I thought Twitter to be a complete distraction and couldn’t see value in it since it launched, and said so on a few occasions. However, over the last couple of weeks, I have had to change my feelings about it.
In hindsight, I’ve been regularly checking tweets from Rod Page, Chris Freeland and Roger Hyam for the last few months, either through Twitter directly, or through feeds that Rod and Roger had on their web sites. It’s bite sized, I can quickly get a feel for what these … well, not quite silverbacks, but definitely shiny-grey-coloured-backs… are up to. I’ve been consuming tweets already for months.
I watched (and tried to participate in) the ebio09 conference unfold over the last few months. I registered for the Online Conference Community (i.e. forum), and over the preceding months leading to the actual event, I thought it would lead to discussion and preparation for the event. Boy was I wrong. It was a veritable ghost town. 251 registered users – which is a lot – but only 49 of which had a post in the forum (20 of whom only had 1). During the conference, which I couldn’t attend, I didn’t see a single thing change in the ebiosphere web site, and there were no updates in the forum.
I wasn’t really surprised, because it’s darn hard to vodcast/podcast an event live. As part of the organizing team at TDWG’s 2008 conference, I knew we’d hit problems trying to do anything live during the event due to the limitations of the venue. Incidentally, the ebiosphere team also seemed to hit the same issues we did with trying to run a wireless network with bandwidth hungry delegates (I think the right hastag is #fail?).
Then I stumbled across the search ability in twitter and the hashtag #ebio09 feed. It was being updated quickly, in bite-sized chunks, with a whole range of opinions. Delegates were discussing the event through their tweets while they were sitting in the conference – and those of us outside the event could still participate. It wasn’t the same as being there, but at least we could see what was going on in the conference (warts and all).
I know I have OCD tendencies (just ask the crew at FCIG) and Twitter seems to hit a sweet spot – I can post updates, communicate with people I know quite quickly and easily, and once I get the twit-iquette right, I should be able to get it to jump through a few more hoops for me. Tools like twhirl, gpstwit and the simple mobile web views mean I can keep it up to date, quickly and easily. I had to explain it to some people the other night as a post-it note stuck on the web.
So now we’ll see if I can continue to get some value out of Twitter and the tools I’ve installed around my working environments. Usually, I give these tools a try for about a month, and if they’re not bedded down in my working practices by then, I drop out of them (e.g. Facebook). It will be interesting to see if Twitter does continue to provide value… and if I can remain productive at the same time (a bigger issue for me, I suspect).