The digerati are all agog at another distributed social web service we never knew we needed and didn't ask for. Twitter is something of a cross between instant messages and text messaging, by way of blogging - tiny status reports that users share with the world. Having received several invites over the last two weeks (which seems to be the total history of this red-hot little venture), and being curious about these things in general, I signed on.
And now I know about Howard's travels, and Jason's workouts, and Fred's Blackberry, and Jason's listening habits. That's, er, nice, I guess. I mean, I do want to stay in touch. Really. But I don't need alerts sent to my cell phone every time a buddy is watching Mayberry RFD on cable and wants to alert his network. Not necessary. And frankly, given the pace of my days of late, it doesn't rise to the level of must-see networking.
So I was about to pass on Twitter. And then, this message flashed across my Twitterstream:
Driving down to West Cork used to be a quiet pleasure.
Now it's a melancholy chore.
Still, the sky is absolutely full of stars.
Wow. Poetry. Quite possibly the best social networking post I'd ever read. And I thought, hmmm - this Twitter thing may have legs, but not in the way its founders or a few self-obsessed wired wonksters may think. See, Twitter is a poetry machine.
That beautiful entry above, by the way, was written by Steve Bowbrick, a friend of mine from the crazy Internet bubble days in London - the first bubble, people. We're talking '96-97. Steve's one of our guest authors over at newcritics, and one of Britain's original digital entrepreneurs. But he'd just lost his father and was journeying back to Ireland to be with his mother. And in his three-sentence Twitter post, written on his mobile phone, Steve told such a human story.
So I started to pay more attention, and found myself reading the Twitter posts of strangers on the service's general feed. I didn't really care what they were doing; this wasn't a voyeuristic journey. And it really wouldn't be, unless you had a big-time jones for the mundane. No, I went looking for words to stitch together. Because although Twitter is seen as another cool social networking tool - a way to stay plugged in, as if that's what we really need - I saw it as a way to plumb the common mindset, to see what communal wisdom and beauty and insight the group of geeks could register with their thumb a-flyin'.
These lines are taken from Twitter posts today, many of them simply "texted" to the Twitter website (which limits each post to 140 characters). The assembly is mine.
Pouring another cup of coffee and trying to get motivated.
Revelling in playing the Clash at inappropriate levels of volume.
Napping is seriously heaven.
Rip, mix, burn.
waiting for my clothes to dry
today is not starting well. at least i didn't spill the coffee on my pants.
underway. crying as usual. i hate this part.
ate sandwiches at lunch.
Emailing Dr. Kapp
None of your business
nothing wrong with scooby do
but it wasn't even
to help starving kids with cancer
This can become addictive: the slight relationship between the words and their original writers. The scrolling collective stream of consciousness. I may do more - please contribute your own.
UPDATE: Steve Bowbrick has a moving elegy to his father up on his blog. It's entitled A Dictionary of My Dad and it's well worth a full read; here's an excerpt:
Knowledge – proper, factual knowledge – stood, for my Dad, for freedom. Freedom from ignorance and poverty and the arbitrary nature of existence. We shared that love of knowledge but I think the difference is a lack of urgency: I guess I can take it or leave it. For him it was life or death.