The Great Twitter Wars Begin

A while back I posted that I will not twit (tweet?).  I’ve since changed my mind, because so many people I admire and respect have become twitterers (tweeters?).  Over the past week or so, I’ve checked out twitter, and even posted a few of my own.  This, of course, makes me an expert on the subject.

My fellow curmudgeon, David Giacalone at f/k/a, posted a somewhat tongue-in-cheek critique of twittering and twitterers yesterday. 


At risk of being called a twit (or a thwowback), the f/k/a Gang is pre-emptively opting out.  This shouldn’t be a surprise coming from Proud Podcaste Pariahs.

Things might have improved a bit (or at least gotten a patina of adult and professional participation) since Time Magazine told us last year that “more often than not” Twitter’s members “are simply killing time.”  But, we’ve seen how often fellow blawgers jump on new technologies and crazes that end up creating an unmanageable and unjustifiable torrent of information and distraction.

If you think that constant marketing or attracting blawg visitors is at the core of your law practice (or your cyber-business), joining the Twitter revolution might make sense, as you follow dozens, scores, or maybe hundreds of other Tweeters throughout the day or hope they follow you.  But, I sure hope you’re not my lawyer (or my employee), adding yet another wave of cyber-distractions to your workday, instead of focusing on efficiently providing quality services.  For us, maintaining multiple levels of unessential multitasking is not a virtue.

David was careful to craft his post to reflect his own Luddite perspective, specifically noting that he has never been, nor did he intend to start being, on the cutting edge of technology.  But to some, most notably my other buddy Kevin O’Keefe, you would have thought that David posted that his mother wears army boots.

This is where things turned ugly.  Kevin responded to David’s post, both in a comment and a post of his own.


David Giacalone is the latest lawyer to dismiss Twitter as a mindless waste of time and to brag about the fact that he’s not using Twitter – like that’ll make other ignorant souls think more of him.

But hey, hang to your prejudices, ignorance, and a year old article in Time Magazine as reasons to tell lawyers that Twitter is not worthwhile.

Kevin provides a list of virtues of twitter as well.  I read through Kevin’s list and it all sounds great.  I have no doubt that each of the claimed virtue could happen.  Maybe.  But…that’s not exactly the twitter I’ve seen over the past week.

Before delving into my experience, note that Kevin is the main twitter cheerleader that comes across my twitter screen.  He’s like the energizer bunny of twitter, and uses it in pretty much the exact way that he promotes it to others.  He posts regularly, and its almost invariably about a new Lexblog client coming online, or a new post on Real Lawyers Have Blogs.  He markets.  And markets and markets.  Then he twits (tweets?) about marketing successes, large and small.  Kevin walks the walk as well as twits the twit.

That said, I have some trouble seeing it.  I follow Kevin’s twits amongst others, and find little there that supports the idea that we become “better lawyers through their growing networks on Twitter.”  Kevin’s twits are like watching a never-ending TV commercial.  Much as I admire Kevin, they don’t make me a better lawyer.  Or as Ron Coleman at Likelihood of Confusion puts it, Kevin mocks David but doesn’t really rebut him.  Kevin’s “virtues” are those only a true believer can love.

Others twit about what they are making for dinner (and what wine they enjoy with it, or that they have posted something on their blog, or, as in the case of Geeklawyer and CharonQC, they are as wild on twitter as they are elsewhere, though they twit constantly between themselves.  Lat twits in the third person, which somehow doesn’t surprise me. 

Some people twit constantly, even twitting to complain about their twitting addiction.  Others rarely.  Some substantively.  Others just to connect to someone, somewhere in the midst of a dreary day.  As a means of communications, it’s, well, strange. 

Twitter is what Kevin says it is, and it’s also what David fears it is.  It’s a disconnected, never-ending stream of consciousness series of one-liners that may, or may not, add or detract to your day.  My guess is that it’s a lifeline for lawyers who really want a water-cooler but don’t have one.  But it’s not exactly fulfilling, in that there’s no assurance that you get any real or timely reaction to anything you twit. 

Then again, many of the twitterers are followed by hundreds, even thousands, of others, assuming that they are online and reading.  And yet again, if you aren’t following twitter all day long, you can come back to find pages of twits of utterly no consequence that just sucks time and life out of you.

I use the word twit throughout as a big, since I’m well aware that the appropriate term is to call each 140 character or less post a “tweet”.  My curmudgeon head makes me feel compelled to poke a little fun at this odd new technology, as I’ve always been uncomfortable about new technology.  Yes, I’m a Philistine.  And I’m not adept at using twitter, don’t quite get much of it, and watch in amazement as others twit away all day long.

