Twitter is low-expectation IRC

I’ve been spending more time on Twitter than I have reading blogs. It reminded me of the time in my mis-spent youth when I got lost in IRC, spending evenings heckling the TV with my IRC friends. This is the geek equivalent of being stoner, by the way, with roughly the same effect on cognition.

As I got older, I acquired kids and a mortgage. Work took the full-focus time that I had spent on IRC. IRC and I drifted apart. Periodically I’d log in and try to catch up with my friends, but it was like hooking up after breaking up—neither satisfying nor fully enjoyable.

Twitter, however, I can be much more casual with. If I am called away by kids, work, house, wife, school, or any of the other distractions in my life, Twitter doesn’t care. Nobody gets offended if I don’t respond immediately, nobody uses uppercase if I dare to leave the keyboard to stop the kids from fighting. It’s a very loosely-coupled conversation.

There are bursts of tight-coupling when back-and-forths happen between people who are “on” at the same time, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. For the most part it’s a stream of thoughts, wisecracks, questions, answers, and updates that carry with them no commitment for me (the reader) to interact, return fire, comment, create, or update in return.

I love the liberation.

As the social software space matures (to the point where only oldbies like Matt Webb call it social software) I hope to see more projects like Twitter, playing with the dials to give us a familiar experience that’s new in an unexpected dimension. Food for thought: is there low-expectation video chat? LJ Radio is very low-expectation audio chat.