I like the mess

/// I like the mess

February 22, 2013  |  Blog

“Twitter isn’t good for conversations”

I heard that line in a conversation yesterday. It was probably the 400th time I’ve heard that line since I started using the product

The statement usually is followed by a few other lines like

-you can’t have a conversation in 140 characters

-there is too much noise

-there should be comments for each tweet ( a la Facebook or Instagram )

-it needs to be better structured

-others can’t see all of the @mention unless you follow all parties

-it’s too messy

I have a different view.

I like the mess.

Actually I don’t think it’s a mess at all.

If you think about it, twitter is actually extremely civil and the community is for the most part extremely positive.

Compare @mentions on any given tweet to the cesspool which lives inside YouTube comments. I have no idea what happened at YouTube but their comments are nuts.

People may disagree with my tweets and people often do but it hardly if ever gets nasty.

And I follow the various discussions on twitter routinely. It works. Elegantly and quickly.

Further twitter isn’t a merely a news or broadcast medium. It’s something completely different. Importantly, there is a back channel. It’s alive and well. And we all have a voice. We can tweet back. We can @reply. We can use hashtags. Our voice and our 140 characters belong to us. And we can use it to shout, sing, laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn and yes, we can even argue.

I once saw a video of Clay Shirky giving a talk about open source software. He tells the story about a big former client of his who couldn’t understand how or why members of the open source community would help each other out — for free.

If I recall correctly, the line he used in the talk was “the client couldn’t understand it [open source] could work in reality because they couldn’t possibly imagine it working in theory”.

I feel the same way when people say that twitter won’t work for conversations. Public conversation at such scale isn’t supposed to work in theory. But it does work in reality.

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