From where I sit, this is how I see twitter content break down:  About 30% mundane personal information (like what someone is having for lunch); Another 50% flagrant marketing for self-promotion;  Then there’s 10% of funny anecdotes or links that are of general interest to others;  Finally, 10% of actual communication between twitterers. 

Is this worth the time it sucks out of your day, particularly when added to the time checking RSS feeds, blog posts and links, news stories, emails and anything else that comes across one’s computer?  Not really.  If I’m busy, twitter is the first thing to go, providing the least benefit of all the myriad forms of hi-tech communications.  Way too many tweets of way too little value and interest.

But that’s my view.  I expect to tweet again, but only when I have absolutely nothing better to do and too much time on my hands.  No matter how sweet the marketing pitch is made, whether by Kevin or any of the other fans of twitter, it’s just not that useful, and to establish one’s twitter bones requires that one spend an awful lot of time tweeting, even if you have nothing to tweet about or no one cares to tweet you back. 

Those who are engaged in daily tweeting are invested in the technology.  To accept David’s views as reasonable is to admit that they are wasting their lives trying to validate this new technology.  There are, to be sure, thousands of people, lawyers, who seem to be engaged in twittering.  How many are active, or if they were being totally honest, benefit from it, is another story. 

There is a difference between being engaged in 100 ongoing kinda, sorta conversations, and having one decent conversation.  There is a difference between sifting through 100 advertisements, even from friends, to locate one cool link that you actually want to read.  If I get one meaningful piece of information out of 100 tweets, is it worth it?  That’s a choice each of us has to make.  Personally, if I need to connect to another human being, twitter is not going to do the trick.   It falls at the lowest end of the communication spectrum.

The harsh words between Kevin and David are very unfortunate.  Kevin is deeply invested in twittering, and is fighting against those, like David, with substantial credibility, calling his baby ugly.  Kevin need not have been so harsh.  If twitter is the tide that Kevin claims it is, then there is nothing that David could do to stop it from coming in. 

They both approach this new-fangled form of communication from different perspectives, different purposes.  Kevin markets, and sees marketing as a goal in itself.  David doesn’t.  I don’t either.  I understand Kevin’s purpose and reasoning, and realize that there are far more people trying desperately to market themselves to make a buck then people like David and me who find it very distasteful.  But my disdain for marketing isn’t nearly as strong as Kevin’s interest in promoting it, so I fully expect him to win every battle because he cares so much more than I do.  David’s not Kevin’s enemy.  Nor am I.  Kevin, and twitter, will have to pass muster with the thousands of others who will either care or not.  We’re just two old lawyers.

But I don’t begrudge those who are clearly enjoying it, finding it useful and beneficial and chose to spend their day tweeting away.  Tweet on, Garth.

38 comments on “The Great Twitter Wars Begin

  1. David Giacalone

    Amen.

    As usual (and, oddly, especially when we’re in agreement), you have so many insightful, quotable lines in this post, I don’t know where to start excerpting it at my weblog.

  2. Susan Cartier Liebel

    Scott, you’ve made so many great points in this post. Twitter takes some getting used to and so much of it is one’s personality.

    Let me share how I use Twitter. I follow people who interest me from a ‘work’ perspective, those I would like to get to know or already know but find e-mail is not conducive or quick.

    I have had the opportunity to bringing ‘closer’ those whose blogs I read and would like to get to know. Twitter enables me (once we are following each other) to send a direct message in a very friendly and unobtrusive way. It’s exceedingly informal.

    As a result, it has enhanced both my regular blog and Solo Practice University as others I would never have discovered myself have reached out to me for faculty opportunities.

    There is a friendly, casual informality about Twitter which allows a difference kind of transparency.

    I also feed my blog posts to Twitter for those who don’t use RSS or visit my blog for whatever reason. It is another sharing outlet.

    I will also share what I am reading, especially when it is timely and important for those who follow me but I simply don’t have time to blog.

    When you combine it with Twitter Search (a tool I use to find who has responded to me while I wasn’t on Twitter) it enables me to answer them even if not in real time.

    I’ve also watched new lawyers and law students start to join conversations and start creating a network before they need them as they are still in school. And new lawyers are meeting others which I have to believe has already generated business opportunities and referrals.

    Since lawyering is about connections, networking, referrals, reputation and publicity, when Twitter is used effectively it is another ‘tool’ to achieve this end.

