Babbling about Twitter & Microblogging

by Hugh

danah boyd points to a study of Twitter usage by PearAnalytics, that concludes:

40.55% of the tweets they coded are pointless babble; 37.55% are conversational; 8.7% have “pass along value”; 5.85% are self-promotional; 3.75% are spam; and ::gasp:: only 3.6% are news.”

As danah boyd suggests in her first sentence, studies like this are irritating. Every time someone complains about Twitter, or microblogging, blogging, or the web or anything else being overrun with “useless” information, I always have the same reaction: you could say the same thing about talking, but no one ever questions whether talking is useful or not.

These are means of communication, used by humans to communicate, each with their own idiosyncrasies, but all driven by the same impulses that have always driven humans to communicate: the urge to connect, to find, to babble, to sell, to buy, to share, to romance, to complain, etc etc etc…

Twitter, or microblogging in general, will bring profound changes to some of its users (it has for me) in how they find/consume/interact with information and other people. As did the printing press, ballpoint pen, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, email, blogs, youtube, mobile phone .. etc.

The interesting question is how these things change our informational & social interactions; but the question of whether or not these “new” tools are “good” or “valuable” are moot: if people use them, they use them because they find them good & valuable for whatever reason.

Humans have been pretty consistent in flaws and virtues over the past few thousand years; amazingly we still seem to be surprised when new tools of communication come along and display, in a new way, those same old flaws and virtues.