John DiMarco on IT (and occasionally other things)

Fri 14 Aug 2009 16:45

What's Good About Twitter?
Twitter has a mixed reputation. Negative views generally express the notion that Twitter is pretty much useless , or is a massive waste of time. Indeed, there is no shortage of evidence for this view. What is the usefulness of knowing that someone is brushing their teeth, or having cereal for breakfast? Probably not much. The problem is that "What are you doing?", the question that a tweet is allegedly supposed to answer, is often not very interesting. What one is thinking, what one has stumbled across, or what one wants to tell the world, could be much more interesting.

One very useful purpose Twitter serves is to announce new articles, blog entries, events, or news items when they appear. Twitterfeed makes this easy: it will check an Atom or RSS feed periodically, and automatically tweet the titles and URLs of new articles to Twitter, allowing anyone following the tweeter to be made aware of the new material. For example, my department now uses Twitter to disseminate its news and events.

So is Twitter a waste of time? Is Twitter useless? Only if one takes Twitter's "What are you doing?" too literally. Indeed, some seem to feel the need to tell others whenever they're yawning, scratching an itch or drinking coffee. Clearly this is not the most interesting of material. But, on the other hand, if one uses Twitter to follow information sources (people or organizations) with a high information content, and/or to disemminate such information oneself, it can be very useful indeed.

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