Someone explain Twitter to me like I’m in 3rd Grade

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, it’s probably because you saw me posting comments on a blog like Techquila Shots or TechCrunch. As a result, you’ve probably read some of their excellent postings about Odeo founder Evan Williams’s new app, Twitter. If so, I’m glad you are here because I have confession to make: I don’t get it.

It’s not that I don’t understand how Twitter works. I do. I also understand the value of being able to quickly communicate with friends and groups. 15 years ago, very few people had cell phones. Now, it seems that everyone is connected 2 or 3 different ways 24 hours a day. Fair enough.

That said, I guess I’m going to have to come to grips with the fact that either I’m either completely uninteresting or completely uninterested. The fact is, I don’t care if my friend is “Going to get coffee”. If my boss is “Heading to the office” chances are I’ll see him in a few minutes as I do every day. And so on and so forth. Similarly, I neither want nor expect anyone else to care if I’m doing something.

Twitter seems to be useful for two things, neither of which is strikes me as imperative to my life or the lives of anyone I know.

1. Twitter is useful for communicating short bits of info quickly to an individual. So is dialing the phone and speaking to the person. So is IM. So are standard text messages. Does Twitter make short 1-on-1 communication easier? Maybe, although typing on a mobile device is hardly convenient all the time. That said, there are lots of devices on earth that make a task easier, but that doesn’t make them valuable or necessary.

2. Twitter is useful for communicating short bits of info quickly to a group of people. This assumes that there is a group of people interested in what you have to broadcast. Maybe I’m anti-social and a dullard, but I can’t think of 2 people (much less more than that) who care if I am “having coffee” or “heading to work” or whatnot.

To show I’m not entirely close-minded, I do see some future uses such as communicating messages to a group of kids on a ski trip (“Bus leaves for the slopes in 5 minutes”) or organizing a flash mob (“Candidate will be at the courthouse in 10 minutes but is entering on south side. Move demonstration there.”) While there are TONS of services that already do this – from managing contact lists/groups to sending actual messags – Twitter seems to be benefiting from so much press that it would be easy to predict them as a winner in this space.

However, here is where the next problem of many comes in to play: How will Twitter make a dime? Are they going to start charging for messages? (That will go over really well with the early adopters who’ve been enjoying it for free.) Maybe they’ll introduce advertising? (“Pizza on special at Happy Dave’s!” is not the message you probably are looking forward to when sorting through friend’s messages. Or maybe they’ll hope that mobile providers will give them some revenue sharing, although that might be a hard sell since the providers are getting 100% of Twitter-generated revenue right now. Perhaps thir open API will come with the caveat that services piggy-backing their user base will have to pay revenue sharing or fees. That might work, provided someone crafts a service that takes an otherwise unnecessary product and refines it to being a necessary business.

So, if you can perhaps expand upon what I’ve touched on here or, more importantly, what I’ve missed about Twitter, I certainly would appreciate it. And to show that I’m forward thinking and realize I don’t know everything, I went on and registered twittergroups.com and twitmob.com this morning, just in case. 😉

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4 Responses

  1. Like a 3rd grader…not sure I can do that however, you might appreciate this quote from San Francisco blogger and humorist Min Jung Kim wrote a Twitter haiku …..

    “twitter defined as/turning bunches of geeks to/14 year old girls.”

    I think that sums it up very well!

  2. Excellent Haiku indeed. Thanks for that 🙂

  3. I’m glad to know that I am not the only one that doesn’t get it. I joined too, just to know that I haven’t missed something, still don’t think I have missed anything. I’ve got one better for you, I don’t get texting either. I can talk a lot faster than I can type. They are both way overrated to me. If I have something to say, it takes me way more than 140 characters to say it like I want it said.

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