    You sit in a very different place in your career. And new technology is always intimidating and a curiosity. So, I fully appreciate where you are coming from, too.

    But I am also so glad you are on Twitter. Even with your few ‘tweets’ you are bringing some fun, too.

  3. Kevin OKeefe

    Sorry that I jumped David, that was unfortunate and I’ll apologize to David for that. You’re spot on to jump me on it.

    But you’re mischaracterizing my use of Twitter. ‘He posts regularly, and its almost invariably about a new Lexblog client coming online, or a new post on Real Lawyers Have Blogs.’ That’s total BS.

    Look at my last 100 Twitter posts. I see things in my hundreds of RSS feeds – by source and by subject and share the headline and the link. Those are 90% of my Twitter posts.

    I also post on Twitter what I am excited about. Could be standing in Grant Park on election night, headed to a meeting with someone, or the launch of a new client blog.

    No question that clients of LexBlog get some benefit to my Twittering. No question that LexBlog as a growing entity gets some benefit to my Twittering. I tweet some (small percent) about stuff I’m involved in so LexBlog and LexBlog clients are the by product of that.

    Perhaps my jumping David brought your calling my Twitter posts a ‘never-ending TV commercial.’ I’m sorry about that. I’m also sorry that you would so mischaracterize what I do on Twitter. If I ‘tweeted’ like that before, then my ‘tweeting’ has greatly matured.

    For folks wanting to take a look at my Twitter posts and judge for themselves go to http://twitter.com/kevinokeefe

  4. SHG

    Your tweets will speak for themselves, so no need to argue about how to characterize them or be sorry that I “mischaracterized” them.  I haven’t surveyed your last hundred tweets (nor do I plan to), but tell them they way they seem to me.   Maybe your sense of what your twittering about is different from others?  Maybe you’re still a little too defensive about all this.  Maybe we need to have a few more beers and discuss this (you pay).

    I’m glad to hear that you will be de-escalating the war.  We are all aware of your interest in promoting certain things, but there’s no need to attack because not everyone wants to bet on your horse.  We’re allowed to differ.

    But I have to admire how you managed to get your own twitter link into my comment for people to look at.  Like I said, the energizer bunny, always working the marketing angle.  Normally, I would delete self-serving links in comments, but since you’re a friend, you get a free pass.

  5. Kevin OKeefe

    Beers are good, there must be some work in Seattle for you to take the 6 hour ride this time.

    I understand you’re not going to look at my Twitter posts but to make bold statements without looking at what you’re passing judgment on seems short sighted.

    As for the link, I need to put it there for folks to look at what you you will not.

    Seems that you feel because I run a company in a particular industry when I talk about that industry that I am trying to sell something. I don’t see it that way.

    By the way, among my tweets just now:
    * Link to your post on Bodine Nazi pitch.
    * Lawyers using social media to find out about jurors and witnesses
    * Link to a Seth Godin ebook
    * Link to third party post on tangible media death being greatly exaggerated.

    Take care and have a great Sunday.

  6. Charon QC

    Scott…. enjoyed that article. I’m afraid I abuse Twitter disgracefully …… but I have three screens on my desk and a ludicrous Tweet or three keeps me out of the Bars.

    There have been some good info posts on twitter (and news) – but I find it almost impossible to use Twitter sensibly. Far prefer blogging and podcasting.

    Good post!

  7. SHG

    Thanks, Charon, but this thing you’ve got going with the Geek doesn’t seem to keep him from the bars.  Of course, it’s not like he could get a table at the Ivy if he was sober.

  8. Venkat

    Interesting post Scott. I tended to be fairly skeptical of twitter but as I use (and abuse) it I find that I enjoy it. I don’t expect any direct business to come from it (probably not my purpose anyway), but I do (and have already) made social connections. A couple of them are outside the professional arena but to me this shows it’s a way to network with people. (It increases interactions with certain people I don’t really know, as Susan stated above.)

    Now this may not be useful. Many lawyers I know simply don’t need to network. They have a solid client base and referral sources (and reputation) and “networking” in the classical sense would be a waste of time.

    I sense that some of the differing views on legal marketing come from the different places people are at in the legal profession. There’s also a tendency to glom all practices together. Certain types of lawyers will get clients from direct contact on the internet. Others (such as myself) will not. There are those who view the internet and twitter as the game-changer in legal marketing. For some people in certain practices this is true. For others this will never be true. This leads to an obvious disagreement.

