A very nice piece by Rebecca Bizonet at the Heny Ford Blog; clearing out archives at the Henry Ford Museum, she has encountered a fair number of telegrams, and guess what – abbreviations and shortcuts associated with Twitter, texting, and the like, are nothing new; our predecessors had to use shortcuts too. Not only for Telegrams, which could get pricey if one got wordy, but also because, as Bizonet credits Stephen Fry for pointing out, during the 17th and 18th centuries paper was a precious commodity and therefore a kind of shorthand was used in order to cram as much content onto a single sheet as possible.
It’s amazing how fast and large the buzz over Twitter has become over the past month; you know it’s gone mainstream when the folks at Today Show and GMA are talking about it, let alone that they now tweet too.
People who are new to the Twitter concept seem to get stuck on the belief that it’s all about answering the question “What are you doing?”; a lot of comments via blogs or reported by TS, GMA, etc. reflect this general misperception.
The beautiful thing about Twitter is that it really can be used in whatever way you see fit; and whatever need it fulfills can shift from moment to moment. It can be what you’re doing, or what you wish you were doing, or what you’re thinking, or what you just witnessed, or some plea for information, connection, or affirmation.
I have no problem with people being skeptical or resistant to Twitter; their criticism is well-founded – like any other communication modality, the web can be a powerful tool for sharing information or it can be a vast wasteland of stupidity, self-centeredness, or vapid commercialism. However, if one takes the time to prod the beach rubble, you can find the quality goods.
I mention all of this by way of saying that one of my favorite follows (that is, someone I follow) on Twitter is John Gruber. He not only has a fun, honest tweet style, but he’s the author of the wonderful, insightful, useful, sometimes whimsical Daring Fireball.
Recently (o.k., yesterday), he published a piece reflecting on a session he and Merlin Mann (another fav tweeter and all-around-articulate and interesting technical illuminati) had done at SXSW (that’s South-by-Southwest for the uninitiated). The whole post is worth reading – and there is a link to an MP3 of Merlin and John’s session – but the take home piece is his closing paragraph:
There is an easy formula for doing it wrong: publish attention-getting bullshit and pull stunts to generate mindless traffic. The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO [search engine optimization – ed.] industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.
Journalism should still be quality journalism, writing should still be done with skill and care, and people and ideas should still be treated with respect, even in the blogsphere. Bravo.