Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Don't be bitter as Twitter gets fitter


What are Twitterers doing?

Click reporter LJ Rich talks about Twitter and whether the surge of interest in it is improving or impairing the micro-blogging system.

My name is LJ Rich and I am a Twitter addict.

Since February 2008 (a long time ago in net-years) I've evangelised pointlessly and continuously about its merits.

I've joyfully wasted many spare minutes crafting 140-character updates on subjects such as the newest gadget I'm playing with, the latest doomed attempt to rewire my studio and, of course, up to the minute news on what I'm eating.

But what's this? I hear the stampede of the mainstream arriving to answer Twitter's founding question "What are you doing?"

Yes, after celebrity endorsements and pictures of miraculous plane landings on the Hudson, the Muggles are coming, and what's more, Twitter is changing as a result - I think for the better.

Twitter's starting role was that of a small town hall's informal message board - the community newsletter. Standard procedure would be to pop in, read bite-sized voyeuristic nuggets of inconsequential information, gossip with friends, then pop out.


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But what's happened to the core community since Twitter went stratospheric? I asked the people following me on Twitter. In response @jeff_prior wrote: "It's past early-adopter tech-types - friends are signing up that aren't techy at all."

It's clear that veteran users are recognising that the way we use Twitter is in flux, although its development doesn't seem to be to everyone's taste.

@pickboy tweeted: "The newbies have taken over. The people on now are changing it from the inside and, well, bang goes the neighbourhood."

So why do I think it's good that so many "tweeple" are jumping on the bandwagon?

Because as long as the servers can deal with the usage, greater numbers will join, turning this small town into a bustling city. The model will move from a self-selected group of tech-savvy cyber-addicts to a wider cross-section of internet surfers.

If a GP, an organist and a plumber are now in the same social circle as each other, and they get on well, it's reasonably safe to assume that no-one will have any trouble with their pipes.

To paraphrase @lateral, who talks about Network Effects, Twitter's value increases proportionally with the number of users who take part in the community.

The recent world-wide Twitter festival @twestival was organised in a matter of weeks, showing how effective Twitter can be as a mobilizing tool. The thoughts and skills of many are now available for exchange, just as there are usually more facilities in a big city than there are in a small town.

Twestival goers, LJRich
Phones were much in use at the London Twitter Festival

I've experienced this social networking evolution in real time as a fully paid up member of the Twitterati, complete with mobile phone application and compulsive checking a Blackberry user would be proud of.

I'm already used to tweeting, and I expect that it's only a matter of time until Twitter (or a similar service) takes its place alongside Facebook, e-mail and the telephone as just another interactive medium that is no longer the subject of such attention.

If it's the appeal of instantaneous communication that drives our "always on" mentality then that is exactly what Twitter taps into, the same urge that drives some of us to check the news headlines regularly - we value such time-sensitive information which could convert to status if we come by this knowledge before the rest of the town.

So yes, Twitter's getting bigger because it works as an effective way of disseminating information.

As with a lot of successes on the internet, Twitter does one thing, and does it well, but it's vital that we remain aware that, like all forms of communication, Twitter will only be as useful as the humans on the end of it.

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