One aspect of being a wizened mid-western geek is that I have to figure out the why of tech on my own. On most new tech I'm second wave, but out here that means I'm ahead of my peers. I was first to Alta Vista, first to Google, etc.
It's kind of like skiing. An intermediate western skier is an expert here. (Though we have, strangely, a number of Minnesota trained Olympic skiers.)
So, for example, in July of 2005 I thought podcasts were an odd idea. That was before I experience In Our Time and figured out why I wanted them. (Though that's the only podcast I listen to -- I don't have that much audio time in my life. So if they went I'd probably still have only a single podcast capacity.)
Now, after ignoring it for over a year, I decided, while visiting my parents, to try to figure out the Why of my Twitter account.
I will now pass on my speculative interpretation to my fellow wizened geeks. Corrections through comments are welcome.
Wizened geeks do not grok SMS. That's important, because Twitter is the mongrel child of SMS and RSS.
All true geeks of every age adore RSS (subscription/feed more properly), so that part of Twitter's parentage is fine. It may also be a recent addition, which kind of breaks the parental analogy.
It's the SMS part that's weird for us.
We do not grok SMS because we're too old for the primary SMS function -- socializing and mating. We have way too many social demands to want more. We are also aesthetically repulsed by how the 255 character SMS hack became a font of phone company revenue, thus incenting them to block better, less spammy, alternatives.
For those who use SMS though, the key to twitter is you can SMS your 256 character message ("tweet") to Twitter from even the crummiest mobile phone. No iPhone, gPhone or Smart phone needed. SMS is a lowest common denominator standard.
Traditionally, I suspect, the "tweets" were broadcast to "followers" (subscribers) who read them as SMS messages on their phone.
So in this incarnation Twitter acted like a broadcasting hub for SMS messages where recipients signed up for SMS notifications.
Blech. Who needs more interruptions?
But Twitter also has feeds (example), and an API. That's much more interesting.
So it's possible to have a dedicated iPhone client for sending and receiving 'tweets', and activity can also be tracked through feed consumers like Google Reader (web and mobile), OS X Mail.app, embedded iGoogle feed gadgets, Outlook 2007 (worst possible reader), iPhone feed clients, Yahoo Pipes, and so on.
Once the iPhone finally (was supposed to happen last month) gets a notification management service then we can dispense with the SMS ugliness. We will be able to create tweets through the API and subscribe through feed readers.
True, there's no security -- but that's a feature. No security means it's very easy to set up connections. Just don't Tweet anything you don't want the world to know.
So if I'm leaving the office I can 'tweet' that, and Emily can pick it up if she's interested. Otherwise it goes away.
Twitter with SMS is for the young. Twitter without SMS -- that's interesting even to the aged sage.