Goodbye, Twitter

There are lots of Twitter critics out there, and I have rolled my eyes at their criticism over the past several years in blog posts on this site. My opinion of most of their opinions has changed very little. I still believe most of them are wrong about their objections. For the most part, Twitter critics tend to fall into a couple of distinct categories:

1) Luddites.
There are some folks (even old, hardened, battle-scarred internet veterans) who just don’t get this social-networking thing. The don’t get why people want to have group conversations or connect with all of their friends online. Those folks are going be left behind in the technology gap just like non-internet users — folks who are now losing touch with cultural touchstones and missing opportunities to prosper due to lack of technology.

We’re coming up on a distinct generation gap between veteran internet users and a new generation of internet youngsters, and social networking seems to be the fault line between them. Interestingly enough, some of my co-workers are among the internet veteran/social network naysayers, which makes me realize that some of the online apps we build at work — with these folks — are in danger of being outmoded, dinosaur technologies because they don’t allow quality user interaction not just with us but with other users of our apps. That concerns me a lot.

2) Egotists.
You know exactly who these guys are. They find creative ways to make fun of the name “Twitter” and say things like “I don’t care what you had for lunch.” They’re the folks who don’t want to do something if they didn’t think of it themselves. If they had coded Twitter, they’d be promoting it on the farthest reaches of the planet, and they’re mad someone came up with something so popular. Give them a little more time, and they’ll be Twitter’s biggest users, and they’ll be purging their old anti-Twitter blog posts and pretending they took up Twitter at SXSW 2007 with the rest of us early adopters. I have a couple of friends in this category who now have more tweets than I do. I couldn’t get them to try it in March of 2007. Now they’re acting like they told ME about it.

I’ve found that the above two reasons tend to dominate critical thinking about Twitter and micro-blogging technologies, and neither of them are valid. However, I’ve discovered that, my enjoyment of Twitter and critique of the above criticisms of it aside, after 2 years on Twitter and 7,134 Tweets, I’m ready to pack it in on the Twitter app in its current form for a couple different reasons.

1) Distraction.
Twitter causes massive Continual Partial Attention. It’s not healthy, and it’s a serious problem for me. I get lots more work done at work with Twitter turned off. I get lots more work done at home when I turn off Twitter. And studies on multi-tasking show that people’s attention to detail and ability to do quality work suffers severely when they are subject to too many sources of input that take them off task. Mine most assuredly is.

I think that this is a drawback that could, with proper development, be overcome, either on Twitter or on applications that have similar functionalities. Twitter could adopt some way to “digest” tweets so you could turn off Twitter temporarily and yet scan tweets easily at later times. Or they could adopt some ways to mark tweets as “important” so you could see the tweets from your friend alerting you to a relative that just died, while filtering out the news about the celebrity that just died.

2) Micro-thinking.
When you have to parse every statement down to 140 characters, you throw out complexities, paraphrase, and, inevitably, make your meaning less clear. You start to think in simpler thoughts. After tweeting for so long, I find it to be a struggle to think things out and examine ideas in a more complex form. Hence the lack of longer writing on this blog. That is a trend I desperately need to reverse. The answer to that is to go back to the tool I use for complex expression – this blog!

3) Twitter-haste.
The immediacy of Twitter also means that my micro-thinking – my lack of reflection on and examination of the thoughts running through my brain – gets broadcast immediately. There have been times when I’ve tweeted something and immediately after realized the counter-argument to what I’ve just said, or realized the missing premise that invalidated the conclusion I just came to. Oops — too late.

I would benefit from a pause button on Twitter – a “Read that over – did you mean what you just said?” alert before my words get posted.

Not to worry, though – my every error has been pointed out by my twitterfolk.

4) Equality of Attention.
I know this sounds bad, but there are some folks who are your acquaintances for a reason. You have people you are close to whom you want to hear from every day. You have acquaintances who you enjoy spending some time with, but who are different enough from you that you don’t want to interact with them all the time. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s the nature of friendships. Twitter tends to flatten all that out. You get a lot more of your friends (good) along with a lot more of your acquaintances (not always good). And at times you discover things about your friends that make you want to turn them into acquaintances (disconcerting!).

