Recently I realized just how Twitterized I’ve become. I saw a blog I liked (One Louder, by Microsoft “Employee Evangelist” Heather Hamilton) and felt rather desperate when I didn’t find a Twitter bird on the site. Thinking it through, I found that Twitter (via Tweetdeck) is now the way I “file” people/websites I want to keep in view.
I still have a very nice set of categorized pages that gather RSS feeds–and almost every website/blog on earth offers RSS, so no problem there. But in truth I don’t look at those pages very often any more. I use them like a library, visiting when I want to browse or find something in particular. So if I were to put One Louder on a feed page, I would probably forget all about it until I went there to look for something else.
On the other hand, when someone I follow tweets about a new post on their blog, the tweet appears in the appropriate column on my deck display, and I can tell pretty fast whether I want to look at it or not. If I do, the post is a click away. And that’s just one of the many ways Twitter can be useful even if you don’t ever tweet.
I didn’t invent the Twitter/Rolodex connection, of course. In fact, a Fast Company blog post last year gave a nice example of how Twitter works as a a “living Rolodex that responds to you.” And around the same time, another blogger gave a good example of how Twitter has become “the new rolodex for every journalist.“
If you think back to the original Rolodex, its great virtues were simplicity (each card holds the indispensable information, with no frills) and consistency (every card has the same information arranged in the same way). Of course you could also scribble on the back of them, but that’s a matter of taste . . .
Twitter offers some of the same attractions. Everybody gets the same number of characters, so it’s a level playing field–and you can absolutely count on tweets being short! Few things in life are so certain.
At the same time, following a resource on Twitter adds a dimension of information by surfacing what they notice and choose to tweet. It’s amazing what you can figure out about an individual or company by just observing their Twitterstream for a while! And with the advent of Twitter lists and Twitter managers, you can now organize your Twitter Rolodex in many different configurations—for example, put the boring people all on one list and filter them out. They are still in your “file,” but you don’t have to see what they tweet.
Heather Hamilton wrote a post about why she is reluctant to engage Twitter, and I think she probably speaks for a lot of people who have the same concerns. But the potential usefulness of Twitter doesn’t really become apparent until you actually get into it, mess around with different approaches, and stick with it for a while. That process lets you figure out what role—if any–it should play in your work/life.
(Many thanks to Hannes Grobe for the original photograph of this cultural icon. It’s been reworked a bit here.)
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