Did I Put the Twit In Twitter?

Monday evening I had the chance to attend an event at the UBS Forum at Minnesota Public Radio focusing on New Media, New Standards. It featured Dan Gilmore and was moderated by MPR’s Bob Collins. (It’s been a slammed kinda week so I hadn’t had a chance to post until now.) There were some great points made on the topics of ethics, standards, and credibility. Gilmore made some great observations and you can get a good feel of how the night went here.

What I found particularly fascinating was what was going on in the audience on all of the laptops that were open. Twitter was running rampant. Here I am with my handy notebook out ready to jot down a few notes and I think, “Hey, why not jump on the train to Twitterville and see what’s going on.” So, out comes the Macbook and I’m off and running courtesy of the fine folks at MPR and their foresight to have wireless access for guests.

As I said to some other folks, I’m still not sure what role I want Twitter to play in my life. Time is one thing I never have enough of and I have found that Twitter can be a big time sucker. Plus, I’m already pretty outspoken with a healthy supply of sarcasm and to have yet another channel for me to blab, especially in short bursts…well…perhaps I should step away from the keyboard.

In this case I thought it would be interesting to see the “tweets” fly in a room with a bunch of “new media” types gathered to discuss standards and credibility of citizen journalism. Here’s what I learned:

  1. I find it difficult to listen to a discussion and write a comment at the same time. How the hell do kids text so much without missing a step? I was in no position to be a participant in the discussion in the room.
  2. There are many brilliant thoughts being exchanged by people who seem to be more prone to write about them than verbally express them.
  3. Sarcasm is really easy on Twitter.
  4. Twittering away while a discussion is going on is like talking when someone else is…It’s kinda rude.
  5. Twittering is like talking only it’s written down…forever…to be repeated… and reprinted.

In fact, in the day following the forum #5 overshadowed the topic of the event itself…and also bit me in the butt a might. As it turns out many in the crowd were less than satisfied with the energy level of the discussion or the interaction between audience and presenters and it was Twittered about. So what happened was rather than people talking on the way out about their dissatisfaction or commenting politely, “That wasn’t what I expected.” and then moving on, the tweets were right there for the entire world to see…warts and all, myself included, as noted in Bob’s blog.

As with so much these days, only negative stuff was reflected upon. There actually where some great points made in the tweetstream by many of those in the audience not “speaking up.” As I pointed out to Bob in my comment to his post, indicating I didn’t like the event was far from the truth. My “live” Twitter participation was worth the evening itself. The topic and some of the discussion throughout the forum was icing on the cake.

In the end, the evening and its’ two conversations, online and in the room, was best summed up by one of the bloggers in attendance (and I apologize, I can’t locate who it was that said it) as the difference in two generations, further emphasizing the difference in the two mediums.

For me, there was another two lessons learned…

  1. Remember, to those that don’t know you, what you write could define you. Needless to say, to some I, as Ricky Ricardo would say, “have got some ‘splaining’ to do”
    to avoid being pigeon-holed.
  2. Finally, Twitter is more about quotable salvos lobbed into the ether. It’s not a replacement for a conversation. I believe I’ll keep my notebook closed when a conversation is happening in actual life. If nothing else, it’s
    more polite.

So, did I put the twit in Twitter. I don’t think so. This is what Twitter does, and it turns out it does it very well.