22 April 2009

Is Twitter really "all that"?

I have not been sold on this Twitter idea since I first heard about it. Seems like something that I could use if I want to feel important. What use is there in people "following" me on Twitter ... keeping up with my every move? Or telling them when I've updated my blog? Just follow my blog. One blog describes Twitter as "a rapidly proliferating communication platform that is helping define a new era of technology as centuries old media models are disrupted. " What does that really mean? What does it do? What does it change? How does it improve anything?

What would make me decide to blog about my doubts about this ever-increasingly popular microblogging? Several bits in the news lately.

Earlier this week, there was a story about Army challenging Ashton Kutcher on Twitter - what does that even mean? Both the Army and the Air Force have actually been "tweeting" for some time now. On the news this morning that the co-founder of Twitter was part of a State Dept delegation to Iraq to see how their government can make better use of social media (yeah, I saw the story on the old-fashioned, mainstream news, while watching my old (i.e. not flatscreen, not HD) TV) - hey that's a double paranthetical statement (pretty cool).

**As a side note, the Army's move is doubly interesting given it's concern about Twitter just a few months ago ... **

What is the big gain that social media will give to the Iraqi media? Will they be better able to communicate with their constituants? Will they be better able to have active debate? I'm doubtful. Hopefully, reports in the coming weeks will demonstrate that my doubts are unnecessary and there is something more to this than I can see right now.

What is our own government doing with social media? Not much. I was fascinated when the new administration announced the new White House blog ... but that's turned out to be non-interactive. In other words, they're using a new media term but still doing old media stuff like posting their own press release-like material. Where's the interaction - the feedback from the citizens the blog is meant to engage (or, is it just to inform)? Would Twitter improve interaction? Would it increase discussion? Again, I'm doubtful.

There is some discussion on one of the CGSC blogs about the usefullness of Twitter to the Army. Some decent points are made, some good anecdotes are shared, but I'm still unconvinced. Not everything that is new and all the rage is necessarily good. Perhaps we'll find this Twitter rage is just a fad. Perhaps we'll find that having our military services "followed" is not as helpful as some think. Or, perhaps I'll be proved wrong ... it's certainly happened before.

And, oh yeah, I wasn't really sold on this whole blogging thing before I started this project. Maybe I should begin tweeting!?


  1. I see Twitter as a huge ego trip for short attention span people.

  2. Well...A friend told me this. Thought it fit pretty well. You can reach out and touch so many more people with your tweets. :) Just sayin.

    Twitter --- headlines
    Facebook --- a little more, more conversational
    Blogs --- print-fleshing out

  3. The jury is still out for me on Twitter. But Scott Kesterson sent me an email from his third embed in Afghanistan and invited me to follow him on Twitter and I couldn't resist. He Tweets from his Blackberry so you can follow him around in real time. He also reports that he gets better function from his Blackberry than Satellite phone.

    Have you got a Twitter account Major? If not I suggest you try it to see what all the fuss is about. Today the Milblog Conference kicks off in DC and there is quite a bit of chatter about it.

    If you do decide to give it a go I suggest downloading TweetDeck to organize your posts.

    Right now I think it's a fad. For me MSN was great, but only a couple of friends are on it now.

    Take care, Sir, and thanks for doing this project.

  4. Give it a try, you never know if it could be useful unless you take a shot at it. We are using it on the AKO Community project soljr at: https://www.us.army.mil/suite/page/608774. You can see it being used in a unique way.

  5. It is a way to reach out and let people know that you've posted. I'm fairly new to using it, and the jury's still out on how effective it is for getting your message out, but it's not hard and it's worth a try.

    You can use it for any and all of the above. There are people trying to make themselves millionaires as tweet-spammers, there are those who do it just to make noise, and there are those who are letting people know about news and information that is available.

    The hardest part is building your following, but email me offline and I'll give you a few strategies you can try to build a following that will be interested in what you have to say and may have stuff you would be interested in, too.

    As a writer, you would be interested in having people read what you write. As a researcher, you need to get the opinions of as many people as you can. This is a way for you to get your message out there more in the really really big world of the internet where there is a lot of competition for people's attention and time.

    As far as slowing down on your blog, now that you have completed what your initial purpose was, it's time to find a new "voice." Maybe you will and maybe you won't and you will lose interest.

    You apparently missed the Milblog Conference in DC last weekend. I did, too... but that was for different reasons. There is a whole community out there, and seeing what they are doing and the impact that is being made through this medium is amazing.

    Whether you choose to invest in this long term or not is up to you. The web of people across the spectrum from military to families to military supporters and the impact that is being made on the MSM is something significant. All you have to do is keep it up. Or not. It's up to you, but you don't have to look for a place in the milblogging community; all you have to do is make your own place. While you are at it, as long as you leave your blog up you are writing history. Or you can delete it and there is none. It's all up to you.

    From my point of view, I'd encourage you to continue observing, writing, and keeping the history. That's just me. What I can tell you is this; the story isn't over even if you walk away from it. Milblogging has evolved and will evolve and its impact will grow and not lessen.

    Congratulations on completing your project. Good luck, Sir.


  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Clearly the opinions are mixed among us on the value of Twitter. Personally, I just don't spend enough time on-line to actually "follow" anyone or post enough stuff to make it worth "following" me. (Just had a geeky Army thought ... Iron Mike would be proud of Twitter and blogging - "Follow Me!")

    I haven't closed my mind to it. Just not convinced, yet.

  7. The results from the survey about Twitter show that readers are divided about it's utility. Those who think Twitter has value were a bit more enthusiastic in their support than those who think it's either a passing fad or useless. Of course this poll is, again, unscientific, and only had nine responses (although that's more than double the number that have responded to some other polls so thanks!). The poll responses also jive with the comments left here.

    Some of you think it's got some potential to help get your message out or story told by posting "headlines" that get the readers to go elsewhere for more (stories, videos, etc). Others of you think it's useful for those needing an ego boost.

    I have no doubt that many of us within and outside of the military will continue to experiment with it to see just what usefulness it will bring.

    Thanks again for your participation in this discussion ... I'm continueing to learn and my opinions about many of these new media outlets are still in their infancy.

    For posterity's sake, the details from the poll:
    Is Twitter really a useful tool?

    4 (44%) Absolutely! You can easily spread your message to or mobilize lots of people

    1 (11%) It's helpful, but not much more so than a blog or e-mail distro list.

    2 (22%) No. It's a passing fad.

    2 (22%) It's a waste of time.

  8. I think that Twitter is the new Myspace. Loud, annoying, but nonetheless, essential since enough people actually use it and follow it. It seems the celebs have all moved from Myspace to Twitter, bringing enough people with them.

  9. interesting observation, Starbuck. Anecdotally it seems you're right. I still can't seem to grasp the draw of it ... but of course, I was a little slow to blogging, too. I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I don't see any tremendous benefit from tweeting. It's one more thing to keep up with.