You Don’t Get Twitter (Yet)

Ok, we get it, you don’t get Twitter. But you’ve just signed up for it.

And your first “twit” is something along the lines of “No idea why I’m here.”

That’s a good thing – neither does anyone else, and that’s what makes it something entirely new, and that’s why some people are very excited by it. I’m not sure whether this is just another passing fad, but it certainly has exploded over the last few months as its visibility has gone viral.

When people ask what the point is, I generally point out that until about 6 months ago, Twitter would send updates via SMS straight to your phone, no matter where in the world you were – hence the 140 character limit.

This meant it was an excellent way to send mass updates amongst a group of friends, such as the inanities that made it famous – “At Whatever Bar having a beer”, “sitting at starbucks on main st having a coffee”, and such like. It would effectively be a “ping”, letting people who have explicitly subscribed to your feed know where you were and what you were doing, so if they were nearby you could meet up.

As it got more popular, Twitter turned off SMS updates outside the US, UK, Canada and India, where presumably they have a deal with mobile providers. This took some of the steam out of it internationally, I think, but the increasing presence of internet-enabled phones means that we get around that limitation.

But that’s not the point – Twitter’s gone way beyond that now, as companies and celebrities pile in, some cynically using it as yet another marketing tool, some genuinely getting involved in a way that they never quite did with blogs.

Many draw comparisons between Facebook and Twitter, especially with Facebook’s most recent tweak to their design to make it more focused on twitter-like status updates (albeit without the character limit), but there’s a key difference – in Facebook, a relationship is mutual; both sides of the “friend” link see each other.

Twitter, on the other hand, is a network of one-way relationships – you choose who to follow, but they have no compulsion to “follow” you too. It’s this key difference from Facebook that makes it a more dynamic network, and lends it the more apt “microblogging” title. But then it’s not quite blogging, because it’s got a dynamism with replies and direct device updates with its short form that takes it closer to “real-time”.

Twitter is, if anything, closer to YouTube than Facebook – no-one quite knew what to do with YouTube at first, but people poked around simply because it was there; now YouTube and similar sites make up a significant chunk of internet usage globally. Twitter might not have the same bandwidth impact, but by bringing the web-2.0-read-write-web that one step closer to real-time, it represents yet another shift in how the internet is used to communicate.

Sign up – the web is changing apace.

opinion politics

Caveat Lector

A response to this rather infuriating article:

Paul Sheehan has a rather glaring contradiction in his article on Monday, accusing “Comrade Rudd” of being a great illusionist. To claim on the one hand that the Prime Minister falsely represented himself as an economic conservative, but argue on the other hand that following Keynes’ General Theory is not economic conservatism appears somewhat contradictory.

Keynes’ ideas of macroeconomics had been largely displaced by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Business’ laissez-faire monetary approach since the 70s, so it seems that a return to older ideas would indeed conform to the ideas of conservatism in the field of economics. Applying the approach used to solve the Great Depression of the 1930s seems like the very model of conservatism.

It is also telling to read the full text of Niall Ferguson’s quasi-blog-post. Sheehan very selectively quotes from the source, which is primarily focused on proposing a solution for America and its banks.

Niall Ferguson’s article focuses on the fact that the US and UK governments are deeply indebted, along with their banks. He proposes that the US Government effectively seize American banks known to be holding large volumes of potentially bad debt, rewriting mortgages in more favourable terms for borrowers, and reprivatizing seized banks in 10 years. It’s an idea that is widely circulated, and has the backing of Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize for Economics winner for 2008.

Does Sheehan expect that Kevin Rudd follow this example for the Australian banks? The solutions Sheehan hints at in Ferguson’s “solution” have nothing to do with Australia and the Government’s attempts to stimulate local demand, and would have Sheehan screaming about socialism by any other name. To imagine that these solutions could be brought about without increased government spending and debt is also fatuous.

Australian banks not affected to the extent of their international peers, for which regulation is but one factor, so Ferguson’s proposed solution is largely irrelevant to Australia, despite the allusions Mr Sheehan draws to solutions which “space precludes listing.” Ferguson’s contention that more debt is a problem, which Sheehan has latched onto, is only to set up the argument that the further debt should be targeted more directly at fixing bad loans in America. Paul Sheehan seems to have missed that part.

Caveat lector – let the reader beware – ought to proceed Sheehan’s article.