Sometimes a word or notion is fired in the kiln of conventional wisdom and becomes forever set. Unless, and until, A. Fine blogger takes up the charge and forces some rethinking!
Twitter is known as a micro-blog. I think that this is completely wrong. Twitter should be considered a social network.
According to Wikipedia, micro-blogs operate just like blogs, only in smaller bursts. Twitter is included in the Wikipedia entry as a micro-blog. Someone, or a group of people, write blogs that audiences read. A blog is part of a broader, online conversation through links to other blogs or news articles and in the comments stream. Nonetheless, fundamentally, someone writes and others read.
An online social network like Facebook is a neighborhood where lots of people share news and photos, connect with one another, meet new friends, organize to do things together online or on land. No one is in charge, there is no beginning and end to conversations. Twitter is just such a neighborhood.
Here is an excerpt of a conversation on Twitter that I read the other day:
Jeff Jarvis: Wikipedia is wrong (GASP!). It is not my birthday. Thanks anyway.
Jeff Jarvis: Can somebody change my Wikipedia birthday to July 15? I don’t want to violate rules and do it myself (silly as that is).
Andy Carvin: @jeffjarvis actually it’s kosher if you do it to correct a factual error and leave a note on the discussion page for transparency sake.
I thought it was a neat, little exchange of information and knowledge, the kind one would hear in the hallway at a conference or at a water cooler in an office (although not my office, then I’d have to get dressed!) It was not a short blog post followed by a comment.
So, what’s the big deal, A. Fine, what does it matter if Twitter is misnomered? Here’s the deal, what we call a tool often dictates how people use it. That’s why it’s conventional wisdom, it is a settled discussion. Not everyone, certainly not people who are very facile with the social media toolkit will use a tool the way that Wikipedia determines, but, newcomers, people who are less certain may. If an organization, or person, is unsure of what to do on Twitter, I would rather than they think about is as a neighborhood and an ongoing conversation than a blog post.
In my experience, Twitter is best used as a mechanism for conversations among a lot of people. It’s a fantastic organizing tools for events like Twestival. Most of all, Twitter is a neighborhood where interesting ideas and exchanges are happening that we can participate in, or watch, just as we would at a neighborhood diner.
Or maybe it’s something entirely new that hasn’t been named yet. I’m open to suggestions!