Why you can’t explain twitter in 140 characters

I’ve identified myself as a closet twitterer. Like RSS, I have a hard time explaining twitter, so usually I don’t even try. I can’t articulate it. So when Common Craft came up with their latest video, some have seen it as being a great way to show others what twitter is all about. I don’t share that enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong I think the work of Lee Lefever is great but this one misses the mark. I know, he can’t share it all in the time constraints of that format, but I’d have to say that if I didn’t know what twitter was, I’d watch that video and say, “that sounds stupid”. That’s how I‘ve always felt about any explanation.

Today I listened to the TWIT podcast with guests Dave Winer and Steve Gillmor. The last half of their podcast, they address twitter and really begin to uncover its power and potential. There are some pretty significant reasons they address including the ability to select your network, its political and social change implications as well as the appeal of the short, concise bytes of information that lead to larger and more significant learning.

So while I love the 140 format and conciseness in general, there are just too many layers to explain in a 140 seconds.

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  • Hi Dean,

    I too have a hard time explaining Twitter. When I first viewed the Commoncraft video I was pleased because I hoped it would explain what I couldn’t (very well) to others. But I guess you are right that others could view it and think it sounded stupid.
    I’m off now to check out the podcast you mention.. sounds good!

  • The common craft video only represented one-half of the equation. Honestly, I don’t use twitter for social connections or to stay in touch with family members. I use it professionally and only follow other educators and technology-loving friends. I am more likely to click on a link in a tweet than a blog post – I don’t know why – maybe it’s because I choose to follow that person.

    Maybe Common Craft could produce a twitter version for professional use.

  • I hadn’t watched the video but now based on your comments I did and totally agree with you. I wouldn’t show this video to teach others about twitter because it doesn’t capture the essence of twitter. I think the issue lies with the fact that Lee himself is a limited user of twitter, so presents a very limited view of it’s potential. Here is his post that he wrote on reflecting on his 1 year of twittering which was written in November. His twitter account has close to 700 updates at the moment.

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  • Hi Dean,

    Have you seen I Use Twitter by Geekula. It’s a Slideshare put to music that is a pretty cool discussion starter.

    John Pearces last blog post..John’s Diigo Links 03/05/2009