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The Usefulness of Twitter

I started Twitter the way many people do: by mocking it.  “Why would anyone want to know what I’m having for breakfast?”  After enough positive reviews, I figured what’s the harm in giving it a try?  I tried. It moved from “try” to an interesting experiment to a real medium.  I have more regular Twitter readers than I do blog readers.  I have more Facebook readers, but they get my Twitter feed, so that point is kind of moot.  If I want to say something, and I want to be heard, Twitter is my biggest megaphone – and people listen.

Today was a new threshold – Twitter gave me information that no one else could.  

Over the weekend, my iPhone dropped off the net.  No text messages, no emails, no voicemail, no phone calls.  (Note the order there.  My “phone” is rarely used for phone calls.)  I was pretty sure the phone was fine, and confirmed that by traveling around.  I know my house wasn’t the problem because I’d been using it lots at home.  AT&T’s support was unavailable.  I entered a support request on an awful form, one that had a required field for “problems with your phone” even though my phone had no problems.  Still no response on that, 48 hours later.  At times I marvel that I willingly give a company $500/year for such crappy service.

I also tweeted: “Having all sorts of problems with my cell signal. AT&T appears to be having equipment problems in Arlington/Lexington.”  It was a message in a bottle.  I didn’t expect an answer.  Really, I was just posting to a few hundred friends in case they were wondering why I wasn’t returning their call.

Lo and behold, I got a reply.  I have no idea who this guy is.  Apparently he lives less than a mile away from me.  But he knew my problem, and he knew  why I was having the problem: “@dunster I saw your Arlington/AT&T related Tweet. The tower on Route 2 near Dow Ave is fuct. They’ve been working on it all weekend.”  Here’s this guy I don’t know, but he can see my problem and see the cause of the solution – and he can share the information in a meaningful way, and the world can see the answer.

This is a powerful network effect. 


Comment from Jason Butler
Time: November 18, 2008, 8:40 am

The Twitter/Facebook pipeline is very useful. I can put a note out on the wire (like “I need a designer”) and I know that the few hundred people most likely to care are likely to at least scan it.

Comment from Leanne
Time: November 21, 2008, 3:39 am

Um…Dan…not all of us are MIt grads – just your regular, average everyday smartie pants. Could you clue me in on Twitter. I had no service for a while today on my iphone. I had no idea what was going on – just shut it down and waited. I take it that there is a network available that I’m not privvy to. BTW – I’m not going the facebook route – not for nothing, but I kind of feel like I’ve aged out. I’m ok with that. 40 plus – but with iphone in hand, is good for me.

Comment from Josh
Time: November 23, 2008, 11:26 am

I enjoy learning people’s Twitter moment!

Comment from dunster
Time: November 23, 2008, 8:28 pm

Leanne, Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computers.

Friends are people who have chosen to “follow” your updates.

Your updates are restricted to 140 characters. It’s sort of a haiku – you’re forced by the medium to reduce your message to the bare essentials. The flip side is that they are easy to read.