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.