Rain. Broken shoes. Buying Christmas presents. Roads. Train timetables. None of them are particular exciting, bar perhaps Christmas, but all have, in one way or another, shown the value of Twitter and how the microblogging site has become part of our everyday world – even if it’s not necessarily the best place to find answers.
Two years ago – a lifetime in internet terms – a sustained period of wintery weather threatened to cancel the family Christmas as the roads and transport into and around Devon were particularly impassable in rural areas. It was difficult to get a full picture of what was passable and what wasn’t and it was touch and go if I’d be joining my family.
Barely a day goes past in social media without another survey or statistics being thrown around. 47% of Instagram users have taken a picture of their pet. Just 14% of tried to engage with a QR code on TV. And so on.
There’s so much of this stuff flying around – much of it interesting, or a good starting point for discussion – and easy to digest that it’s difficult to sort the relevant from the noise. And yes, I’m equally guilty of Tweeting out links with links to these surveys.
Last week the comedian Richard Herring tweeted a firm but polite message to his followers about requests for retweets and why he doesn’t retweet many links people ask him to.
“I am afraid I get asked to RT so much stuff for charity or whatever that I have to refuse all requests or my timeline’d be nothing but,” he said, before adding, “Also if all charity stuff gets RT then it would have no impact. Like to save it up for causes I am involved with.”
A fair enough explanation, it seems, although judging by the exchanges that followed, not all of his followers agreed.
Nearly ten years ago, the way I first knew about the 9/11 attacks was when I received a text from a friend telling me to turn on the TV. Today, I logged onto Facebook when I woke up, after a push notification to my phone, and saw my news feed filled up with statuses bout the death of Osama bin Laden. Same device, a very different way of receiving the news.
That today is Twitter’s fifth birthday is an indication of exactly how fast time can seem to move in the world of social networking. About three and a half years ago, promoted by Ben Ayers, I signed up to Twitter. I don’t think either of us quite knew how influential Twitter would become (even if we never stopped banging on about its importance at work).
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration (albeit one with no intentional hyperbole behind it) to say that Twitter has changed my life.
And they’re off. We’re now well and truly into electioneering territory as Hobson’s Choice the General Election 2010 rolls well and truly into town. Forget any hope of finding out news that isn’t connected to three middle aged men trying to out-quip each other. It’s everywhere. Including social media. And as a recovering politics geek who spends more time than is healthy on these places, I find it all completely fascinating.
Last year, this post almost certainly wouldn’t have got written. I’d have probably been busy running around, bottle of beer in hand peering at people’s nametags and having mutually agreeable conversations that what we were doing was the future. Today, this post nearly didn’t get written because I got distracted by The Big Lebowski on TV.
Somewhere along the line, I’ve morphed from Riggs into Murtaugh.
Anybody not from Britain looking at the Twitter trending topics today would have probably been baffled to see Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy near the top. Thanks to the British sense of humour, the catchphrase from 70s sitcom Are You Being Served was all over the microblogging site in tribute to the death of comic actress Mollie Sugden . Jonathan Ross was one of those responsible for getting the topic to the top of Twitter charts.
Sure enough, other countries were a bit puzzled by the trend, so much so that both Techcrunch and Mashable wrote stories complaining that Twitter was getting infected with spam again . They were soon put right in the comments.
Here’s an interesting thing. On Saturday I, along with nearly 20 million others in Britain, was watching Britain’s Got Talent (both for work and pleasure). I also, predictably, was on Twitter, and had several trending and tracking tools – Twitscoop, Twitterfall, etc – open (because I’m a geek and I like tracking the conversation, m’kay).
Once all the acts had performed, it was obvious that Diversity were trending stronger than any other act over Twitter. “If,” I thought, “Twitter is anything to go by, Diversity will win.”
In the old days, a train delay on the morning commute would leave me sitting in the carriage like a lemon wondering whether or not to chance it on the buses. Today, when the train was halted at Clapham Junction due to a ‘major security alert’ my first thought was to get my BlackBerry out and leap on Twitter.
It’s perhaps understandable to be a little concerned and jumpy when you get announcements like that. Then you also start mentally working out how the hell you’re going to make it into work and which other routes were crowded.