Monday, April 20, 2009

Twitter: a fad, a colossal waste of time, or something else?

The Boston Globe today has an interesting article on the value of Twitter. Here are a few less than enthusiastic opinions that were offered in the article:

"I hate to be curmudgeonly," said Tom Davenport, who holds the President's Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College, "but Twitter reminds me of the CB radio fad. Twitter fans are the same people who last year were excited by Second Life. And where has that gone?"

On his blog on the Harvard Business Publishing website, Davenport wrote, "Let's face it - Twitter is a fad."

"First, as a professor there's a certain 'Decline of the West' aspect to the Twitter idea that you can say anything meaningful in 140 characters," he explained.

"But Twitter has more problems than that: First, it's not very measurable; second, I don't think it's possible to do brand management in 140 characters; and third, as soon as companies start using Twitter in an aggressive way, it could take on the clutter of e-mail."

And from Tom Simons, chief executive and creative officer at Boston-based marketing communications firm Partners+Simons:

"We pay a lot of attention to Twitter since it can be a very active market sensing tool," he said. "What's more, it's ushering in a new level of customer responsiveness because of the real time aspect of its feedback loop."

But does Simons tweet?

"I've done a lot of poking around within Twitter, and we have a company Twitter feed," he said, "but it is clear to me that in many respects Twitter is a very powerful magnet for valuable time that can be better spent elsewhere."

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Like a lot of authors today, I'm trying to decide whether it makes sense to fall into this potential time sucking rat hole, and my gut's telling me this is a fad that will eventually pass. I'm sure in the very near future the twitter community will, like all fads, embrace a "twitterized" novel or two (or three), and the publishing world will then jump on it and buy it for a ridiculous amount, which will leave all the rest of kicking ourselves for not jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, but I just don't see how this can sustain itself, and as much as younger cell phone users might enjoying texting, at some point they'll find themselves swamped with "tweets", and start regarding these as little more than email spam. At least that's my gut.

Anyway, for the time being I don't see the point for writers to jump on this, especially given that we typically spend 6+ months holed up writing our novels, so how many interesting "tweets" can we possibly send out there?

I do think, though, it would be an interesting experiment for one of the crime fiction webzines (Thuglit, for example), to try twittering their short fiction, and see what happens.

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