Short of unfollowing people, there’s not really any way of filtering those people on Twitter. Facebook, on the other hand, lets you do this to a large extent. You can alter your “newsfeed” on your home page to see less of some folks’ status updates and more of others. You can increase and decrease the types of social information you’re getting from your friends. And you do that without their knowledge, and thus without hurt feelings. Allowing these tweaks means that you can control the flow of information to your computer and decline to listen to people who want to be offensive or intrusive without cutting them out of your life completely. In that sense, Facebook succeeds where Twitter fails.

It’s true that Twitter has been a really good thing in my life for a long time. I’ve learned lots of great things about my friends that I never knew before. But overall those benefits have been canceled out by the four drawbacks of Twitter I listed above. And for the past six months I’ve been struggling mightily with those drawbacks, torn about what to do. I think I’ve finally worked out how I really feel, though. I’m not giving up on social networking applications. I’m just rejecting one that doesn’t work well for me anymore.

span class=”hilightyellow”>2012 Update: Oh, you know I’m back on Twitter. I was gone for over 2 years, and I hopped back on when lots of celebrities were joining and we were using it more for work. My use of it has changed radically, though, to account for the difficulties I wrote about above. I have separate accounts: a public one for work, a closed one for friends, and a throw-away one for following celebrities. I don’t check Twitter for long stretches of time. I only look at my work account at work.

Continue ReadingGoodbye, Twitter

Biden debates McCain because Palin didn’t show up

I’ll have more commentary in the morning, but that was my initial impression of the debate — Biden took on McCain on every single answer because Palin didn’t bother to actually answer any of the questions, and instead fell back on buzz words and drivel and cutesy, folksy nonsense.

I thought it was a clear win for Biden, and he did a really nice job.

My Debate Twitters, In order….

I’m playing the Surge and McCain cards.

answer the question asked, damn it.

This woman be plumb crazy.

Tina Fey is hot because she has an actual brain. (This was to answer the discussion of why Tina Fey is hot but Palin isn’t hot at all.)

Biden is debating McCain because Palin isn’t even there.

Did she just say that she respects women’s rights? Then support the right to choose, bitch.

I LOVE it that he’s bringing up Spain. That was a major gaffe on McCain’s part that he hasn’t been beaned with enough.

OMGWTFBBQ? What is she fucking talking about?

I think Gwen is just asking this because she enjoys hearing Palin pronounce “nuclear” wrong over and over.
Another non-answer, and going back to blather about Alaska to cover.

It’s so lovely to hear actual answers from Biden.

Oh, Gwen’s going back to the VP power issue. Fraught with danger. (For Palin, I meant). No the constitution ISN’T flexible. Crazy bitch.

She asked what your flaw is, crazy woman. Not where your qualities lie.

Maybe she doesn’t know what an Achilles heel is.

@dan1657 – Alaska is one of the least populous states. It has less population than Indianapolis does.

Shorter Palin – I’m gonna be bi-partisan by… vote for our ticket because were better for you!!

What is she saying? What? Freedom, America, proud, Reagan, children, freedom, fight for it. McCain.

retweeting @ChaserRay: “My sisters had to share a Maverick, and it was a brown piece of shit that wouldn’t start on a cold morning”.

Continue ReadingBiden debates McCain because Palin didn’t show up

Why Twitter?

To make bitter people write bad humor articles, of course.

My friend Dan was googling his twitter ID (funny!) and discovered he’d been quoted in a “humor” article about Twitter on Funny Times, which he of course shared with his twitter pals, because – even more funny. Too bad that the article was yet another frivolous critique of Twitter. Allow me to add my two cents interspersed with this guy’s “jokes.” (Hey, it’s my site; I’ll say what I want.)

