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Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death

Posted by Meg Bear on September 17, 2008


I’m a bit of an “old soul”.  In fact, I’m a lot younger today than I was at 17.   Social networking has been an interesting experiment for me in that while I am a very open person, and generally a geek, I am not an early-adopter type.  I understand that this makes me a conundrum, I can’t help you there, all the above are true.

I’ve been planning to write about my own personal “Twitter experiment” for awhile, but every time I start to think about it, my story changes.    Here is my attempt to put into words what Twitter has become to me and how that happened.

Step one: Peer Pressure

I learned something new about myself and that is I am not as strong as I thought I was.  Turns out, if I am asked to join something several hundred times over a three month period, eventually I’ll cave.  You want me to sell your Amway products or join your cult, I guess the answer is to be persistent (helps if I like you).  I was dragged into Twitter from my friends Mark, Jake and Gretchen with their subtle and not-so-subtle mentions, blog posts, emails, etc. 

Of course, I had the typical response of being already overloaded by my Google Reader and my email Inbox and “isn’t that just a waste of time?“.  My biggest objection was first time and second “why?”.  I was actually more open minded about the why (part of a bigger attempt to try new things) but the time thing was a big challenge for me.

Step two: I’m in

Of course, when I did cave into pressure, I was going to be in all the way.  If I was going to waste time with Twitter, it would be quality time.  So I jumped right in, found some people to follow and began sending out random status updates and links that I hoped would be at least slightly amusing, if not actually helpful.  Unlike those who tend to blog about Twitter, I found the getting started phase a bit challenging.  My first observations were as follows:

  1. Wow, this is just like starting a new school, you can pretty quickly identify the “cool crowd” but it’s not clear how to get involved yourself.
  2. Asking questions via Twitter is only really useful if you have a good following (i.e., not well suited for the newbie and isn’t that the benefit you were promised when you agreed to join?).
  3. Some people who dragged you into Twitter, might not actually post status of their own anyway.  In otherwords, there are a lot of people who follow and don’t contribute

To be honest, I found the whole thing a bit puzzling but I am not a quitter, so I kept on. 

And then something changed

Each day I’d watch the tweets of others and see who they were talking to.  I then started added to the list of people I followed, attempting to broaden the range and type of discussions I could observe.  This helped a lot.  I am now following more then 170 people and the conversations somehow make more sense.   I have also learned that the intention is not to read every tweet but to participate when you are there.  What works for me is setting aside a few points in the day to “check in” with Twitter to see what’s going on.  I now jump in, contribute and then jump out again.  Here are the changes that I have found since hitting my twitter stride

  1. I really do feel a connection with people I don’t actually know.  Yes, this can be “chat room scary” but somehow it isn’t.  Probably due to the fact that I choose who I am following.  So if someone starts to creep me out, I can quit following them or block them if necessary.  This allows me to fine tune the noise in a very helpful way.  Also, due to the asynchronous nature, it’s easier to ignore people if that becomes necessary.
  2. I am now aware of some things in a way I wouldn’t be otherwise.  A great example is in sports.  I don’t watch sports or read about them in the papers but somehow I know when there are major sporting events going on from people that care.  This is cool.  I like the enthusiasm of sports and it’s nice to get that from others.
  3. I no longer miss major world events because I’m too lazy to read the news while at work.  Big events are somehow covered, in a very real way.  I now know when food banks are in trouble due to recent natural disasters — this is something I wouldn’t find in the news.  At least not as quickly.  The list of examples in this category is endless.
  4. I find out great things about conferences, in fact conferences (and conventions) are places where Twitter really shines.  I don’t have to attend a conference to get a sense of what happened, and since I know the person giving the comments, I get a more well rounded sense of the feedback.  A bit like reading a movie review in a newspaper vs. getting one from a friend.  The review from the friend is so much richer since you know more about the person giving it.
  5. and here is the most strange transformation of all, I now note events that happen to me with an intent to share them.  I actually have thoughts about “oh, I need to twitter that” during my day.  I just observed (or did) something funny, interesting, insightful or dumb, this might benefit someone else.

So in a very real way Twitter has changed me.  I now “get it”.  I don’t know when that change happened and I wouldn’t have expected it but I now consider Twitter one of the best parts of life’s banquet.  It is certainly not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, I recommend you give it the time it deserves to start to make sense.  The transformation does take time but for me, it was worth it.

_________________________________________________

PS I was intending to talk about OraTweetas well, but I think that is deserving of another post so stay tuned.

6 Responses to “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death”

  1. […] Social Networks to meet and learn from people in your industry. – Meg: Also, experiment with Twitter. I used to be skeptic – now I am sold! – Michael: And keep a constant eye on the future. Learn about […]

  2. Gretchen said

    Woo Hoo! I’m glad you joined the party. Completely agree with you on the idea of Twitter check-ins. That’s why I associate it with Headline News. Jump in when you have a few, get the latest info, then move on.

    Now, who should we convert next?

  3. Ariel Ceballos said

    I am one of those still trying to understand the twitter experience, which btw proves that the transformation indeed takes time – maybe infinite time🙂
    In the meantime, I came across using twitter (and though it may or may not have changed their customer care it certainly affects our perception of it)

  4. Ariel Ceballos said

    Oopss, my hyperlink ate my comment! Anyway, the missing portion should read: “…I came across what comcast did to improve their customer care using twitter …”

  5. Meg Bear said

    @Gretchen Very good question I do have my eye on a few people
    @Ariel, yes I know that it will not be for everyone

    Also want to apologize for the fact I somehow posted without spellcheck – subjecting the few TalentedApps readers to the realization of just how poor my spelling really is. I’d like to say it wont happen again but I’m sure it will. Anything that is wrong now are problems too large for a spellchecker to fix.

  6. Joely said

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mark. I was also a reluctant twitter. I signed up for many social networking sites 6-8 months ago when I was evaluating how we can use these tools and technologies to enhance the way my team works (I’m in Analyst Relations.) I went through a similar journey as you. I didn’t see the point and saw this as a distraction to my “real” work. But I found that in today’s world of transparency and self selecting communities — people I care about whether that’s my internal product teams, analysts in my space & even friends are connecting and interacting in twitter in new ways. This is not the formal communication channel or the typical back channel that we are used to in AR but less formal, more social and organic and it does enhance your relationship. Months later, I continue to twitter b/c I seem to have gotten myself connected into the analyst community for the markets that I cover and broadened even my own Oracle community beyond the product teams that I work with. I find these discussions valuable and look forward to them.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to connecting w/ you more on Twitter.

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