Monday, September 06, 2010

Ice cream is better than Twitter

Really, I wanted to talk about my experiences on Chinese buses (it's pretty interesting), but that can always be written whenever.  Rather, I wanna just talk quickly about this article here, because to write it later would not be very timely, you know?

Given my previous post on Twitter, one could say that how this news story about the Ford Explorer and the baseball player broke is the perfect example of why Twitter is so awesome.  I disagree, precisely because if the news is important, it will find me.  You see, I don't need Twitter to be the way for it to find me.  In fact, the likelihood that I'll miss it on Twitter could possibly be much higher (unless it's so big that EVERYONE's retweeting it, in which case, it'll probably be big enough for me to see it anywhere else online or offline).  If that's all Twitter's good for, isn't that just redundant?  How's it any better than the combination of Facebook, e-mail, IM, and all the face-to-face interactions that happen offline?

In fact, I'd warrant that Twitter exacerbates the negative issues discussed in Carr's article than not.  The ease with which one can type out speedy snippets and spread them to rapidly to the rest of the world, combined with the pressure journalists (and everyday individuals) have to be first and get the glory, makes for a situation where fact checking will occur even less.  This in turn would potentially make quality suffer even more.

Here are my three points again:
1.  Time is scarce.
2.  Quality is hard.
3.  Lasting value will stand the test of time.

You can't create solid quality at such a frenetic pace consistently in the long run.  Sprinters can't run marathons.  But more and more, people are trying to sprint to both produce and consume information.  We should all relax a bit before society suffers from a postmodern aneurysm.

Ah yes, and then there's also the fact that Kanye West is now baring his soul on Twitter, apologizing to Taylor Swift and all.  Twitter's been a fascinating social experiment on how celebrities can connect and converse with everyday individuals.  I'll admit that's cool.  It rescued Conan O'Brien, allows Justin Bieber to try to calm down his rabid fangirls, and gives Ashton Kutcher an outlet for his desire to just have fun.  That's interesting to watch.  Admittedly, it's still not for me though.  It's like eating a grape picked by a superstar.  Then he gives out the grapes to everyone else too.  Hey!  You get a grape!  You get a grape too!  Believe me, these grapes are awesome, so tasty and juicy!  Oh, you can't get enough?  Here are more grapes, I got plenty!

I'd rather the superstar cook me a 7-course meal and explain to me why he loves these recipes so much.  If you get my analogy.  But so few people have the time necessary to actually do that.  Which is why Twitter seems to be filling the gap quite admirably.  But it's not enough for me to want to really use the service, since I've never been much of a celebrity stalker in the first place anyway.  Honestly, if my favourite celebrity's true thoughts can be expressed in only 140 characters or less, I'm not quite sure I'd sit at his feet to hear him throw out those 140 character anecdotes.  You know?  Give me the infrequent full lecture any day, and let me live my life with the rest of my time.

I remember someone once commenting that Twitter wasn't very useful, so @Ev (or was it Biz Stone?) shot back, "Neither is ice cream."  Well... ice cream is an amazing comfort food that has provided joy throughout the ages and has stood the test of time.  I still wonder if Twitter can, especially when it can't even get a single bite from some like me (while others end up joining Tweeters Anonymous to stop the pain).

Edit:  Besides, ice cream was never meant to be eaten in a constant voluminous stream handed to you like Twitter.  With ice cream, YOU get to choose the EXACT flavour and quantity, and you do it infrequently, preferably as a dessert after a scrumptious dinner or as a snack on a sweltering hot day.  That way, you can enjoy its amazing variety and also never fatigue of it.

I'm going to go play tennis now.  :)


  1. my two cents:

    i used to think that twitter was the stupidest fad and i remember marking email invitations from friends to sign up for twitter as spam. that was a few years ago. it just wasn't relevant or useful.

    however, within the past week or so (timely eh?) i've only realized the potential for how twitter can be both relevant and useful. i think a point you're missing about twitter is that it is near instant. i haven't gotten around to learning/using twitter yet but i think (someone can correct me if i'm wrong) if you "follow" someone on twitter, especially with a mobile phone, you can get their tweets as soon as they send it out. this is helpful if it's useful news (eg. traffic updates - you get a tweet about a road closure and detour, cool!). i guess that's a swipe at your comment about how important news will eventually find you. thats true, but i think the sooner relevant news finds you, the greater benefit you can receive from it.

    i also just read this article:

    a japanese reporter kidnapped in afghanistan was able to tweet his condition and whereabouts.

    i think idiotic uses aside (eg. which would maybe mean...90% of all tweets?) it can be a helpful tool.

