I don’t understand Twitter—how it works, how it makes money, or anything. As a computer engineer, I marvel at how impressive it is in terms of scale. For example, they are now crunching 50,000,000 tweets per day. That’s incredible.
Volume doesn’t make it awesome, though. Most of those tweets are about what uninteresting people are eating, watching, etc. Here’s why it’s awesome: I am empowered to connect with people in otherwise unreachable places. This calls for some examples:
Example 1: Microsoft
I recently ranted a bit about Visual Studio 2010 RC crashes:
If you crash on me one more damn time, VS2010, I will drop kick you onto the roof of my building. I'm not even kidding. 9:58 PM Feb 24th
It's official, VS2010 is getting taped to a ball and kicked onto the roof of my office tomorrow. Hope you're happy...(I warned you). 10:59 PM Feb 24th
This brought a very nice reply from someone I’ve never heard of (@Pilchie):
It turns out that @Pilchie is “Dev Lead for C# IntelliSense/Refactoring/etc at Microsoft”. Well how about that? In a mere 10 minutes, I was getting help from not just Microsoft, but the guy who works on the product I was complaining about. And his link worked!
Example 2: Stackoverflow/Codinghorror
I was working on a project which is using a lot of the same libraries that Stackoverflow uses. I ran into trouble with one of the components: I couldn’t figure out which version to use. So I pinged the lead developer/co-creator of SO:
And his very prompt response:
In three minutes I had my answer from the top guy of the a product that’s used by bajillions (if not gajillions) of people. Even if he hadn’t answered, I was hoping that someone else might (this wasn’t a private query).
Example 3: Red Gate’s Neil Davidson
Via Twitter, I discovered a neat little book on software pricing. I tweeted about it:
A half-hour later, I see this in my feed:
It’s at this point that I realize who wrote the book: Neil Davidson, co-founder/joint CEO of Red Gate Software, and founder of the Business of Software conferences among other things. A cool guy to get to know, no doubt. I finished the book and left a review as he asked and took the opportunity to ask about one of his products:
To which I got a very simple and candid reply (the beauty of the 140 character limit!):
It’s so cool that this simple medium enables and promotes these types of quick conversations. In 2/3 of these cases, I wasn’t even trying to initiate communication—others were listening for certain things and they found me.
When I first starting toying with Twitter it seemed that its signal-to-noise ratio was cripplingly low. Now I see that by following keywords—not users—the signal is strong.
It also has a unique ability to cut through the BS by forcing you to choose your words carefully. I like that.