Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Case for Twitter

I realized it's been far too long since I've been a regular here, and I'm going to try to change that this year. I've been silent for a couple reasons: First, of course, is Athleague - we're continuing to grow the company and seeing some success. I'll try to be better about sharing our story, the various decisions that got us here, and the path forward.

Second, the fever pitch of the innovation/Y-Combinator/Silicon Valley/New-York-is-the-new-Valley/oh-great-now-the-government-is-getting-involved/every other web start up meme is just too high.  When people get overly giddy about entrepreneurship, when I overhear gems like "so we'll be cashflow positive in 6 months," when people forget the blood, sweat, and tears that define start ups - I get worried. I hope I'm wrong.

That said, as much as I miss California, I must admit it's a little nice living out in Boston, away from most of the hype, surrounded by snow, and able to just focus and work. But I'm going to try to restart the whole blogging thing, and I wanted to kick off 2011 getting back to the roots - some casual technology musings. Most of my friends aren't on Twitter, and I'd like to make the case for it. Note - anyone who is reading this blog is probably a web nerd, and will find the below useless. In general, this is a pretty poor/boring post, mostly for myself to get back into blogging. As always, proceed wary of wasting your time.

To start, "aren't on Twitter" is an understatement - from anecdotal evidence, Twitter is the web equivalent of mushrooms and cilantro (sidenote: your author believes both are awesome). More so than most websites, it's loved or hated. More interesting is how few of my friends are on Twitter - I'd say around 5% or less. Most haven't tried it, and they maintain the view it's full of narcissistic babble. Not that that isn't correct, but I thought I'd outline why I use Twitter, and why I think it's awesome:

1) Content discovery. More than anything else, I discover great content on Twitter - so much so that it could be my most essential source. Google Reader gives me everything I want but few recommendations, since so few people use it - it's more a great way to read what I know I'm going to read. Beyond that, Reddit (and it's crazy/awesome community) has earned a special place in my heart, but it's often quite trivial (not a bad thing, necessarily).

Twitter combines the best of these two - I get content I wouldn't have otherwise found, and I can easily control for quality. I can't tell you how many great articles/videos/pictures I found because Twitter.

2) Keeping up with organizations I'm interested in. Any company or non-profit worth its salt has a well updated Twitter feed. By following them, I'm easily notified about what they're up to. Yes, they have a Facebook page, but, imo, Twitter is a much better form factor for this. Facebook will rarely bubble this stuff up to your feed, but on Twitter you get short, simple updates in an unintrusive fashion.

3) It's funny.

4) The narcissism - I want to try to address this head on. When it came to Twitter, some of my friends commented, "I just don't have anything interesting to say" or "why do people think anyone else cares what they have to say."

Well, some people do have interesting things to say. Reference #3. More than that, it's a fun way to keep in touch with friends. One of my rooommates works at a private equity firm - there are weeks I don't see him between Monday and Friday (and I usually don't sleep until 1 or 2 am). However, he has a hilarious, private Twitter feed in which he spouts random musings from his day. They help him share his (often brutal) day and connect with his friends all over the country.

This is just one example - like any medium, some people will abuse it, some people will produce stuff you want to see. You don't not watch TV because Jersey Shore is on, do you? Or stay away from Facebook because that one friend's annoying status updates? Your and others' narcissism will find its ways to shine, with or without a microblogging service. Don't pretend that staying away from Twitter somehow doesn't make you narcissistic. :)

5) Learn. To me, this was the initial draw and still is the most important. Twitter enables a new kind of communication, one that changes the human dynamics. By no means did Twitter solely enable mass uprisings in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, and others, but it clearly played a role. I hate how "realtime" has become an overused buzz word, but it aptly describes what Twitter does. The service has implications for the way we communicate, organize, conduct marketing, and countless other applications.

So there - maybe some of you will try it out. I don't have much to say, but you can follow me @TheMishra, and if you shoot me your Twitter handle, I'd love to read your contributions to the Twitter-sphere.


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