Why Twitter? Because I’m Here
by Ray Lesser
A new communications service named Twitter now makes it possible to blurt out the first thing that pops in your head and broadcast it instantly to all your friends and followers, wherever they may be, via Internet, IM, and text message. Twitter invites its several hundred thousand members to answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, and they do – millions of times a day. Each message is called a “tweet.”

When I checked Twitter’s website, dan1657 had “just got in to work, forgot my phone charging at home.” Less than five seconds later, omaregan was “Just chilling!” Another user tweeted, “Working on stuff and things.”

Is anyone really interested in this omnipresent bombardment of barely conscious stream of consciousness?

Yes. In fact, dan1657 is a friend of mine, and I do in fact care that he left his phone at home on the charger. Because that means I can’t text or call him. See, the point of twitter is to tell stuff to your friends. Not necessarily to the whole planet. If the planet chooses to listen in, that’s the planet’s problem. Maybe the planet should get a job or something. Like maybe, writing something that’s actually funny for a humor site. At this point, making fun of twitter is like the ubiquitous “your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device” joke for lame stand-up comics who make a practice of missing the point entirely. (Tip: none of those comedians get a TV show where they’re married to a hot skinny wife. And neither will you with your tired twitter critiques.)

Really, why Twitter? And why blog? Why podcast? Why text? Why instant message?


Sorry, no. The answer is actually – because people I know want to know what I’m doing, and sometimes people I don’t know want to know, too. Not funny, maybe, but at least true.

[Snipping out boring paragraphs]
If you put a million Tweetie birds together in a cage, an occasional tweet is bound to be interesting. Some of the Top 10 Twitters recently:

o Memoir of the Day: “I start things, but I never” – D. Stahl
o At Ritual Coffee, the hand-crafted sign by the register now reads, “Please, no blogging in line.”
o “Internet, I’m in labor. Do something.”

Shorter: “Sometimes, people I don’t know are actually funny when I eavesdrop on their conversations. I’m also good at overhearing things on the bus.”

But, even the most dedicated technophile can’t be omnipresent all the time, informing the world about their latest tooth-flossing or tuna sandwich lunch. That’s why MyCyberTwin was created. This new web-based software allows you to set up your own Virtual Clone. By answering a comprehensive series of questions about your views on subjects such as sex, politics and religion, you program your CyberTwin with as much of your personality and background information as you like, enabling it to act as a virtual public-relations agent when you’re not available. Once you’ve created a CyberTwin chatterbot, you can place it on your website or blog to converse with anyone who happens by. Is it you or is it CyberTwin? Only your webmaster knows for sure.

[Snipping out more boring paragraphs]

First – Eric! Tuna sandwich call out!

Second – What a great idea. Because being an unreachable, distance ass will keep a lot of friends for you. How clever! I can see why this guy wrote a bunch of boring paragraphs on this. His “cybertwin” probably wrote this whole article for him whilst he was pooping.

Evan Williams, the founder of Obvious, feels that Twitter is also primarily interesting as a way to communicate to small groups of friends. “It has the potential to be a really substantial part of how people keep in touch with each other.” I guess getting a tweet from a friend who’s “shopping for soy milk. Blue box or red …” might feel more substantial than going online to ask their CyberTwin what they like to eat for breakfast.

Well really, it depends if they’re bringing home the soy milk to your house. Ray’s mistake throughout is failing to realize that often tweets have a context he’s not privy to, because he’s essentially eavesdropping. But I’ve already ranted about critiques of being wired while shopping, so I’ll let this one go.

Staying constantly, instantly available can lead to its own perils. Eric Meyer, a 37-year-old Cleveland web consultant, had to rethink who to allow in his “friends” circle after experiencing a Twit-storm of 30-40 messages a day from one friend pondering what to have for dinner and commercials spotted on TV. “Who doesn’t have a friend like that, who shows up at a party and just won’t stop talking?”

Um, can you spot the unintentional irony in the above paragraph, or do you really need me to point it out to you?