    Charon QC on a side-note, I’m curious to see what you’ve gotten out of podcasting. I’ve tried to listen to about 100 different podcasts by different people but haven’t really gotten through one. I do enjoy your crazy posts though. I love the fact that you are brazen with what you say and talk law/drinking.

  9. Gideon

    I see this the way Charon sees it. I use twitter as another instant messaging tool. Because, frankly, that’s what it is. You’re deluding yourself if you think this is new marketing. It’s fun, it’s entertaining in short doses and can be useful for up to the second news of natural disasters.

    Other than that…well…to each his own.

  10. Gideon

    And, as I just twitted, those who have been connected to the net since the early 90s should see a striking similarity between twitter and plain old IRC. Frankly, IRC was far more fun.

  11. Kevin OKeefe

    Maybe Twitter is no good for marketing. But it’s a great tool to pass on info that you believe others will find interesting. It’s also a great tool to get to know more people.

    LexBlog business is up about 20% as a result of my Twitter use in getting to know people and sharing what I see.

    A young lawyer doing business work in Milwaukee got 5 good clients in 6 weeks through Twitter.

    Like folks have said here, some lawyers will find Twitter helpful, others not.

    Thanks Scott for generating this worthwhile discussion. As always, you do it better than anyone.

  12. Vickie Pynchon

    Kevin is one of two lawyer twitter junkies who induced me to drink the Twit-Kool-Aid. I DO post my own material on twitter and recently “live” twittered a mediation session (anon of course) that was – even at 145 characters – as instructive for me as it might have been for anyone who might have been “following.”

    I use Twitter like conversation with co-workers during the day now that I don’t HAVE co-workers anymore and work out of a home office. I’m hoping my addiction doesn’t escalate but am also assuming I’ll grow weary with Twitter b4 that (fingers crossed).

    Know Kevin twitters about non-commercial stuff because he used to be one of few I “followed” and .. . . frankly . . . grew bored with the sports updates (sorry Kevin!)

  13. Nicole Black

    Twitter is a fabulous professional resource, and I respectfully disagree with those of you who assert that it’s simply “social”.

    Mark my words-Twitter is where the internet and web marketing is going. As long as you use apps, such as Tweetdeck, which allow you to funnel and make sense of the Twitter “noise”,Twitter is accessible and useful in any number of ways.

    Twitter opens doors and allows for new avenues of conversation, networking, connectedness and friendship.

    Twitter is where it’s at, my friend. Give it 6 mos. You’ll see…

  14. Mike

    My position is in the middle. I don’t think Twitter is a waste of time. I also don’t think it’s serious business.

    I personally enjoy bs’ing with my friends. Twitter (which I don’t use) and Facebook (which I do use) are ways to do this. So what’s the problem?

    Why do people create so much drama over people finding ways to keep in touch with those they like? If anything, you’d think people would new technologies that are helping end the alienation of (wo)man from society.

    It’s not like anyone is arguing that people should quit work and just hang out in virtual worlds all day. People can get work done while having a few BS sessions. In fact, people who work in an office manage to get work done while chatting with co-workers.

    So I think grumpiness towards social networking is really misplaced. Still, I’m amused that many try casting keeping in touch with friends as something super serious.

    Twitter is mostly about bs’ing. And there is nothing wrong with that.

  15. BRIAN TANNEBAUM

    I think the best thing about Twitter is that you started following me Scott.

    In all honesty, I am a lawyer who initially thought twitter was a complete waste of time, much like a board game I don’t understand – that’s why I didn’t like it – I didn’t get it. I do believe it is a ton of social garbage, but I have twitter status on both my blogs, and I now understand it can be a great way to drive traffic throughout the web. I can post that I have a new blog post, and it’s on Twitter, and both my blogs. My 137 or so followers can send that out to their friends. I can also ask for a referral to a lawyer anywhere and see what I get back (haven’t done that yet).

    I learned not to follow everyone who follows you (some are just chatting about nothing all day) and tweetdeck really makes it easy.

    Twitter does have a purpose. I call it Facebook without all the pictures of your kids. I think it’s the future, even though I get a headache from all the tweets about social BS.

  16. Mark Merenda

    The jury is still out on Twitter for me. I am going to hang with it for a while, but not forever, if it doesn’t prove more valuable. Main complaints: There are guys like Guy Kawasaki and Kevin O’Keefe (both of whom I like and admire) who seem to tweet every 20 seconds; there are a lot of the “what I’m making for dinner” posts — charming and friendly, but with time at a premium…On the other hand, the main benefit I have seen are the links to interesting articles and sites that would not otherwise have come to my attention. Nice to have a bunch of my friends and acquaintances scouring the Internet for me, searching out the good stuff.

