Twittervision and Twitter

Twittervision is a hypnotic glimpse into the lives of people around the world. It’s a complete waste of time, in the same way that conversation, casual sex, and reading are wastes of time. It generates an amazing feeling of connection to what people are thinking of in the world (or at least in the primarily Western world that seems to be the Twitter customer base). This is a kind of ambient zeitgeist for the world and word of it is spreading like wildfire.

Twitter is what Odeo turned to when their podcasting platform failed to take off. Think of it as a cross between blogging and instant messaging: you type a short message (140 or fewer chars) and your subscribers (friends) instantly see it. You can view a single “river of news” page that functions as a group blog by all your friends.

Twitter has seen big uptake lately as it reached some kind of critical mass of users and visibility at the South-by-Southwest conference. There are some unanswered questions, though: (1) it’s centralised so, although they offer outlets to IM, SMS, RSS etc., I think we’ll find people wanting to take ownership of their identities the way they do with blogging; (2) it’s another demand on our attention and it’s unproven that we can treat it as UDP (okay if a packet is lost) rather than TCP (every packet must be received and in the order sent)–already I’ve seen people twittering things like “just spent 2 hours catching up on the twitter messages I missed in the air”; and (3) it’s another interface to feed our life into and it’s unclear how that draws energy away from blogging or other activities we already do.