To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet?

[ Posted Thursday, August 6th, 2009 – 14:11 UTC ]

There has been a relentless drumbeat behind the scenes here at, in the form of emails I get from readers astonished that I have no presence on Twitter (or Facebook, or whatever...). So I figured today was the day to address these publicly. Mostly because this will be the last "live" column for a few days (more on that at the end), so the comment thread will have many days to remain open before I get a chance to read it.

The question, letting my natural hamminess speak (hamminess... let... ham...let?), I put it to you thusly: "To tweet, or not to tweet?" That is today's question.

I have conflicting thoughts on the whole Twitter phenomenon. One the one hand, I have this handy website you are reading right now to communicate with fellow netizens. On the other, I'm supposed to be out there promoting the website and "driving eyeballs to the site" (a marketing term that always produces a rather Hallowe'en-ish mental image, for me personally). On the third hand, there is a 140-character limit on tweets, and as you all should be fully aware by now, I can't even clear my metaphorical throat in preparation to speak in 140 characters. For instance, that last sentence itself would be too long to post. See what I mean? But, to continue with another unusual mental image, on the fourth hand, I can just post links to my new posts there and let it go at that.

Or can I? Twitter, apparently, has its own "netiquette," of which I am totally unfamiliar. Just like email has its politeness rules, and blogging has a different set of standards, and all the other pipelines have their own rules of the road, Twitter has a whole conventional standard that I'd have to learn. For instance, if I just decide to "dip my toe in" to Twitter, and state up front "I'm not answering (or even reading) anybody's tweets here, if you want my attention go to my website and use the email form" -- would that be considered insufferably rude by the Twitter community at large? Can I use Twitter as a one-way pipeline, to put links to my columns out there for people to notice, but at the same time tell them I'm not using this pipeline for feedback -- or would I be shunned?

So I'm throwing the question out to my regular readers, to see what you all think. Does anyone Twitter out there? Do you think it'd be a good thing, or just a waste of my time, for me to join up with Twitter and post links to my columns? I'm certainly never going to use it to post irrelevancies the way I've heard some people do ("On my way to gas station... SCREECH... just hit a tree..."). But would it be a worthwhile effort to post notices saying "new column out!" or not?

What do you think?


[Program Note: Tomorrow's column will be a new one, but not exactly "live" as it will be posted automatically. Next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will feature repeat columns here, because it's better than nothing. Our plans are to return live next Thursday. Thank you for your understanding.]


-- Chris Weigant


3 Comments on “To Tweet, Or Not To Tweet?”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    I consider myself to be very Net-literate. Way back when (1991) I ran a Chat Line BBS (My ego likes to think of it as the precursor to AOL.. :D) that resulted in 20 phone lines coming into my home. It was a fairly popular, albeit local, phenomenon that has the distinction of being the very first BBS in Salem, Oregon that provided internet access to users. A 14.4K Frame Relay from Portland down to Salem was the "backbone" connection.. Woot!!! :D

    So, suffice it to say that I have been in on the Net Craze since the very beginning. I always said to my users back then that this new-fangled internet thingy is really going to catch on and, from an advertising perspective, it's gonna rival TV and Print.

    Why the trip down Memory Lane??

    Back then, things were easy. There were 2 main aspects to the 'Net. Email and Web Browsing.
    For those old enough to remember Web Browsing in it's infancy (We're talking PRE-NETSCAPE here) it's like night and day by comparison. It's nearly impossible for one to keep up with all the new innovations coming out of the Net these days. I gave up Web Design a long time ago because things there changed (literally) by the day. Something that was hot shit would become, "Oh that is so 48 hours ago"... It became maddening..

    I have seen many a company go bankrupt by trying to be all things to Netizens.

    My advice, for what it's worth??

    Find two or three compatible aspects of the Net and be the best at those. Anyone trying to be all things to all netizens on the Net will go raving mad inside a week..

    A jack of all trades is a master of none..

    It's much better to be the best in a few areas, then be mediocre (or worse) in many areas..

    Just my 2 cents...


  2. [2] 
    Herm71 wrote:

    Of course, I would encourage you to dip your toe into that stream. Much has been said of the mundane, navel gazing qualities that Twitter brings out of its users. Why do I care what User X had for breakfast, or that User Y is waiting for the bus -- and it's late? In my opinion, the media's focus on the mundane, narcissistic applications of this technology is a disservice to its true potential. Sure, it is used for mundane things; but it's potential as an information distribution system is quite powerful. Remember last Thanksgiving when those Pakistani terrorists terrorized Mumbai? Actual people armed with mobile phones with cameras used Twitter to "tweet" the movements of the terrorists, post pictures, give first-hand reports of what was happening. There were little, if any, members of the actual "media" there to file reports. They were actually watching their Twitter feeds! That event prompted me to open a Twitter account. Call me a convert. I experienced similar during the recent Iranian "elections." It's still a very active topic on Twitter, but people were actually tweeting the movements of the Basiji and tweeting first aid station locations; filming beatings and posting them online; and of course, there was Neda. Her death was tweeted, YouTubed, Facebooked. These technologies allowed a worldwide audience to witness firsthand the atrocities of the Iranian government, and definitely
    hastened her martyrdom. I'm somewhat of a political junkie (which is why I read your blog!), so most of the people I follow on Twitter are politicians and political journalists and bloggers. I'm also somewhat of a geek, so I tend to also follow a bunch of tech writers. All these folks have their own blogs and websites, but the good ones also contribute elsewhere on the net. They use their Twitter feeds and a feed-shortening service like TinyURL or Bit.Ly to tweet links to these pieces. This I appreciate. And since I choose who I follow, my list is populated with people I trust. If someone starts sending crap, I just unfolllow them. Easy peasy. That way I don't have to keep track of a ton of different websites for one person. To address your concern on netiquette however, you can definitely have a one-way policy. I'm not much of a contributor, personally, so that'd be fine with me.

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    Wow, talk about dating yourself. But you failed to mention usenet in the basic THREE things going on back then. [Or maybe I'm not going back far enough in net history, I don't know exactly when usenet started, I have to admit....] Usenet was a kind of community bulletin board, instead of a proprietary bbs. It was also called "news groups" and may still exist for all I know.

    Herm71 -

    You certainly make an excellent point about what a new technology is, versus what how it is portrayed by the "old" media. Blogging is another good example. Much as people simply cannot say "majority" without the addition of "vast" in their speaking style (I am a frequent follower of this trend, I admit freely), the MSM can't mention "bloggers" without the reference to "a guy in his pajamas blogging in his Mom's basement," in a blatant attempt to smear the message by smearing the medium. So your point about what I hear about Twitter versus the actual reality is indeed a good one, and well taken.

    And your reassurance on the one-way nature of how I would use Twitter is welcome, as well. Don't want to start out by offending everyone, but you seem to be saying that this is normal, at least for some on Twitter.

    OK, you've convinced me. I will experiment with Twitter in the next few days, and once I'm sure I know what I'm doing, I will begin using it to announce my posts here. Although I still have a problem, I have to say, with the cutesy-poo terminology ("tweeting?" Give me a break...), so that may take awhile for me to get used to.


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