Some things I love about twitter….

I've been on twitter since February 2007, although it took a while for me to get it. I even closed my account for a time, but restored it just before the six-month change-your-mind period ended. Twitter has introduced me to some amazing people, found me work, and helped me discover events and books that I might otherwise have missed. 

I always find it hard to explain exactly what I love about twitter. I'm not sure whether it's the protocol, the service, or the other users, but somehow I have gathered a timeline of people that are always interesting and friendly. For me, there is no obvious separation between twitter and the 'real world' – the two fuse together in fascinating ways.

Here are some specific things I love about twitter:

  • One of the problems with small-talk in the real world is that it requires you to stand next to someone. Often there is not time to build friendships and relationships before you both wander off. The almost-passive communication of Twitter means that small talk can continue for weeks or months, allowing relationships to develop slowly.
  • Twitter is not pointless chat, despite what some critics claim. It is a great example of phatic communication, but without the need to be in the same geographical location as the people you're communicating with.
  • I love the latency of twitter. It works well with a mixture of occasional posters and regular posters, even with people disappearing for a few days then coming back – a little like persistent IRC, perhaps. 
  • Hannah Donovan gave a talk on improvisation at dConstruct 2010 which used the banter on twitter as an example of improvisation. There are definite 'rules' to Twitter banter, but they are all implicit. They also seem very localised to specific groups.
  • Something Tom has pointed out is the power of constraints. The 140-character limit often produces something close to haiku, or at least close to the variations invented by Ginsberg/Kerouac. 140 characters forces people to be precise in describing images – the #foundwhilewalking tag often provides good examples of this.

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