I despise twitter, and use it daily. If you don’t know Twitter, it’s a social app that allows you to write single sentence descriptions of what you’re doing at any given moment, and broadcast those to friends and strangers. You pick up “tweets” from your friends and those you follow via your instant messenger account, the Twitter homepage, RSS feed or even (if you are truly mad) SMS to your phone.
I first got Twittered up at SXSW last year, where it was a fabulous information slipstream: twitterers from all over the conference fired off their impressions of speakers, their tips for where to find the best coffee, reactions to workshop questions, jokes, snickers, and screeds. It was like standing in the Joycian internal monologue of the conference’s hive mind. Which given that it’s a crowd that pegs the intellectual/fun/creative/geek meters, is a pretty cool place to stand.
But a week after “South-by” went-by, Twitter went from cool toy to being as annoying as the MS Word paperclip. What had been a constant stream of immediately relevant info nuggets was suddenly a dispersed clamour of a crowd of people who I didn’t know gone back to their homes and jobs and the lives they were describing 140 characters at a time. I felt like Edward G. Robinson’s clairvoyant character in The Night has a Thousand Eyes, driven mad by the cocaphony of voices in his head.
I pulled the plug, and the gnat-like tweety annoyances were exterminated in a puff of electronic DDT.
So why have I come back? It’s all Facebook’s fault.
I liked seeing my Facebook Friend’s “Status updates” — they were relevant content about what my rather eclectic digital homies were up to — but I didn’t want to log into Facebook all the time to get updates. It occurred to me that Facebook Status wasn’t unlike Twitter tweets, and I wondered if I could get Twitter and Facebook talking to each other. I found this not-so-easy method of feeding Facebook Status into a second twitter account and following that. It’s a pain to set up, but it worked. I scrubbed my follow list and fired up Twitter again, feeding it into my gTalk instant messenger account. Nice. I could see what my friends and fellow troublemakers were up to with a two-second glance at my incoming gTalk notifications as they popped up lower right of my screen. I also discovered the groovy Track feature which allows me to monitor Twitterspace globally for occurrences of keywords like “Greenpeace” and “Goshbustified.” (A-a-a-and then there’s GeoTwitter which lets you watch twitters popping up around the globe…)
But this is where Facebook got annoying. To update my Facebook status, and so give back tweets to my Facebook pals, I had to log in to Facebook. No fair! Twitter lets me tweet from my gTalk account, Skype, or even the admin on my WordPress Account thanks to Twitter Tools (thanks, Gillo!), so why this arcane requirement to log into Facebook?
Well the answer, of course, was money. According to BlogNation, Facebook had been blocking twitter from access to its API until recently, sensing that Twitter was a direct competitor. Guess they got over it. Now you can set your Facebook Twitter Application to accept status updates from Twitter.
It ain’t perfect: Facebook prepends “Brian is…” to my status string, which means to keep things tidy my twitters need to start with a present progressive verb or a descriptive. Yuk. Gotta be a workaround for this. (And yes, if you know one, gentle yet geeky reader, this is your cue to proceed direct to the comment field!)
And so now I have a fully integrated closed loop by which my momentary musings can join those of my pals as we commune in micro-slices of attention and tiny disconnected disertations on our daily digital lives.
Now, if I can only figure out WHY we all feel compelled to do this.