June 02, 2010

5,000 Tweets Later, The Twitter Medium Has Changed

Forget about the idea that early adopters are always first at everything. Sometimes it takes some of us a little bit longer to find utility in products or services that others get right away. Twitter was an obvious initial miss for me. I held out for a long time - by my standards - swearing first that I would never use it, and then finally giving in after getting some good feedback from peers who were finding value.

Now, nearly 30 months later, and 5,000 tweets later, the milestone I'll hit once this blog hits the service via FeedBurnerTwitter has become a powerful force. Even those people who are not on the service, or using it as often as many of us are, have at least heard of it, or know people on it. The assumption now is that everybody has a Twitter account, in the same way as we believe everybody has an e-mail address. News breaks on Twitter. People break on Twitter. And it has become the go-to source for real-time feedback from a massive audience. Maybe Twitter doesn't cure cancer, but it turns out, it can help - as we learned with #blamedrewscancer... and it sure doesn't cause cancer, no matter how frequently you update, or what client you prefer.

TweetStats Shows My Twitter Use

5,000 tweets sounds like a lot to me. That's almost 6 per day, or one every 4+ hours around the clock for 2 1/2 years, scattered almost exclusively between 8 a.m. in the morning and 2 at night, if TweetStats tells the truth. With 140 characters to play with, that's 700,000 characters of wiggle room. But as we once discussed with a Twitter Noise ratio I made up, one's pace can depend on their personal preferences, their choices to share links or engage in conversation, or what social networks make sense for them. I know, for example, that many Twitter-centric folks long since left 5,000 and 10,000 or even 20,000 and 50,000 tweets in the dust. @chrisbrogan sports nearly 70,000 while @parislemon is approaching 14,000 and the legendary @queenofspain is going to cross 85,000 before the month is out. So I must not be too noisy amid such elite company.

My First Tweet - Clearly Tentative

Twitter, for all its ups and downs with infrastructure strains and developer changes, through the company's maturation, has become an important player for many different things. Its limitations have been rebranded as simplicity, and what used to be a geek mecca is as much home to celebrities, teens and marketing as anything else. That's the problem with a nice neighborhood, everyone moves in and the ads go up. But the crowds have brought relevance. With worldwide growth and use in many different markets for many things, one can practically assume someone is twittering most events, in the same way one can safely assume that any scene of interest is being videotaped. The world is being recorded, and the world is being tweeted.

If I am Awake, I am Tweeting?

My comparatively slow approach to Twitter contrasted with some of my peers continues thanks to my own internal checks against noise. I still use Twitter primarily for distributing links from the blog and others I think may be relevant to followers. I set up a dedicated account at @lgstream for even more shares, without drowning my feed. I try to keep idle chat to a minimum, engaging on Google Buzz, FriendFeed and Facebook for some, and using Twitter DMs in other cases. I don't know if I'll ever make Twitter a place where I want to drop in and stay a while. I am absolutely glad it's there, and recognize its significant utility, but it still doesn't feel like a destination to me - instead, a powerful, increasingly critical utility.

New FriendFeed Blog iPhone Google Post Social Time! [pic]

By the time I hit 10,000 tweets, I expect Twitter will be dramatically different again from where it is now. As the company may have approached 200 employees, it could be at 1,000 or more by that time. It might be a public company, and the service could be dramatically different. Maybe popular clients like TweetDeck, Seesmic and Brizzly will be purchased by other brand names, or by Twitter themselves, like Tweetie was. But Twitter looks not only here to stay, but to play a big role in how this generation communicates. It may be through 140 characters at a time, including @Replies and short URLs, but it's what we've got.

Here's to filling your stream with another 5,000 useful tweets. You can find me at @louisgray.