Dear Ike –
I’ve got an employee who says he’s getting news from a Twitter on his computer. I didn’t think a high-end speaker would be compatible with his PC (I had IT remove the sound cards), but apparently he’s found a way around it. Can I implement Twitter on the other machines here and save money?
Mark C., Dallas, TX
Hi Mark, and thanks for writing!
I wish there was a way to simply use software to replace expensive speakers – that would be a real maverick idea! Unfortunately, the Twitter your employee is using is a Web 2.0 messaging service. What you need to know is that Twitter is simultaneously a blog, a Rosetta Stone, and a sheet.
Okay, the blog I get.
Think of it as a Micro-blog. I know that’s hard, because it doesn’t look like any blog, and the entries don’t have comments. It limits you to 140 characters. You can’t dress up the fonts. You can’t post pictures, and can’t make hyperlinks. But it still has many of the conversational elements. You can choose to “follow” certain people, and they can follow you back. You can make your entries (Tweets) visible to the world or only those you allow into the inner circle. You can even reply back to others’ Tweets, by opening with @username – which creates a rudimentary trackback link. You can have conversations or just Tweet to the wind – just like you can on a blog.
A Rosetta what?
Forget about that language software. (We all know that farm boy has no chance in hell of landing that Italian supermodel. Ciao, Jethro.) We’re talking about the original Rosetta stone – found in the late 1700s and finally deciphered by a French archaeologist. For centuries, Egyptian Heiroglyphs confused the hell out of historians. They didn’t know if they were dealing with a pictogram language, an alphabet, or something in between. There was no reference point for the language, until the Rosetta stone was discovered. It had the same message repeated three times – once in Ancient Egyptian – once in a more modern Egyptian – and once in Greek. Well, every archaeologist worth his salt knew Greek, and it was a simple matter to compare up and learn how the ancient language was put together.
With that in mind, I want you to think of Twitter as a modern-day Rosetta Stone – bringing together the babble (Babel) that is blogging, RSS, Instant Messaging, and Short Message Service (cell-phone texting.) Now you don’t have to be tied to one particular portal to reach those who follow you, they can do so on any of the above simultaneously. One message runs concurrently through several protocols, and you reach your subscribers where they want to be found. (And if you don’t want to hear from certain people on your cell-phone, you can even control which users come to you.)
That’s the spirit. I call Twitter a “sheet” because it can be so many things to so many people. A sheet can be, well, a sheet. Or it can be a toga. Or a sarong. Or a drop-cloth to keep paint off your carpet. Or an impromptu privacy screen in the backyard. Or a liner for the doghouse. Or a ghost costume for parents who remembered Halloween at the very last minute. It is what it is – and is ill-defined enough to be what you need it to be at the time.
For some, Twitter is an additional means to advertise new blog entries. For others, it is a way to share links and interesting insights. It’s a way to scream for help, and pick the brains of like-minded individuals. It’s also a way to talk about what you had for lunch, and your bowel movements. (For the naysayers, I could write out my bodily-function schedule on a sheet and hang it out the window, and I doubt you’d rant about how bedsheets are silly and useless. Just the information carried.)
Like a blog, it provides a medium for chronological expression of thought and conversation.
Like a Rosetta Stone, it bridges across communication divides.
Like a sheet, it is easy to define in form and impossible to fully describe in potential function.
Unlike a coupon to CompUSA, it won’t add free audio to your PC.