Rhodri Marsden: Why are we still hearing so much about Twitter?
Wednesday 07 January 2009
There's been so much guff written recently about the micro-blogging service called Twitter that I almost feel guilty for bringing the subject up. It's been 18 months since a reader first emailed in to pose the question of whether it actually did anything useful; at the time, I hedged my bets, placed a slight question mark over the founder's claim that it would become the "pulse of society", and pointed out that if you like exchanging witty 'bons mots' with your mates or keeping up with news of delays on public transport, it certainly beat using the telephone.
But as the number of Twitter accounts surged to around three million last year, people started to stick the knife in. Associated Newspapers led the charge when an 'Evening Standard' journalist bemoaned how he couldn't get it to work properly, and complained that he couldn't find the celebrities who were supposedly using it. Then the 'Daily Mail' weighed in last week: it had mustered all its ingenuity to find the celebs, but seemed furious that they dared to post relatively mundane thoughts – e.g. "gone to walk the dog" – rather than juicy stories that could be followed up – e.g. "trying to score drugs off Steve before meeting Trisha for weekly clandestine erotic massage".
So the 'Mail' labelled it "boring". But they're missing the point. Twitter obviously isn't intrinsically entertaining. It's a benign service – in the same way that the internet would be "boring" if all it contained was the torpid mumblings of teenage goths, or swivel-eyed racists commenting on every news story as if it were an affront to their personal freedom. You can't criticise Twitter for being boring if you don't contribute to the pool; that would be like heaping derision on an empty Tupperware box for not containing a delicious ham sandwich.
So forget the endless, tedious speculation about whether the Twitterer who claims to be Jeremy Clarkson is actually Jeremy Clarkson. Ignore the self-publicising internet entrepreneurs who spend a day following 18,000 random people purely in order to attract attention. Ignore the companies and PR agencies hell-bent on turning it into an advertising platform. And just get on there to redress the balance. Or don't – I mean, it's a free country, after all. But I bet the 'Daily Mail' will be using it before the year is out.
Email any technology gripes to firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the discussions on the blog at www.independent.co.uk/cyberclinic .
Currently under discussion: Is there any point in landlines any more?
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