Still baffled about Twitter

A couple of days ago, I asked why libraryfolk should care about Twitter. Iris asked a very similar question.

I really appreciated how much time and effort David Lee King put into answering this question, but I find his answers make me even more confused. I apologize in advance for the fisking.

With emerging trends, you really should play with the stuff you’re interested in, and let others mess with things that don’t interest you. But then – and this is important – SHARE. So with Twitter, I’ll watch twitter and tell you if I find something useful for libraries. You go watch something else, and report back, too – that’s how the blogosphere works! Make sense?

But…I am interested in Twitter. I have played around with it, and don’t see what use it can be in libraries.

3. keeping up-to-date with emerging tools (remember – Flickr started out as a silly web photography game, not the amazing social tool it’s turned into)
4. News updates – CNN and BBC both have twitter feeds (ooh – a library use!)

How will I be kept up to date on complex new technologies or news with a tool that only allows posts of 140 characters or less? Aren’t feeds a more powerful and flexible tool for this? What value is added for libraries to CNN or BBC news for via Twitter that isn’t dramatically surpassed by RSS or email alerts?

5. loosely following a well-wifi’d geek/techie conference

6. Following the thought processes of emerging tech trend thinkers…

Sure, if you don’t mind a very loose following and very small thoughtlets (again, 140 characters).

8. Check out a potential colleague’s twitter feed to see if you’d personally like them or not

I hope I’m never judged by a series of 140-character thoughtlets.

9. twitter as a personal note bucket – send yourself random thoughts that you don’t want to lose. They’re stored in your account’s history!

Can’t this can be done by email with much greater flexibility?

10. Current awareness search tool. For this to work, Twitter would need a search engine (which I don’t think it has) or something like Google would need to be used. SO a bit of a dream here…BUT stay with me here for a sec. With Flickr, you can troll the popular tags feature and see what’s going on in the world. I’m assuming that with Twitter, if something BIG happens, people using Twitter would be texting about it. That could be an amazing resource to get the “feel of the streets” during a major event (cool, another library use).

As DLK notes, the search feature doesn’t exist- so I don’t think that can count as a useful application. Second, I can’t imagine that anyone would effectively use Flickr to see what’s going on the world. Flickr is a great tool for sharing images, but as a way to keep up with current events, it…well, it stinks. It isn’t designed for that sort of thing. Also, if something BIG happens, you won’t need Flickr or Twitter to become aware of it.

Again, I’m really grateful that David Lee King made these suggestions, but I think Steve Lawson’s answer seems right on to me:

I don’t see a library application to Twitter, but it makes sense to me that a geographically dispersed group of acquaintances (like library bloggers) might find it a fun thing to use to keep tabs on each other.

When and if someone comes up with a way Twitter can be useful to libraries- please let me know!

2 thoughts on “Still baffled about Twitter

  1. I love “thoughtlets.” Very interesting and thoughtful dissection of Twitter, David. Your blog is major asset for those of us trying to determine what we need to know about and what is silly and/or useless.

    Email alerts are quite fast enough. We have to concentrate at work, after all, and not spend time on, “Gee whiz!” stuff.

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