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Bird Brained!

Entry 1015, on 2009-05-21 at 20:30:16 (Rating 2, Computers)

The title of an article I spotted today at the Herald web site amused me. It was "Twitter users at risk of becoming bird-brained". A local media commentator seems to have come to this conclusion, based on what evidence I really don't know, and obviously thought his opinion should be made public.

There are two aspects of the claim that I think are worth commenting on. First, Twitter can be used for many purposes, from totally inane drivel to focussed and purposeful news and commentary. And second, birds have been found to be a lot more intelligent than has traditionally been supposed so the insult "bird brained" is probably no longer relevant.

I have been using Twitter since before it was well known (I like to try out new Internet technologies at an early stage of their development) and I find it a useful way to share real information as well as fun, trivial comments.

For example today I have posted tweets about these topics: the status of my SETI@Home effort, the sales figures for the iPhone, a reference to the article I am discussing here, a comment about physics, how robots have learned to fall without damaging themselves, and a complaint about a computer hardware failure.

In the last few days I have followed other people's tweets on subjects such as: NASA reporting on its progress fixing the Hubble Space Telescope, Science Friday's report on a world record for paper airplane flight, MSNBC reporting on a British political issue, a TUAW list of web apps they want to see, ThisIsTrue reporting on a new laptop's anti-bacterial keyboard, ObamaNews reporting on a call the president made to the Shuttle, and many others.

Far from being bird brained I think those topics represent an excellent spread of interesting issues and news. On the other hand, if I hadn't been careful about who I followed I could have been reading these gems: hmmmm bored... no tweets =[ mmm pepsi.. wonder whats for dinner??, or: Why am I still awake? Someone please tell me to go to bed!, or: me hungrryyy, or maybe oook so reality is kickinq in. . . se me va mi mami. :'( pero sea la madre hace FRIO.!!!!

So clearly Twitter is what you make it. Sometimes its a great source of news and commentary as it happens, but other times its full of idle comments from people with nothing better to do.

And there is one other thing about it which should be obvious but I should comment on anyway. Tweets are short: 140 characters or less. So its easy to scan through piles of them looking for interesting stuff. In fact I use a Mac add-on called Growl which displays the tweets on the screen as they arrive.

And one final factor. Twitter should never be used for critical communications. So if you miss a tweet it doesn't matter. People expect you to read emails they send you (and act on them and reply) but no one should expect the same form Twitter. That makes it less restrictive and demanding.

So anyone who still thinks Twitter is a frivolous toy (maybe because of its name) should think again. You might be missing out on something genuinely useful!

PS. Another thing I appreciate about Twitter is the fact that it is run entirely on Macs and the people responsible are all Mac fanatics. I'm not sure what the lack of reliability of Twitter when it first started says about Macs but recently it seems to be running really smoothly and reliably!

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Comment 1 (2017) by OJB on 2009-05-21 at 20:38:43:

BTW, if you want to follow me on Twitter, my address is http://twitter.com/OJB.

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Comment 2 (2038) by SBFL on 2009-05-28 at 07:48:49:

Got a link to the article? I know there has been some politicians, journalists and a unionist caught out with unwise comments recently. Maybe related to that? Also I read that Twitter want to start charging, may not be as good as first imagined.

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Comment 3 (2052) by OJB on 2009-05-28 at 21:41:27:

The article which inspired this entry is here. I heard that the staff of Twitter have denied plans for charging. They'd better not. it would never work!

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