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Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 10:48 UK
Send us twits, or is it a tweet?

By Alex Hudson
Today programme

Twitter homepage
Twitter is ranked as one of the world's 50 most popular websites

"What a twit" was the resounding response about John Humphrys's brief comments regarding the social networking site Twitter.

Twitter is a "micro-blogging site", allowing users to send updates using 140 characters or less about what they are doing or what is on their mind.

What was on John's mind is that there were "some things [like Twitter] that should be dismissed out of hand".

The debate began while discussing Matthew Parris's comments in the Times that before he would "do anything so inane as tweet while simultaneously trying to judge a writing competition, pigs will fly, and Hell will freeze over."

The response from Today followers on Twitter was overwhelming, leading John to promise a tweet by the end of the programme.

At 8.00am - almost exactly - the following message appeared on the Today feed .

Why shd everyone try everything? Some (like underwater ironing) too daft to try. Stop counting letters. Get a life instead.

That didn't do anything to quell the criticism.

Helen Sendall tweeted "it's not about counting letters, it's about anyone being able to share info quickly [with] as many or as few people as they like."

Stephen Cotterell asked John to recall the famous quote from Blaise Pascal that "the present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter".

Many people referenced an article from almost exactly 10 years ago by Douglas Adams, author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, called How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet .

"I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

John Humphrys
John called for Today listeners to send in their "twits", or is that tweets?

1) everything that's already in the world when you're born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really."

Provoking debate

The response provoked a debate later in the programme. "I'm in terrible trouble with the Tweeting community" stated John as he began his interview with comedian and author David Baddiel .

"But it's a very good tweet", reacted Baddiel, "it asks a philosophical question. Twitter is aphoristic and reflects our soundbite nation."

The debate raged as to whether Twitter is a useful news resource or just inane babble. Unsurprisingly, those reacting on Twitter thought John's comments were archaic and out-of-date.

Jay Jay tweeted: "I'm sure it is easier to say 'Twitter is babbling nonsense' than it is to go 'actually, it depends on what you are using it for'."

"Don't knock it till you've tried it. I'm an ex-pat Radio 4 addict and the R4 online feed & Twitter are real lifelines" said Mandi Millen .

But Judi Best, of Tunbridge Wells, emailed in to stick up for John.

She said: "I am fed up with hearing about [Twitter] and so much on there is inconsequential. It seems to be taking the place of real communication directly with people; like those who are always attached to their iPods and mobiles and do not experience a lot of what is going on around them in the real world."




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