Learning to read Twitter


Twitter. It’s all about learning to see it.

Out of utter respect for Howard Rheingold (and a weariness of Twitter neologisms) I’m going to stick with calling it Twitter literacy. If you have been reading about Twitter for a while I bet you five quid a revolting part of your brain is doing back flips right now,  trying to twist “Twitter” and either “literacy” or “neologism” together.

It’s OK – the noise does that to you. Drives you mad.

The noise may quieten down soon (maybe, possibly, please) as Twitter “down the backlash slope of the hype cycle”, as Howard puts it.

He’s summing up intelligently, in the context of social web literacy, what a good many Twitter advocates have been saying in the wake of Nielsen’s data about Twitter abandonnment by new users: “it took me a while to get it”.

To me, this represents a perfect example of a media literacy issue: Twitter is one of a growing breed of part-technological, part-social communication media that require some skills to use productively. Sure, Twitter is banal and trivial, full of self-promotion and outright spam. So is the Internet.

He continues…

The difference between seeing Twitter as a waste of time or as a powerful new community amplifier depends entirely on how you look at it – on knowing how to look at it.

There you go. A lot of very web literate souls took a year or more to learn to read Twitter, to speak Twitter, to become literate in it and weave it into their lives. Granted, there are more people who have the knack now, who can pass the skills along. But still the sign up – try it – becomes part of your media life process is seen by analysts and commentators as the only path that will lead to success.

I’m sure there is a data viz tool out there somewhere that if applied to my Twitter stream from three years ago would show a sputtering start, some pauses, a falter and then a stream of use. I’m sure I never even started doing really literate things like “re-tweeting” until about two years after I began.

Anyway, read Howard’s post, not least because he has compiled an elegant and compelling list of reasons that

Bring on the backlash, and an end to the hub-bub that distracts from people learning to read Twitter.

: : Bonus video. You could do a lot worse than watching this video of Laura Fitton talking to Google about Twitter. Smart stuff…

2 responses to “Learning to read Twitter”

  1. The point about the web being full of spam and self-promotion is excellent, I’d not thought of that. The criticism of Twitter based on noise and banality is both valid and a little unfair. But Howard is right, where on the web isn’t riddled with self-publicists?

    I know my blogs are!

  2. What is Twitter and How Can I Use It?

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