When I consider this techno-groping towards a stream of consciousness connection among friends, I can’t help but think about James Joyce’s Ulysses, the first great stream of consciousness novel. Anyone who’s ever read it cannot forget Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and her description of Leopold Bloom’s proposal, “and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Although the entire novel takes place during one day, it took Joyce seven years to write Ulysses. Perhaps the first thing that pops into your head isn’t necessarily the thing that you want to broadcast to the world. As someone tweeted, “Noticing that Twitter gives one the illusion of writing without the actual burden of writing. All fluff – no stuff!” Even if you don’t have seven years, maybe it’s worth taking more than seven seconds to think about what you want to say.

1) Like I believe he actually read Ulysses. Everyone quotes that Molly quote, which is a pretty good indication that they haven’t read it. I believe that’s even the quote on wikipedia, if I’m not mistaken. (Update: Yep, I’m right.)

2) Yes, because Joyce never had a conversation with his friends, or wrote letters to people, he just sat around all day, pondering the meaning of life and writing and re-writing weighty tomes with his deep, deep thoughts. I’ll bet Joyce would’ve twittered given the chance. Or at least blogged.

3) And again with the unintentional irony – this is hardly a Joycean article Ray’s writing here. In the dim recesses of my mind, I think at one time I made ironic fun of a different poorly-written article that compared modern communication unfavorably to Joyce. But I’m too lazy to search for that post.

4) And can I point out – Ulysses is finished. We don’t all have to turn in our own chapter of it, or anything. Not everyone aspires to be James Joyce, or should; if everyone sat around 7 years writing classic literature, wow, we’d be boring ass people. And very, very poor.

Or maybe, 200,000 years after having learned how to speak, and 5,000 years after learning to write, mankind has reached a new stage in the evolution of communication, which will bring us a new truth. And, as Steven Colbert recently tweeted, “How many roads must a man walk down before he is run over by an eighteen-wheeler of truth?”

Lesson 1: Stephen Colbert is not always funny, or relevant to the topic at hand.

Lesson 2: Sometimes it’s not about truth. Sometimes it’s just about whether you left your phone at home on the charger.

5:45 p.m. Update: Oh, I’m not done. I thought of something else on the way home from work, so you’ll have to endure more of my spirited defense of trivial conversing. As I’ve mentioned before here on my blog – one of the excellent things about Twitter is that my sister Stacy , who lives in England, is one of my twitter friends. So it’s wonderful to hear the narration of her day, and to share mine with her, because she’s so far away. Sure, we could write emails to one another, or letters, but those things never capture the small delights and sorrows of everyday life, like the time that she had to stop one of her (developmentally disabled) clients from eating tree bark. Or the day she had to have her dog Ollie put to sleep. And then there was that day one of her clients grabbed her breast and she accidentally shouted about it into the building’s intercom system. (Stacy is, BTW, is one of the funniest people alive. Perhaps the Funny Times should consider firing Ray Lesser and hiring her.)

And then there’s my friend Dan1657 – who’s already been mentioned here. He’s been my friend for over 20 years, and is one of those warm and funny people you can’t help but love and want to be around always. Despite the fact that I’ve known him for so long and he lives 5 blocks away, I’ve learned a myriad little things about him on twitter that I otherwise never would have known at all; things that make me laugh out loud (his twittering while drunk), as well as worry – like the fact that he has trouble getting to sleep.

In the book “Pattern Recognition” there’s a repeated reference to a “Mirror World” effect that happens when you’re traveling – the strange awareness that the city you’re in is familiar, but different than your own; little things like the electrical outlets, and the way people lock up their bikes, or the ways window shades are constructed are all different than where you live, so you recognize their purpose, but marvel at their design.

Twitter does the same thing to my friends; I recognize the thousand ways my friend’s lives are just like mine, but slightly different – and I marvel at the detail.

Continue ReadingWhy Twitter?

