Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Twitter - The Internet is Coming to Get You

We are at the dawn of a new technology era. Search is dead, arise the era of being found.

Twitter is big news at the moment, celebrities seem to be falling over themselves to establish a presence, national news agencies are running stories on the power of the medium, even my non-geek mates are signing up.

Much of the discussion centres around the usefulness or not of twitter. "Where's the ROI?" scream the business people and cynics, "it's just a fad", "it'll be dead by next year".

It's true that it can draw you in and you can suddenly find yourself one hour older and not necessarily wiser however the same can be said for the Internet in general.

I signed up for twitter in late 2007 but only really started actively using it in the summer of 2008. It took leaping in feet first to really understand the power of what I was tapping into.

I have been blown away by the useful connections that I and my colleagues at Esendex are making. For example:

Jonathan (@jbjon) and Darren (@darrenliddell) have been doing some R&D that led them to investigate some of the Google APIs. Jonathan tweeted about his experiences and was contacted by someone from Google pointing him in the direction of some new test APIs that would help.

The chances of Jonathan & Darren finding these APIs via searching were remote, not least because they didn't know they existed. The important difference with this new paradigm is that the information came and found them.

It's like walking into a library and the books knowing what you want to read about without your rummaging through the shelves.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good rummage and you still need to do the good old manual trawl through Google to find most things. What twitter brings is those serendipitous moments that enhance your life. Another example

I follow @charlesarthur, Technology Editor at the Guardian, as I'm interested in his take on the technology stories of the day. He tweeted about catching up on the The Wire, I'm doing the same and @ replied about a particular scene I thought was brilliant.

A small interchange ensued in which he suggested a book I should read by the writer David Simon. Now Charles actually got the title wrong, but no problem, Gary Marshall who also follows Charles saw this and tweeted me with the correct one.

Gary and I then had an exchange about David Peace books, he hadn't yet read The Damned Utd, so I was able to recommend it to him.

None of us are friends, despite what twitter says, but for the that moment we were able to share a common interest that enriched our lives.

This would not have happened otherwise.

Yes, technologically twitter is nothing new and since the early days of networks we've had ways to share snippets of information. Twitter however has captured the imaginations of enough people to make it useful.

How it's done this, through luck, celebrity endorsement, who knows. But whatever the magic sauce or confluence of factors it is enriching our lives and that should be applauded.

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