Sunday, December 21, 2008

What can I do with Twitter, and is it CB Radio redux?

I'm still trying to figure out the upside of Twitter for me. It looks potentially useful as a way to get availability/status information and to synchronize a loosely-coupled distributed entity, but mostly it seems like a oddly constrained form of entertainment.

Being a proto-gomer, that reminded me of something ...
ConnectMe Networks: Twitter vs CB Radio: What Makes These Mobile Services So Popular

... CB radio was a lot like Twitter: in the late 70s and early 80s, millions of people bought these radios initially because it allowed them to communicate with each other to locate cheap gas and to notify others of speed traps. But it fell victim to its own popularity: because of the millions of users jamming onto the grid, channels became incredibly noisy and communication became next to impossible. Once people started to use their radios less frequently, it opened the door for a competing technology: the mobile phone...
CB radio lasted about 4-5 years as a popular movement and AOL chat rooms were good for 10 years, so I give Twitter 3-8 years as a recreational/social medium. Good for some, uninteresting for me.

The useful part of Twitter has to do with the people synchronization problem, the ongoing limits of calendar integration, and the business quirks driving the SMS/IM wars. These things look like they may take years to sort out, during which time Twitter can morph as needed.

CB Radio didn't have that morphing potential -- it ended as it started. So Twitter isn't CB radio, or at least the people synchronization broadcast/asynchronous receipt part of it isn't.

So when might it be useful for me? That's hard to figure, given that so far SMS/IM is only useful between my wife and I, and even then we're limited by Apple's craven refusal to provide Google Talk/Chat or any other app with instant messaging push services.

I think when our children have cell phones and are more independent, or when both my wife and I have phones with working push notification (iPhones if Apple ever caves), or if my work were to change dramatically, I'll have a real use for Twitter.

Not just yet though.


GZ said...

I wondered if I was the only other techophile that did not get Twitter.

Scarr said...

I find it's a really good "listening post" for buzz. Some of the buzz is fake, some of it's real, but it's there. So you listen to the public feed for a while, and you pick a group of people who share your interests, and from there you can find even more people who share your interests. Those people will post links and text snippets that can lead to some interesting reading that might not make it into the usual news propagation methods (BBC, Slashdot, Digg etc).

So for example, I'm actually leaving this comment because I just read a bunch of tiny snippets about CES, and I'm looking for opinions on the new Palm offering. Knowing that you're a long-suffering ex Palm user trying to switch to an iPhone (as I am, pretty much exactly the same way) I did a Google search to see if you had a Twitter feed so I could get some instant reactions if any :)

You sort of have to use it to get it, and I still can't explain where it fits other than to say it feels like IRC but for grown-ups.

John Gordon said...

Thanks Scarr, that's a helpful summary. I'll give it some thought.

Nice of you to remember me, we ex-Palm (and Palm-to-be?) refugees need to stick together!