Weekend Update 2007-06-03

We went to Woodruff Place Flea Market yesterday, and only got done with middle drive before I pooped out because I was hot and tired. It was also kind of a pain with Spike. I’ve taken him to it before, but it was far more crowded this time, so I had to think about him all the time, which was very distracting.
We found a loveseat, though, for $30 for the library. After bringing that home and installing it in the library, I took a nap, and Stephanie went grocery shopping. Then we cooked out hamburgers and turkey burgers and sausages, and I mowed, because it looked like rain. Then I did a bunch of work on my route 66 music mix, and hung out looking at the internets and watching crappy movies on the romance channel.
Today, I have a list of stuff to do, but I’m still kinda tired for some reason, so I don’t know how much of it I’ll get to.
I’d like to point out that my birthday is Wednesday, and I’ll be celebrating the occasion sometime on the following weekend, which is also Gay Pride, and the Talbott Street Art Fair. I’m thinking I might plan for a Friday birthday celebration.

Continue ReadingWeekend Update 2007-06-03

More Twitter Stuff

Now that I’ve reached a critical mass of friends who used twitter, some of the designers that I had added to my friends list back in SXSW are getting annoying. I kept a bunch of them because it was interesting to hear what they were working on during the day and how they approached design challenges. But I’m noticing an annoying trend – name dropping to tell how cool they are. If you have to tell me who you’re meeting at the googleplex, or what minor TV celebrity you’re live twittering a TV show with, you ain’t that cool, guys. Meh. Deleted.

Continue ReadingMore Twitter Stuff

More Twitter Fun

Adding the Twitter RSS feeds of my friends and family members to my feed reader, so I can catch up with them later if I miss something.

I’m really excited that my sister Stacy is now on Twitter – just hearing little updates from England at about a 7 hour time shift is really entertaining, and especially just hearing the little things she does around the house. I know it’s minutiae to anyone else, but I like having a little window into her day, because I don’t get to call or write her enough, and sometimes a sentence or two is the most valuable thing.

My girlfriend Stephanie is on Twitter, too, so now I also know what’s going on in the kitchen when I’m in the library. Although twittering from your laptop just to hear the Twitterific tweeting from mine is a bit over the top, honey.

My friend Dan just got on twitter, too, which I is how I found out he just got a new laptop. That’s cool; even though he lives a couple blocks away, I haven’t talked to him nearly enough lately. Dan, you need to add Stephanie and Matt to your friends list.

My friend Matt has been on Twitter for a while, but he just started updating recently.

My friend Jonathan has been on for awhile, too – now that more of our friends are on, maybe he’ll post more regularly.

Twitter Bird
Continue ReadingMore Twitter Fun

Twitter Related Fun

Twitterific is a great little Macintosh program that lets you get (and make) your twitter updates without having to have the browser window open.
There does seem to be a couple of similar Window/PC programs that lets you do the same thing – Twitterlicious is one, and Twitbox is another. I’ve never used either, so I don’t know if they’re good or not.
Twittervision is a google map that lets you see where the latest twitter posts are from, all over the world. This morning when I got up, people were twittering in Hong Kong.

Continue ReadingTwitter Related Fun

Social Networking

All the social networks I’m on. The list was getting too long to keep it on a sidebar anymore, so it’s getting its own dedicated page.


My Flickr Photos

[Link deprecated –] Me on Icon Buffet

[Link deprecated –] Me on Facebook

[Link deprecated –] Me on MySpace

[Link deprecated –] Me on YouTube

[Link deprecated –] Me on Twitter

Continue ReadingSocial Networking

Forbes on Twitter

David M Ewalt from Forbes on the subject of Twitter: “I’m not interested in what you had for breakfast.”
Yeah, I’m not interested in what you had for breakfast either. That’s why I don’t follow you on twitter, ass. I do care what my friends had for breakfast; therefore I follow them. I’m sorry you’re using twitter wrong, but that’s really not my problem, see? So STFU. Jesus.

Continue ReadingForbes on Twitter