Twitter is a funny thing, and I have friends who really don’t like the idea of it; they feel it’s part of the continued shallowing of human communication. I think Twitter is just the opposite, I think it’s one of the most surprisingly effect social tools on the internet, although I’m far from keen on the name and I especially dislike saying ‘tweet’. Last night I was talking to Adrian, a great friend but a wholehearted Tweeter hater, about his loathing for the site. At almost exactly the same time I was being sent a message, via Twitter, by Christian Rieß (@FractalIB), who follows me after he saw my talk at GDC Europe, where I shamelessly begged for attendees to follow me. He was replying to another piece of shameless pleading that I’d put out on Twitter, asking if anyone knew of a place I could get things like artists mannequins, but made in plastic. (See the post).
His reply is potentially the most useful tweet I’ve ever received. It might actually be the most useful tweet I will ever receive.
It’s stuff like this that makes me refer to Twitter as a ‘tool’ rather than a social networking site, because it’s a seriously useful tool.
One of the coolest uses of it, for me, is following extremely smart people who work or study in areas where people meet technology, most commonly video games. Through the technology writer Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold) I started following Jane McGonigal (@avantgame), who creates games that are designed to convert play time into genuine benefits in the wider world. She wants to capture the hours played online and convert them into positives in the real world. This is inspiring stuff, and it’s good to see people doing things with games that I have only thought would work while I was drunk.
Twitter is also great for self promotion. You might well be reading this post simply because of my penchant for hash tagging my posts. Apart from that I like to draw cartoons, well, I write cartoons really, because the pictures never change. The cartoon is called Mars Rocks! and the blog has had over 3000 views in a few months, all hits generated from tweeting my bits off. In general I have no idea who’s looking, apart from Matt Warren (@docbadwrench) who is the only person to ever subscribe to the Mars Rocks! blog, and he has become their official god.
However, I very much doubt anything on Twitter will ever hit me like the message I received on the 21st of June from my friend Ciska: “Hi Jon, Andrew has had a terrible bicycle accident, while in the Lakes.” For a few hours I thought we’d lost Andrew (@andrewmarkwick), it was horrific and I expect I did very little work that morning. Whenever I think of the feeling of those hours I well up – you know the thing, where you keep your eyes open as wide as possible, so they glisten with the moisture but none of it breaks out to roll down your cheek, so it’s not proper crying, it’s just welling up. Got that?
Anyway, due to bone pinning, muscle grafts and morphine, Andrew was awake at some pretty crazy times, and because I live on the opposite side of the planet it made sense for me to be awake at those times, so we tweeted quite a bit. I doubt we’ll ever communicate as much as we did in those weeks after the accident ever again.
Thank you Twitter.