twitter is

erin and i have this running debate about twitter.  the general argument is that she believes that, on the whole, twitter is dumbing down the internet, especially when it comes to creatives.  by creating a huge conglomerate of artists who all talk to each other and share ideas, there is a loss of individual creativity as everything moves toward the same aesthetic.  case in point, web design.  there are hundreds, if not thousands of designers on twitter.  they all share the same links.  they all look at the same sites.  they all listen to the same design gurus.  as a result, are all of their designs looking monotonous?  is there creativity on the web?  people who are big on twitter are not necessarily big in real life, they just have a lot of time on their hands (which implies that they have nothing better to do…like doing actual design).  truly creative designers and artists, the argument goes, are not big on twitter…because they’re busy doing design, and that does not necessarily mean chattering away on twitter about what’s for lunch.  rather than finding your own individual inspiration as an artist and designer, you are looking at the same stuff everyone else is, which kills creativity.

my argument is that twitter is what you make it.  twitter can be a spam machine.  twitter can be an instant messenger.  twitter can be a way to organize groups.  twitter can be a marketing tool.  twitter can kill design, but it can also be educational.  i’ve used twitter to discover other designers and followed them and their blogs to sort of see where we are in comparison to other designers.

other designers…on twitter, that is.  which may be a different beast entirely than other designers, in general.

the argument goes on.  mostly i think i lose, but i don’t think there’s really a clear win in this argument.

as we were having this discussion last night, i had the idea that probably you could type in “twitter is…” in a google search and do one of those things where you have a bunch of different responses and laugh at how inane they are.  the fill-in-the-blank responses for “twitter is” were suprisingly one-sided:

twitter-is1it was interesting that the searches were overwhelmingly negative.  i decided to do a few experiments…

twitter-is2my favorite is the non-sequitur “twitter is a pencil.”  it’s like a web 2.0 “ceci n’est pas une pipe.”

twitter-is3this last one gave me a new idea…with all the hype that google has turned to the dark side, and their “don’t be evil” mantra is a bit of a joke in light of their current money-grabbing, monopolistic directions, i had the thought: if twitter is evil, and twitter is the new google, what does that make google? so i did the same tests to google.

twitter-is4the interesting thing i found about what “google is” are the Big Brother overtones of many of the searches.  “google is your friend.” no, it’s not.  my friend is my friend.  google is a search engine.  “google is skynet” and “google is watching you” have direct Big Brother implications.

twitter-is5here we are presented with google’s grandiose, omniscient, and (in one instance) celestial persona.  “google is a god,” “google is a cult,” “google is a conspiracy,” “google is a virus.”  i guess in web 2.0 mythology, twitter is the devil, and google is god.  almost makes me want to find out where everyone else is.  is microsoft king?  is facebook a country?  apparently, no, actually, twitter may be the devil, but facebook is the harbinger of doom to bring about the world’s end as the antichrist:

twitter-is7so what else is google?

twitter-is6i find it interesting to compare “google is the” with “twitter is the” — “google is the best thing ever,” while “twitter is the stupidest thing ever.”  obviously everything is in the eye of the beholder and the people typing these things into search engines are idiots.  for that matter, just like twitter’s inane “trending topics” as soon as something becomes trending people will push the button more just because it’s what everyone else is pushing, which inflates the idiotic topics and searches even more.  still, like anything, many things can be true simultaneously.  for example:

  • google is the only page that loads.  of course it is.  it’s cached on your computer, and more than that, the size of the page and the graphics could probably fit on a flash drive the size one of my cats’ claws.
  • google is the best search engine.  they’ve perfected their algorithm to weigh search results democratically and created a culture that uses those algorithms to promote their site.  nothing that came before google could compare with the kind of accuracy and valid links that google offered, though many things have come since that may be able to give google a bit of a run.  at this point, for democratization of software’s sake, i hope so.
  • google is the closest thing the web has to an ultimate answer machine.  this is true, too, and is used as such.  however, most often for me, when i’m searching a topic i want to learn about, the #1 result is the wikipedia entry, which would sort of imply that wikipedia is really the ultimate answer machine.  see also: wolfram-alpha as the ultimate answer machine.
  • google is the new microsoft.  it has become increasingly obvious that microsoft has been unseated from their tech throne, and the new king is google.  along with that comes the antitrust cases and monopoly accusations, as covered in an article in last month’s wired.

does that make google the best thing ever?  or the worst?

similarly, many things are simultaneously true about twitter.  the real question i have, though, is is erin right?  is twitter dumbing down the internet? life doesn’t exist in 140 character bytes.  i know that, and anyone who reads this blog probably also knows that.  but what about the people who don’t read this blog, because this post is longer than 140 characters?  i don’t know.  an interesting sidenote, though: my last post on twitter rocket resulted in the most trackbacks this site has ever gotten for one post.  however, all of them were fed by auto-generated blogbots, most likely a combination of google alerts and rss aggregators like wp-o-matic for wordpress.  i would say that this weighs heavily in the “twitter is stupid” favor, but also, it adds validation to the “google is evil” mentality as well.  then again, this whole line of thinking is kind of ridiculous; twitter and google are the same thing: software.