Twitter jumps the shark: Yemma tweets

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Part Pokemon, part NORAD, Twitter is many things: chatterbox, public-opinion meter, posse roundup.

You can follow news in real time on Twitter: earthquakes, the Summit of the Americas, famous-for-being-famous guy Ashton Kutcher playing Pied Piper to 1 million Twitter followers.

You can also find endless nonsense: "Um, thinking of buying a bagel" "Wow. American Idol was awesome!"

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Oprah does it (click here for details on her debut). So does Rainn Wilson.

Why is Twitter hot?

Twitter is a prime example of the Internet's promise and paradox.

The Internet can accommodate almost infinite variety and depth -- from War and Peace to 100 side-by-side translations of the Bible to pet beauty contests to bad remixes of videos that were bad to begin with.

Cost of publishing online is practically zero. Space is abundant. So why has an application that allows only 140 characters become the category killer of the moment?

Maybe it's because for all of the Internet's vaunted depth and flexibility, enforced brevity is a virtue.

Enter Twitter

Just as cable TV's 700 channels allow every sensibility to be entertained but also foster channel surfing, the Internet fosters nonstop browsing. If the content of this article is interesting, how about those embedded hyperlinks to related articles? Wait, have you checked the UFO story on Drudge? Responded to Facebook requests? Peeked at ESPN? ... And maybe Drudge has a UFO update since you last checked?

Into this easily distracted world comes Twitter. Its genius is its limitation. It piggybacks on the experience of the texting generation, where short text messages are already the standard way of communicating.

Text messaging is the most widely used data application on the planet, with several billion active users. Short messages = multiple messages. By enforcing the 140-character limit, Twitter, too, ensures a constant flow of new content.

A flow of what?

Like a lava lamp, Twitter can be endlessly diverting.

You could watch the Twitter tag cloud on Twitscoop, as I did, on Easter morning as the word "resurrection" grew in size because people all over the world were using it in their 140-character "tweets." Or you could watch on Friday as the words "Pirate Bay" got hot because a Swedish court sentenced the founders of the file-sharing outfit to jail and a $3.6 million in damages.

It's all there on Twitter. Along with all the other flotsam and musings and silliness of millions of Twitterers.

Over at ars technica is a six-point advice column on how to be a good Twitterer. No. 5 is my favorite: "No one expects you to force yourself to tweet just for the sake of tweeting if nothing is popping into your head naturally."

Words to live by.

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How do you know when a fad like Twitter has jumped the shark? A graybearded editor joins Oprah in tweeting for the first time.

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