Why Twitter Will Go Mainstream

I am not sure if I can be truly termed an early adopter, but I am using sites that early adopters are using. I wrote about FriendFeed in my last post. Today I am writing about Twitter. I was going to write how Twitter would not gain mainstream acceptance. Then, I saw the article on Reuters regarding the earthquake near Washington, DC. I have previously said several times on this blog and in other places that I did not get Twitter. I started to use the service about a month ago, and I do like using it. However, I still had questions about it’s real purpose. Then, the earthquake hit, and tweets were flying down my screen. Today, there was a plane crash in Louisville, Kentucky. I found out on Twitter before anywhere else.

More recently, I have seen more open questions appearing as well. People asking what twitter tools they use, or how they cope with the FriendFeed information firehose. The open conversation is something I did not expect, or at least I did not expect it to work well. I think the open conversation could suffer a bit when the mainstream users arrive, but there are ways to adapt to this as well. By taking a cue from various collaboration platforms or even IRC, twitter can create “rooms” to hold semi-private conversations. This would help the conversations scale as well, not just the servers.

Twitter As A News Source

I have received links faster on Twitter than any other source. My RSS feeds are not nearly as quick, and even FriendFeed is slower than Twitter. The article from Reuters reminded me of another watershed moment on the internet. That day was September 11, 2001. Almost everyone should remember the day the towers fell. I was at work, and they have a TV in the lobby always tuned to CNN. However, the news coverage was scarce besides pictures of the towers burning. It was then that most people turned to the internet to find information. Most people found out more from the internet than any “trusted” news source. Most cell phone lines were busy, so no calls could be made to loved ones. My brother was supposed to be on a flight from North Carolina to New York City. He was not answering his cell phone. I knew he had a BlackBerry, so I emailed him. I found out that his plane was diverted (to where I can not remember), and that he and his wife were fine. Through email, he found out about the terrorism, and was able to connect with his friends working in New York that day. Many people had similar stories from that day. The big thing was the power of the instant information access was seen. Everyone knew that email was useful, but who knew you could find out that much by looking on the internet? Now everyone did.

I would never compare the earthquake to that terrible day, but the memory of the instant access was definitely obvious to me. On Twitter, the information was coming faster than most companies could get information on their site. It is amazing how much information can be given in 140 characters. Obviously, I can now say I am a believer in Twitter. Even if they become infrastructure for something bigger, there is another company that started that way. It was a little search engine that had no business plan, but thought they had a good idea. I think you have heard of it, it is called Google.

11 thoughts on “Why Twitter Will Go Mainstream

  1. You’re really on fire, rob. I’m glad you’re on twitter, too.

    I missed the post about the plane crash because I stopped following nowsourcing a while ago. He never replied to my posts and he rarely posted anything very interesting . . . so there you have it.

    The biggest difference between twitter and other social media interactions is the ease of which one can post a quick message. It really sucks, though, when you want to have a real conversation with someone. You just can’t. DoshDosh tweeted about how it’s impossible to talk politics in 140 characters or less, for example.

    Again, great post here!


  2. I’m a big fan of Twitter, in at least part because of the factors that you’ve identified. I see Twitter as much (if not more) about listening than talking, but with the added advantage that you can target your listening.

    And once you find the way of it, you can target that listening to the industry leaders and newsmakers (at least within the internet/social media area) the follow them directly, and that can be invaluable.


  3. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI am not sure if I can be truly termed an early adopter, but I am using sites that early adopters are using. I wrote about FriendFeed in my last post. Today I am writing about Twitter. I was going to write how Twitter would not gain … […]


  4. @Julie
    Thanks for the praise. One of the problems with Twitter is the balance of following and tweeting. The real question is what are you there for? Personally, I am just trying it out first, and I will figure everything else out later.

    Very good point about listening. I have a few people who I follow, mostly just to listen to. Scoble is the perfect example. There is a lot of noise, but a lot of good signal in his stream as well.


  5. The simplicity of Twitter is the main benefit – it is designed for quick thoughts and beyond that acts as a facilitator. It connects people in a way that other services often can’t. Once you have that connection it is easier to move a conversation to another, more suitable, medium.


  6. @Colin

    I understand what you are saying, but I am not getting that vibe from my current twitter stream. Maybe I just have not had those conversations yet 🙂

    In any case, I am hooked. It already bothers me when TwitterFox or Twhirl has problems connecting.


  7. For a long time I was loathe to jump on the social networking bandwagon. Now that I’ve joined sites like Facebook and LinkedIn they have hardly added anything to my life. However Twitter is something altogether different. It’s great not having to worry about the looks of your profile or what apps you should have. There is a lot of noise but I usually pick up a few interesting ideas and links too. Don’t have enough followers yet but I look forward to being able to ask questions and get feedback from everyone.

    James, Organize IT


  8. @James,

    LinkedIn has a totally different purpose than most social sites, so do not worry about that one. Having “enough” followers is an interesting concept. I can not imagine following thousands of people as the noise would be deafening. I only follow around 70 right now, and I am not sure how many more I want to follow.


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