The cult of Twitter

cult: Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.

Hey, are you on Twitter?

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that in the past month. About a year ago, the question was, “Hey are you on Facebook?

Before that it was “Hey, are you on MySpace?”, and before that Skype, and before that LinkedIn, and before that AOL, and before that, ICQ and before that email, and before that … get the point.

If you listen to the chatter (and it truly is chatter) on Twitter about Twitter by those who Tweet regularly, you’d think Twitter was the second coming of written text. In summary, the gist  of what those who love Twitter think, goes something like this.

Hey, isn’t this so great. I can create a login for myself.

And I can send you a short message.

And you can send me a message back.

And other people can follow me, and I can follow other people.


And we can use funny short forms like #tcot.

And we can let someone know that a message is being directed at them by using an @ symbol.


And we can search through all the tweets really easily.

And there are tons of add-ons that make being on Twitter so much better.

Totally Bitchen!!!

And Twitter was amazing at communicating during the Chinese earthquake and other tragic events in recent times.

Yeah, that rocked!!!!

Really? Is this something to get excited about? Here’s a sample of some of the amazing tweets being posted by people.

Just had an epic, fiery Inglehoffer mustard burp. Just burned @furrytux‘s whiskers off! (link)

I just stayed up all night watching fart videos on YouTube with my brother and father. Nice. (link)

Work sux (link)

Aren’t these awesome?

Now, I’m sure you’re saying that I’m cherry picking a few dumb tweets out of the bazillions of amazing tweets posted by intelligent and noteworthy people.

So, not to pick on any of the following people, but here are some recent tweets from some notable denizens of the Twitterverse:

  • Guy Kawasaki: @blogdiva Think of me as PBS: there’s always a telethon about to happen. 🙂 (link)
  • Robert Scoble: Flickr: Your Photostream (link)
  • Barack Obama: We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion. All of this happened because of you. Thanks (link)

Note that the Obama tweet, his most recent one, was posted on Nov. 5. Nothing since then. Also, Obama, Scoble and Kawasaki are amongst the most popular Twitter users, with large numbers of sheep followers.

For those of you too young to remember, before Twitter, there were many ways for you to speak your mind and for a group of interested people to quickly, almost instantly (that’s critical here) know what you were communicating.

The first example of this, was a technology known as YOUR VOICE! Yes, speaking out your thoughts has been known as a good way to let others know what you are thinking.

Voice and speaking remained supreme, almost unassailable for centuries, but then the issue of distance came into play. An early solution for this distance issue was a new technology known as RADIO. Yes, it was a primitive technology that allowed people to project their voice over long distances.

But radio was principally unidirectional. A bidirectional version of radio, known as CB Radio addressed this problem. Like Twitter, you could create cool handles such as “Barracuda” or “Beach Comber” or “Big Bear” or “Southern Sally” to identify yourself. You could tell people what was happening right now, and they could respond back. You could call for help on designated frequencies. Yup, CB truly was incredible.

But, then came the Internet. Anyone remember IRC? You could message other people online in real-time. Things got more sophisticated with ICQ and every successive messenger/chat program from Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Skype etc. etc. etc.

So, in the end, there is nothing really new or unique about Twitter. It’s yet another channel for communicating over the Internet. Some people like it and use it, but the vast majority of us don’t.

So don’t ask me if I use Twitter. I don’t. There are at least 10 other ways to contact me and share your ideas and thoughts.

One way is to leave a comment on the blog. If you agree, disagree or have a different perspective, I’d like to hear from you.



11 responses to “The cult of Twitter

  1. I about spit up my coffee when I read:

    “I just stayed up all night watching fart videos on YouTube with my brother and father. Nice.”

    Dude, that’s freakin’ sweet. If cherry picking twitter quotes becomes a viable job skill, I hope you land an Executive VP position 🙂 That is seriously one of the funniest things I’ve read all week.

    Totally agree about twitter. And I predict it will quickly die away once something “bad” happens on twitter. E.g. like how IRC really started dropping off because of news stories about child predators using chat rooms. Just wait – as soon as some local news station in Oklahoma will have a feature where they setup an elaborate sting operation using twitter to catch illegal kitten traffickers. Cat Fancy subscribers everywhere will revolt against twitter, thus ensuring it’s demise.

    Sorry. Couldn’t think of anything more diabolical than kitten trafficking at the moment. Guess that means I’m having a good day.

  2. Hilarious!

    I’m a late adopter. I was most disappointed to learn that LinkedIn has been around longer than My Space and Skype. I am glad to know I don’t have to worry about learning to “tweet”. I can just continue to try and figure out Facebook.

  3. Although I agree with most of what you say, you have to admit Twitter has a place in our world now. For one, as a Product Manager you should be setting up regular searches through Twitter much the same way you search blogs. I have found a few FeaturePlan users out there and also witnessed someone rip other products to shred. I can guarantee Motrin has got their people all over Twitter after their bad news spred like wild fire last month largely initiated by Twitter users. It has become an awesome place to network, share ideas and to share. That being said, finding the right people to follow so that the information you are presented with. I tend to only follow Product Managers (there are hundreds of them out there!) and have made some excellent contacts. Twitter will eventually fade once the spam drives people away but for now, it is the cool place to be for 2008 (and likely 2009).

  4. Stewart,

    Twitter is new and certainly novel. Following people on Twitter is akin to subscribing to listservs or someone’s RSS feed. Twitter has value. I said in my post that:

    > It’s yet another channel for communicating over the Internet.
    > Some people like it and use it, but the vast majority of us don’t.

    So, you are right that people should set up regular searches like they do in other forms of Web media. I used to do this 10 years ago with DejaNews and Usenet groups.

    It is a great place to network, similar to Facebook, LinkedIn etc. In the end, the masses will determine whether it is “the place to be” or not.


  5. I’m with you, Saeed. Twitter is one Internet communication channel too many for me. Also, I have my doubts about the value of every random thought that comes into my head.

    On the other hand, if I had a nickel for every night I spent watching fart videos on YouTube…

  6. I was trying not to, but your comment made me look…. Now at minimum, we know what killed the dinosaurs!


  7. Pingback: Mars Needs Women; Twitter Needs Product Manager « On Product Management

  8. Pingback: The Twitter Handbook For Product Managers | Product Management Meets Pop Culture

  9. Pingback: The Napster of Messaging « On Product Management

  10. Pingback: Happy (belated) birthday to us (again)! « On Product Management