twittering nonsense

I have been listening to Steve Gillmor’s Newsgang podcast.

The format is a weekly closed VoIP chat, and then he does an open phone-in type “roundtable” each day called Newsgang Live. It’s occasionally interesting, and very-much a Silicon Valley insider show.

The one thing that has struck me is how much nonsense some of the callers, not to mention Gillmor himself, spout. Recently, one of the topics that has made me bristle is the constant hyperbole on the subject of twitter – the social networking/microblogging hybrid that has enjoyed phenomenal penetration, chiefly among techies and politicos.

During one of MANY recent chats about twitter, Gillmor made the astonishing claim that any enterprise that doesn’t embrace twitter (as a means for what I have no i-fucking-dea) will fail. Er, no…. Steve. I think you’re stretching that one just a touch.

Now before I go on, let me just explain that I like twitter. I work from home and twitter works as an umbilical-cord to communities that I’m interested in. I “follow” fellow bloggers, newsworthy individuals, one or two news portals (such as Reuters), and a clutch of self-appointed tech savants, such as Gillmor himself. And while I like it, twitter is not a do-or-die necessity for the enterprise. It does, however, have several uses: –

– it works as an ad hoc IM client (although extended @ conversations tend to piss-off other not-involved followers)
– it’s a useful self-marketing tool – if, and this is a big IF, people choose to follow you
– it has limited functionality as a social network
– it has limited functionality as an email alternative
– like an RSS reader, it can be used to syndicate (and follow) new articles
– like digg it can be used to propagate interesting links

Now, compared to say debt management or effective inventory control, I fail to see how embracing twitter is so crucial to an enterprise. Gillmor’s statement is just another example of idle Valley-centric bullshit. I think a lot of businesses could benefit from opening up their businesses to their clients, because the more a customer knows about a business, the more they’re likely to be loyal and understanding when the user-experience doesn’t go exactly to plan. But to claim that an enterprise will sink or swim, based on its acceptance of employees using twitter, is just lazy overstatement.

Tech hacks are a monstrous excrescence from a vacuous self-aggrandising industry, and are the kings of over-sell. Every new product or service will revolutionise the world you live in. And while I wouldn’t level this specific criticism at Gillmor in particular, this “reality myopia” is mainly because they are crappy journalists who tend to harvest copy from press-releases and spec sheets, rather than assessing something with a critical eye.

Have a look at most of the tech blog and magazines. The vast majority read like a product mail-shot or a new service announcement. The valley hacks, rather like the Westminster and Washington ones, are so entwined with the surround culture, that they’re unable to dislocate themselves from its never-ending deluge of bull-crap.

twitter is smart and utilitarian, but let’s not get carried away. It may well be another faddish online product that just dies away when everyone gets bored.

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3 thoughts on “twittering nonsense

  1. Agreed, Tyger. Interesting that we have had Hugh MacLeod for weeks singing the Twitter gospel, and then he wakes up today and deletes his Twitter account. It is for reasons like this that I don’t take these evangelists that seriously.

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