Comments: My _Guardian_ column on *TWITTER*

Great article, and I agree with you. But I still wish you'd use Twitter so I'd have an outsider pal to Twit with :)

Posted by Kent at May 6, 2009 09:51 PM

The comments certainly confirm your expectation, which is what I would also have expected. They're all a variant of the classic "You just don't get it!"

Which may be why I'm not on Twitter any more but am, temporarily at least, on FriendFeed, which seems--so far--far more conversation-oriented and far less star-oriented. But these are early days. And I've been pretty hardnosed about hiding.

Posted by walt crawford at May 6, 2009 10:41 PM

Jodi Dean's "Publicity's Secret" proposes that technoculture produces the "celebrity subject" even when you have very few followers, or would prefer to ignore that aspect of the interchange, which the respondents at The Guardian just don't seem to get.

Posted by sean at May 7, 2009 02:43 AM

I sympathise Seth, but I'm wondering if upon close examination of human DNA you might reach similar conclusions, that your DNA had been designed as part of a blind watchmaker's social/data-mining start-up.

Do we have enough intelligence to escape these insidious elements in our programming and refuse to play along?

There's probably a psychological term for this.

I'm reminded of Frederik Pohl's "The Tunnel Under The World" (1955).

I was just thinking what modern movie might be most similar, and came up with 'Dark City', and Wikipedia concurs:

"The film [Dark City] bears strong resemblance to Frederik Pohl's acclaimed short story "The Tunnel Under the World", where an entire community is held captive by advertising researchers and have their memories of the day wiped clean every night as they sleep."

Posted by Crosbie Fitch at May 7, 2009 04:49 AM

Seth-- you're just paying attention the most popular users of Twitter, not the vast numbers of "everyone else". During the Mumbai terrorist attacks, or the 2008 elections, or every day during random events, a simple search of Twitter gave a breathtaking view of what the world was going through, thinking, experiencing. And once in a while, it collectively becomes citizen journalism. Every tweet on its own is useful only to a small set of people (if that), but collectively Twitter is an international, instant zeitgeist.

Posted by Devan at May 7, 2009 09:37 AM


The link to the Twitter account in your Guardian article misses the "http://" at the beginning, and hence points to an invalid Guardian page.


Posted by Vipul Naik at May 7, 2009 09:50 AM

Although you have some valid points on one way of using websites like Twitter, it can be used very differently too.
Maybe people place tags in their tweets and the open-source alternative even allows groups, making it possible to see all tweets(or dents) in that group on your personal timeline.

Open-source communities like Ubuntu use it a lot to communicate or quickly ask for an explanation. It can be really useful.

Posted by Sense Hofstede at May 7, 2009 03:49 PM

Where are we in the (twitter) hype cycle?

Posted by tqft at May 7, 2009 07:47 PM


Twitter appears to be more democratic than regular blogging -- the chance of a random person to be heard seems better.

I found it hard to believe that not long after I joined I got an invitation to go on a radio talk show to talk about craigslist. And, no... I didn't do it but my ideas made it on the show -- a lot more than I could say for having previously blogged about craigslist for years.

But I agree that these sort of things should not be commercial enterprises (the real assets are the people who actually built the following and they are the ones getting sold).


Posted by Delia at May 8, 2009 10:37 PM

Hi Seth.

I have a nightmarish story about Twitter. My personal name and information was used by a group of twits to "bully" me. They all called themselves by my middle initial and my last name, gave out details of my home, etc. Not that it means anything to anyone...except for me. I never even used Twitter and found out through a network of collegues this was happening. Twitter responded to my complaints that they were merely a "content provider".

Yep, you are right, they are just a social/data-mining start-up. And people really are just sheep.

But, I can see how these sheep want it now for their insatiable need for 'quick gossip'. No wonder Google wants to buy them out.;-)

Posted by Sunflower SF at May 13, 2009 02:22 PM

[Belated comment replies, regrets]

Kent: Thanks. IF I were to do chat, you'd be one reason why.

walt: Exactly. You-don't-get-it is tedious.

sean: I don't think it's technoculture, I think it's generic

Crosbie: I've read that story. It's great.

Devan: I understand data-mining. I just don't want to be the ore.

Vipul: Thanks for pointing that out. It's been fixed.

Sense: I'm not against chat. However, that's not what my article is about.

tqft: Still climbing, but with a fall in sight.

Delia: That's because the searches haven't been monopolized yet. It's happening.

Sunflower: Sorry to hear that story. That sort of thing is a longstanding problem

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at May 15, 2009 01:22 AM

Hi Seth,

I've just referenced your article on the blog above. Hope you don't mind, but it is the most cogent analysis of twitter that I've come across so far. (However, if you do mind and want it removed, I'll do so.)

It seems to me that twitter is being promoted rather insidiously by some organisations as a democratising force rather than the elitist ego-massage that it is. As for its use as a news feed tool, well, texting and phone calls seem to fit that need perfectly well - and are probably less random where confidentiality is important.


Posted by John at May 18, 2009 07:22 PM

John: It's fine with me.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at May 18, 2009 11:37 PM