  17. Windypundit

    Scott, I signed up to twitter today. I figure if you’re on board, I probably should be too. I assume Gideon is ahead of both of us. Besides, I want to make sure no one else gets to be Windypundit on twitter.

  18. SHG

    You make a very important point, that one of my more techno-savvy friends told me when Twitter first came out.  Even if you don’t plan to use a new technology, lock up your name asap or someone else might decide to grab it.

    And yes, Gideon is of course way ahead of the curve.  Though he selected a curious twitter name, Gideon Strumpet.  I’d never thought of him as a strumpet before, but to each his own. 

  19. David Giacalone

    This is a great discussion. Thanks to everyone who shared their Twitter experiences. Of course, being naive and a techno-cretin, and only having blogged for five years, I had NO IDEA posting my curmudgeonly, self-mocking perspective on another new web craze would generate actual debate and sharing.

    Meanwhile, we’re not supposed to go to bed angry, but Kevin forgot to send me that apology he promised in his Comment above before he retired last night. Of course, he might have tweeted his mea culpa, and that’s why I missed it.

  20. Nicole Black

    What gives with all the comments re: dinner posts? Kind of strange, in my opinion (says “she who frequently tweets about dinner and wine”.)

    Part of Twitter is connecting with other professionals on a different level-getting a sense of who they are as people.

    Personally,the sports tweets are boring as hell to me, but those who post them also post re: other topics that interest me.

    If you don’t like the dinner posts, the cute kid comment posts, etc., skip ‘em and just read the ones that include links to info. that interests you.

  21. David Giacalone

    A few minutes ago, Kevin left this message at my original post:

    “Sorry that I jumped on you with 2 feet here. Took post as advising lawyers to pass on Twitter, as opposed to what you described it as, the view of ‘curmudgeon.’

    “In any case, the resulting discussion has been very healthy.”

    And, I wrote this reply:

    “Kevin, I don’t mind someone jumping with ‘two feet’ on something I write. I do mind someone with a large pulpit doing so despite what was actually written, and in such a nasty tone. Your very similar post, which has been linked to by many popular sites, has not yet been edited to reflect your changed attitude and realization. When that happens, I’ll fully accept this apology. Until then, I appreciate this gesture.”

  22. David Giacalone

    Just to follow-up: Kevin has still made no change to his high-profile posting to reflect his purported regret. You don’t have to be a curmudgeon or a cynic to be unsurprised.

  23. Kevin OKeefe

    Grow up David. If you want to comment on my blog to express your feelings, please do.

    I’ve already responded here with an apology. I’m not in the habit of updating my posts which most people have already received via an original RSS feed.

    I’m sorry I jumped you with two feet and I am sorry that this whole ‘twitter wars’ discussion has taken on a life of its on.

    I champion as best I can innovative technology that I think makes lawyers’ lives better and improves the image of our profession. Twitter included.

    When I see someone who other lawyers are following dissing Twitter as a possible waste of time, whether they excuse themselve as a ‘curmudgeon’ or not, I call a spade a spade.

    At this point, anyone saying Twitter is not a worthwhile tool for lawyers (should a lawyer wish to take some time to understand Twitter) can only be excused as not yet understanding Twitter.

    Again I’m sorry if I offended anyone with my post. But let’s move on. There are far far more serious problems in the world than lawyers being upset with each other.

  24. SHG

    Do you really think telling David to “grow up,” after calling him ignorant, is the best way to put this behind you?

  25. Kevin OKeefe

    Point well taken Scott. I’m just PO’ed that we’re even discussing ruffled feathers. Understandably I ruffled some and it will probably not be the last time knowing my Irish heritage. At this point, I’ll leave it at I’m sorry and say no more.

  26. Sam Glover

    Nice comments. Kevin is, interestingly, one of those tweeting lawyers I don’t follow. His volume is too high, and I have an RSS feeder to follow the blogs that interest me. In fact, I don’t follow any lawyers whose updates are basically links to blogs. Bo-ring.

    I use Twitter to get a chuckle, to get to know people, and to meet new people I think are interesting. It helps me to expand my network, which helps me get new clients. I also link my Twitter updates to Facebook, so my “friend friends” can see what I am up to.

  27. SHG

    I think you really captured the flavor of it, Sam, better than I did.  I really don’t know what to do with, expect from, twitter.  I’m still trying to get it, but I’m certainly not there yet.

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