I’ve been thinking a lot about Twitter, recently. (Twitter, in case you’re not in the thumbs-of-steel set, is a technology that allows people to send short bursts of text under a unique logon about anything they want.) Sometimes, it’s journalism -- an executive just said “this!” Other times, it’s banal musings about what someone -- even journalists from The New York Times -- are doing with their day: laundry, eating dinner, riding a bus.
Someone on a blog I contribute to called Rebuilding Media poo-pooh’d Twitter, saying the audience was miniscule compared to blogs. Others have said Twitter won’t be around in a few years because there's no business model. I don’t think it matters if Twitter, itself, survives, what the business model is. What Twitter represents, though, will survive. There’s an information cloud forming. What if in the stadium when the Pope was talking, if you could have a few hundred or a few thousand people Twittering their observations on what was happening, and then somehow assemble them into a cohesive whole. You could get a more meaningful and perhaps more accurate read of what the crowd felt or the “mood” than any single journalist could provide, whether with camera, microphone or by writing.
On Rebuilding Media I suggested that If you’re going to Twitter for the benefit of others, you should do it intelligently, consider Twitter a medium, figure out how to do it intelligently, not waste their time. But maybe that’s not necessary. Blogs have lots of good information and tons of drek. The good comes through. As this cloud of micro-bursts of information forms, and more people link to and reply to the other bursts, ways to sort and sift and retrieve will -- I hope -- form. Useful information will start to coalesce around a whole. Artificial intelligence will -- again, I hope -- get better, good enough to sort and sift for me, and keep me from having to go through it all myself (but still allow me to do so when I want to spend a serendipitous 20 minutes or so).
There’s not only Twitter, but all the offshoots of Twitter or things that interrelate to it and all other kinds of information feeds -- FriendFeed, and Twirhl and Twitpic and Tumblr and Twitterfeed and more I’m forgetting -- all applications that let you decide what to read from whom and assemble them in one place and perhaps intercorrelate them, distribute or aggregate them as you wish.
In one way or another this all will survive, and inform how we relate and interrelate and handle information and relationships with each other, and commerce and information.