With all the chatter about Twitter on CNN, Today and a number of other high profile outlets, the question is a good one. The general gist of the comments seems to be that some people find Twitter useful and others find it distracting. Nothing new or unusual there. Any number of tools come along that some find useful and others do not.
I like the push to think about it more deeply though. What really do I get out of Twitter? Is it useful to my work? Are the nuggets of gold worth sifting through the “flotsam and jetsam” of the Twitter stream?
I believe Twitter has added value to my work. I’ve been able to discover new colleagues and to network more closely with existing contacts. I’ve reviewed a lot of the links that get thrown around Twitter and many of them have been quite useful. I don’t think that I would have found them with my RSS feeds.
It has taken me some time to learn how Twitter works best for me. And I’m still learning and tweaking it. My big breakthrough came when I started using hashtags to follow more specific conversations. As I mentioned on Michelle’s blog, I don’t mind the cocktail conversations all around me, but I’m off in a corner with a smaller group talking about ideas and issues that we are all passionate about. I like that.
Another analogy that I have used is my graduate school experience. To me, blogs are akin to the classroom. The focus was deep thinking, critical analysis, new ideas and a focused effort on pulling apart ideas, theories and great works to formulate my own thinking.
Twitter, on the other hand, is like the grad student bull pen where we all had our “offices” (cubicles really), or the lounge or Larry’s Bar on Friday afternoons. These conversations were more casual. They jumped around a lot and they included everyday trivial snippets about lunch, tests, weekend getaways. But they were an indispensable part of my education in grad school. I learned about new books, projects, fresh ideas, additional contacts, etc. and Twitter seems to be doing the same for me now.
I am sure that everyone is different, but this analogy works for me. I am interested in hearing from all of you? What analogy works for you? What was the turning point for you with Twitter – good or bad? What tips do you have to help someone filter out the cocktail conversation?