[Edit: “or Why @SilkCharm is the Best Thing Ever”]

OK, that is quite clearly hyperbole and there have been plenty of things invented that are at least as important, and many that are more important, than Twitter.

Like many people I first heard about Twitter, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around why someone would want to use a service that limited you to 140 characters of text.  After all, its harly enough to say anything, is it?

Obviously this is the point at which many people start, and there are those who’ll take the plunge and give it a go, and there are others who won’t.  At the time I was diving back into Social Networking for work-related stuff, having been successfully ignoring it all for a few years.  I’ve had other things on my plate after all (some of you know what I’m talking about, and for the rest of you it probably doesn’t matter).

So, having gone through the obvious (MySpace – To garish and inconsistant; Facebook – lots of stuff and too many people wanting my attention and all those annoying frakin’ quizzes!) I finally got to Twitter.  I did the first logical thing – follow some Community Radio stations.  Then some people who work in the sector, etc, etc.

Basically, I found myself expanding the circle of people I follow through these links – people who followed those who I followed popped up, and I started following them. Occasionally people would follow me because of what I said in my tweets, and I’d follow them back because they seemed interesting.

This, I think, is a typical experiance if you’re not one of the 60% that bail out after the first month.  At the risk of paraphrasing @SilkCharm poorly, you don’t get instant gratification from Twitter, you’ve got to work at it.

So back to why Twitter is the best thing ever.

Twitter is just text, plain and simple.  With 140 characters you can say an awful lot, including URLs. The fact that it’s just text gives it untilmate portability.  It’s the fastest thing to transfer over a network, and just about anything with a UI can deal with text.

Again, to quote:

@SilkCharm: I think I just got how Twitter works.
@adevenish: @SilkCharm Should I ask?
@SilkCharm: @adevenish it was an insight into the total openness of the platform. I particularly like Twitter for ARGs and extended storytelling
@adevenish: @SilkCharm From a vision impaired perspective I was thinking the other day that its a big leveller – it’s all just text.
@SilkCharm: @adevenish Agree, text makes it fast & easy. & Twitter stuff is discoverable/random in a way that gated communities like Facebook are not.
@adevenish:@SilkCharm Yep. I find that I work at Facebook much harder that Twitter, and the interestingness of twitter is a better reward.

And that simple exchange basically encapsulates why Twitter is the best thing ever.  It’s so simple – portable, fast and accessable.

  1. Simple:  It’s text, and it will carry characters in lots of different encodings, so it’s not even limited to English, or Latin based character sets.  Globally accessible.
  2. Fast: 140 characters of text – 140 bytes (plus some headers and other junk) means that even on a slow 2G/GPRS/dialup connection you can still communicate easily in virtually real time.
  3. Accessible:  As simple text, you can have it read to you by a screen reader, enlarge it with a magnifier, speak it with voice recognition software.  It goes on your computer, your phone, PDA, etc.

And as text the content is as creative, interesting, involving or boring as you can make it in 140 characters.  With a description or link, you can share interesting articles, photos, video or anything.  It creates a gateway to the web, a gateway to people and a gateway to the world.

And THAT is why Twitter is the best thing ever. 🙂

The Living End – End of the World
Rubix Cuba – The Pie Song
Save Ferris – Goodbye
Los Capitanes – The Underpants Song
Golden Earing – Radar Love
The Daisycutters – We Deserve Better
Sex Pistols – Who Killed Bambi
The Resignators – Emotional (Its All Good)