Harry Seldon's blog

Fractals, Chaos, and Control Systems on Rails


Why I love Twitter (and sometimes hate it)

Posted by Harry Seldon on June 14, 2009


I have been using Twitter only for a couple of months and I love it. Here is why.

The twittosphere is a thinkosphere

A tweet pretends to be an answer to the question “what are you doing?”. But clearly people answer the questions “What are you thinking about?”. For instance they post a link to an article they are reading, they post a link to a blog post they wrote. They tell you what they like or dislike.
At some point people were indeed telling what they were doing. A lot of tweets as fascinating as “I am eating an apple” or “I am going to brush my teeth” were made. But, as you guess, this quickly bored people and so they started elevating the debate, by speaking about technology, politics, news etc.
So Twitter is a set of thoughts. It is a sphere of thoughts, it is a … thinkosphere. I have been (slowly) developing a website called ThinkoSphere for a few years now. So you see why I can only love Twitter. For those who wonder, I’ll come back in a future post on the main similarities and differences between ThinkoSphere and Twitter. Twitter is called a microblogging application. Well, a micropost for a blog is nothing else than a thought. A tweet is a “Quantum of thought”, taking the expression from this very good article: The Future of Social Media: Is a Tweet the New Size of a Thought? by Wired.

Twitter is sending digital real time signals

Twitter is real time, you get a news as soon as it happens, you get someone’s thought as soon as it is formulated. Twitter sends Signals (or stream or flow) because the set of thoughts is not static, you can easily process it (like in Digital Signal Processing) or filter it. For instance you can make a search on a keyword, AF447 for instance. Thus you are filtering all the tweets for this word. Using the advanced search you can also filter for the language and a couple of other parameters. Twitter is about signals because their digital public interface (API) is very well done so you can generate automatically a tweet for instance from a blog post (eg using twitterfeed) or from a social bookmarking application. You can also export your twitter stream to your blog (you can see mine live on the right sidebar of this blog).
Thanks to CNN and others, live news has existed for a while but with twitter it has become digital. That is to say it is directly accessible to your computer. A tweet is often accompanied by a link and this link can de directly clicked. If you hear a news on CNN and want more information, you need to go to your pc, make a search and then follow the link. Quite a long process for a young person in the XXIst century! CNN has quickly understood the interest of twitter so they got rapidly an account and it is now the second most followed account. Do not ask me who is the first one I have never heard of that guy except for twitter related questions.
Real time is so fashionnable and important that it is going to be the theme of Techcrunch CrunchUp and Le Web conferences this year.

Twitter uses Telepathy

Do you know that telepathy exists? Twitter invented it. This is important. I actually think that this point is the one that explains the success of Twitter. It is the secret of Twitter! When you think or say to a friend “Techcrunch is a great blog” or “I love Twitter” Techcrunch or Twitter will never know you thought about them. Even if you publish a post, they won’t know you spoke about them so kindly, unless you send them so much traffic they notice it or unless you use trackbacks. With Twitter, telepathy is possible. You tweet your thought, that is you write “@Techcrunch is a great blog” and here you are. Because of the simple @, Techcrunch received a “reply” and thus they are aware you spoke about them. Preceding a word with a # also allows you to point out this word for the hashtags service.

By the way this gives me the idea that it could be interesting to make a generalized trackback system where each time you mention someone (and not only an article) in a blog post it sends a ping on a special page of the person’s blog, a “they speak about me” page for instance.

Twitter is about making new friends

You often make new friends by talking to people with whom you share some common interests. It is the same on twitter and it is more pronounced than on Facebook. On Facebook you are more or less supposed to add as friend people you already know. You are also supposed to use some real name. It is not the case on Twitter, you have a pseudo and you can follow who you want, in general the reason is based on some common interest you share with the other twitterer.

Twitter is a really easy stream aggregation service

You probably already read a bunch of RSS streams (1), with Twitter you can blend all the rss streams in one chronologically ordered stream.

A few things I hate

Let’s see now the things I hate about Twitter.

Website is very poor

On the twitter website you cannot make groups, you cannot manage several accounts. You are limited to 10 searches. You cannot have a multi column display. To have all these things working you need a twitter client. There are a bunch of them:

  • TweetDeck The one I prefer for its simplicity, its interface, its fastness.
  • Twhirl very useful when you want to deal with several accounts simultaneously but maintaining a strict separation between accounts.
  • Seesmic Desktop is good to merge several Twitter accounts and also Facebook accounts. The interface looks good but the client is still in beta. And for some reasons it is slow and buggy (2) on my Linux 64 bits. It will be a must once it is possible to manage separately several accounts and once it is faster. That is when Twhirl and Seesmic Desktop will be merged. Indeed both are made by Seesmic.
  • Statuzer There is a promising conversation view.
  • DestroyTwitter and Spaz: Simple twitter clients.

Way of Managing groups is awkward

It is very easy to manage searches but I have not found very easy ways to manage groups of people you follow: On TweetDeck you can easily add people to a group. Starting from a group you have a list of people you want to add to that group. But you cannot easily add a person to several groups. Starting from a person there is no option to add it to groups. On Seesmic Desktop it is exactly the opposite! Groups do not exist on Twitter so you must recreate them for each client you use. Obviously nobody will do that. So I am still waiting for an awesome Twitter client.

Twitter website is often deadly slow

Obviously they never anticipated their success. So they are “following” their success. They need to improve their infrastructure.

There is no advanced filtering

It is not easy to filter search results by language. In clients you can’t. The only thing you can do is using Twitter advanced search. You cannot subscribe to the tweets of someone, filtered by language. For instance if someone tweets in English and French you cannot only get the English Tweet. That is why I created 2 accounts one in English and one in French.

Dealing with several accounts is a pain

It is a pain even with Twhirl or Seesmic Desktop because you often need to go to the website (for advanced search for instance) and the website does not allow you to be connected with several accounts on several pages (like too many websites by the way, this is due to the web session management by cookies…).
I would have preferred to have one account and having people able to follow only my French tweets or English tweets or both.


Twitter is awfully spammed. It is the new heaven for spammers. Fortunately Topify helps you quickly knowing if a new follower is a spammer. But it is not yet a full antispam. I would like to have a software preventing spammers to follow me based on word analysis or simply based on a black list.

Twitter is a time sinkhole

You can spend hours on Twitter, not even noticing it. One reason is because there is no night on twitter. At any time you can find interesting people chatting about things you love. Another reason is as the website is poor, you will need a special application for anything you want to do (140+ apps). So you will spend a lot of time configuring twitter for your blog, for your RSS stream etc. If you want a Top 10 of Most Popular Twitter Applications, here is one.


After Google and Facebook, Twitter is the new internet revolution. So join the Twittersphere and follow me!

[EDITED My Twitter name is now @Fractalharry and finally I will stick to only one account to tweet in French and English]
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/harry.seldon (Go to http://www.facebook.com/username if you want to set up your own Facebook url)

(1) RSS streams about Ruby on Rails for instance. Notice that about all the guys mentionned in this post are on twitter so you can also follow them.
(2) I weirdly lose the first column sometimes. That is the column is there but empty while it should not.
(3) twittersphere 124000 results on google, twittosphere 95100 results, tweetosphere 5580 results. Which one do you prefer?

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