Saturday, February 14, 2009

On the Tweet Where I Live

I'm afraid I'm like many Twitter users, unsure of how to use the service and integrate it into my daily life. Even on inauguration day when I was actively following the Tweets of others, I found myself more comfortable engaging with microblogging-style interchanges in Facebook status updates.

One solution is to make the locative aspects of this kind of computing more present by using filters like Nearby Tweets to check out what is happening in your neighborhood by using information from GPS enabled cell phones. However, since I live near an area of clubs and bars in touristy Santa Monica, it's mostly the random musings of the hook-up crowd, so I don't get a sense of the Zeitgeist of my neighborhood.

Technology columnist David Pogue suggests that part of the confusion may have to do with how the site adapts itself to multiple needs. In "Twitter? It’s What You Make It," he explains how the possibility to tap into collective intelligence was what attracted him at first.

I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or Web site could have achieved the same effect. (It’s only a matter of time before some “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.)

Pogue then describes being confronted with conflicting advice and contradictory sets of basic principles. He felt his confusion was resolved after a discussion with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, which led him to the following conclusion:

Twitter, in other words, is precisely what you want it to be. It can be a business tool, a teenage time-killer, a research assistant, a news source — whatever. There are no rules, or at least none that apply equally well to everyone.

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