And the post length limit keeps the exchanges within the range of normal conversation.
But it doesn't work for me. I'm not entirely sure why, although I do have some suspicions. First of all, most of the people that I work with and socialize with most often aren't on Twitter at all or aren't utilizing it heavily. So part of it is probably just a human network thing. Second, I tend to throw myself into my current work very intensely and stay focused on it for long periods of time. This hasn't always been true and won't always be true, but right now I just don't feel like I have the time or urge to hang out on Twitter during my work day. Third, I've just never been a synchronous kinda guy. And finally, I've never been all that quick to catch on to this Web 2.0 stuff that all the cool kids are trying to begin with. It took me a long time to get del.icio.us, too, and even now I don't utilize it that much. Either I'm too old, too dumb, to uncool, or some combination thereof.
So will I keep using Twitter? For now, yes. It doesn't cost me much, and I figure there's always a chance that sooner or later the light bulb will go off for me. But don't expect me to be one of the bigger twits around.