John Rentoul: Don't knock Twitter for being random

Louise Mensch has launched a site on which people can only discuss three subjects

Share

Two of my favourite people on Twitter are setting up an internet network for people "who find Twitter frustrating". Louise Mensch, who has used Twitter to promote her political mission better than any MP with the exception of Stella Creasy, the Labour MP who campaigns against "legal loan sharking", has launched Menshn with Luke Bozier, a Labour friend of mine who defected to the Tories at the start of the year.

Menshn is a US-only website for the moment, on which people can discuss only three subjects: the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign or the presidential election generally. (More subjects will be added later.) The point of it seems to be that comments will be "on topic", because the trouble with Twitter, apparently, is that it is "too random".

Too random? That is what I love about it. I don't find Twitter frustrating in the slightest. On the contrary, it has been the greatest computer-based boon to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness since Google and internet grocery shopping. If I want to discuss Mitt Romney's wife's love of dressage, and whether this is an asset to the Obama campaign, I may do so. And if someone else on Twitter wants to change the subject and make silly jokes about Ed Miliband ("Knock, knock." "Who's there?" "Ed." "Ed who?" "Ed Miliband." "Ed Miliband who?"), then that is fine by me, too.

Twitter has changed journalism, spreading news and expert comment at least 10 times faster than the old technology. When I started as a reporter in the House of Commons, the news came from the Press Association, a subscription news service. Then you had to find an expert on the end of a land line to comment on it. Now, if you want news, it will break on Twitter first. If you want a fact, Google will find it. If you want to know what it means, someone on Twitter will know. So, put me down as a sceptic. I'll sign on, of course, when they launch the UK version of Menshn for the Olympics. Although I have just one question. What happened to the "c"? Shouldn't it be Menschn?

No – I do not find Twitter frustrating. The only thing that is frustrating about it is the company's constant efforts to make something so brilliantly simple more complicated. I feel no need for a new internet thingy that would be more "on topic". In fact, the phrase "on topic" is going straight onto my Banned List, a self-sustaining internet theme that receives several new nominations a day on Twitter.

Mind you, if you had explained what Twitter was five years ago, I would have said, "Don't be daft; 140-character messages? Leave me alone; I've got an urgent blog post to write."

 

John Rentoul is Chief Political Commentator for 'The Independent on Sunday' and was named Political Tweeter of the Year by Public Affairs News

Twitter: @JohnRentoul

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial to the1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina in Buenos Aires  

Argentina poses no military threat to the Malvinas Islands. So why is the UK ratcheting up tension?

Alicia Castro
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?