  2. I simply respond to your note on speed with this paragraph from this post:

    "In fact, I'd warrant that Twitter exacerbates the negative issues discussed in Carr's article than not. The ease with which one can type out speedy snippets and spread them to rapidly to the rest of the world, combined with the pressure journalists (and everyday individuals) have to be first and get the glory, makes for a situation where fact checking will occur even less. This in turn would potentially make quality suffer even more."


    There are news pieces where speed and timing is relevant. The thing is, for this to really work and benefit you, the trick is for Twitter to NOT be successful. True success would be defined by everyone using it and benefiting from it. And if that happened, everyone would know about the road closure, and so everyone would create a new traffic jam on the detour route. The road closure example was perhaps perfect for your point, since there is no alternative to taking the detour.

    Essentially, we're talking about information market economies here, no? And information will flow efficiently where there is knowledge. Twitter may be great for that, except with so much noise, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff before anyone else who has the same access to Twitter? This question leads me to believe that if Twitter truly becomes successful, such that everyone is using it, it will be self-defeating; it will not be able to offer anybody early information access advantages, whether the race be for a stock trend tip, a flash sale, or a early movie screening, precisely because Twitter is so democratizing. And while some may argue that's a good thing (no more barriers!), I question whether the value is worth the cost. Is a helpful tool worth the time required to sift through 90% idiotic tweets?

  3. i think we're becoming more theoretical/hypothetical with our rationale...but nonetheless, i'm going to try to be an optimist when it comes to twitter.

    part of me still thinks its a big time waster (and i probably will still bash it occasionally) but i can see value in it.

    another example i have is for our church. our current website is really.....hmmmmm how to say this without being rude.....its cumbersome and inefficient.

    i've been talking to one of the pastors in seeing if maybe twitter would be a good medium to post notices/messages/news etc. for the general congregation/world at large to get updates from.

    examples of tweets:
    -Sunday September 5 sermon is available on the website to listen

    -too much snow, sunday AM service is cancelled. don't drive, stay at home.

    -Pastor ________ from far-away-church sends his greetings and prayers to the church in canada

    -Youth meeting Friday Night, 7pm, remember to bring your Bibles

    -prayer meeting moved to chapel, please enter through south end glass doors

  4. Don't get me wrong, time wasters make awesome products. Look at the TV. Look at Bejeweled. How many hours have people wasted on stuff like that with nothing gained?

    But eventually, the people who care want to get on with their lives.

    Something like this, how is it any different or better than subscribing to a church e-mail list specifically dedicated to such updates? And if it is better, how will you ensure that you see these updates over the mass of updates from other people you follow?

    For something new to take off, it needs to offer something different. Twitter's differentiating factors are rapid widespread distribution, simplicity, and 140 characters. But my main point is that this is a perfect equation for creating garbage, not value, although you will occasionally find diamonds in the rough. But those diamonds aren't worth the 90% garbage for me.

    Hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Twitter will turn into something amazing after they have an epiphany moment. Maybe it will have lasting power. I certainly was skeptical of Facebook, I thought it would just be another Friendster. But then they made it way more interactive than Friendster so that it actually felt social with real friends, real photos, real life. And then they also turned it into a platform on top of which people could build new things. That's interesting. I never saw any of it coming, and thought they'd die quickly. Now they're making $2b in revenue per year.

    Can Twitter be like that? I dunno. But in its current state, I think not. They need to figure out how to take what they have and derive real value from it; I don't think they are there yet. And given the lack of progress we've seen over the years, I question whether they ever will. And now that over the past few months, there seem to be some high-profile people demonstrating Twitter fatigue, it might finally be the canary in the coal mine. Again, maybe.

  5. ok, now i get your point.

    also, fair enough, i have also wondered that exactly are they making money?

  6. It doesn't seem they REALLY are yet... they're doing some small things. But they're also trying to do some crazy things. We'll see if it works, I suppose?