Sunday, July 04, 2010

Watermelon Helmet

A while ago, I read something online where someone said something to the effect of "Twitter is pointless. It's a service just that makes it really easy to say nothing."

I guess the guy's point was that anything you can say in 140 characters or less isn't really worth sharing.

Now, if I was writing a dissertation on this, I'd say that this guy isn't understanding the change over from a culture of media scarcity.

As this is a blog post and not a college dissertation, I'll explain it in a much more simple way:

Up until about fifteen years ago, broadcasting involved a lot of expense and effort. The means to broadcast was only available to a small number of people and it was expensive and took a lot of effort. When getting something 'out there' meant going on TV or printing a book or magazine, it had to really be worth saying.

However, and this is something I've written about before, the internet wasn't just an invention, it radically altered everything. In a very real sense, the internet changed the way we lived just as much as electricity or the internet combustion engine.

So, let me use my little blog for instance. I get around a thousand hits per day, and about 300 to 400 of those people are unique, returning readers. In internet terms, that's a decent readership for a personal blog. However, in pre-internet print terms, that sort of readership doesn't even come close to warranting the time and expense publishing a book or magazine. If I had to print a thousand copies of each post and mail them to people…well, you get the idea.

It's one of the things I've also previously posted about in terms of 'new media'. Whether it's a blog, podcast or video podcast, that content can be aimed towards a small, highly specific audience. It doesn't have to be homogenized for the general public…so internet media is really based around giving relatively small audiences exactly what they want, rather than giving a large audience something 'satisfactory'.

…and that's where Twitter comes in. While I certainly won't deny that a lot of it is boring, inane thoughts… that doesn't matter because it's not really aimed towards public consumption.

For example, I heard something today on a comedy podcast this morning where the host said that instead of cutting watermelons into slices to eat them, you should try cutting just the end off and eating into it…so when you've finished, not only have you enjoyed a delicious snack, you also have a watermelon helmet that protects you from the sun.

Find that funny? No? Well I do and I know the people who follow me on twitter have the same sense of humor. So I tweeted: "Don't slice watermelons, just cut off the end and eat into it...that way, when you're done, you have a watermelon helmet."

In other words, just a pointless, funny thought that I know will make a few people laugh. Not the basis of a TV show, movie, book or worth writing a whole blog post about…but it made me laugh and I know it made a few other people laugh as well.

In that context, is Twitter and this sort of media really a bad thing?

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I was opposed to Twitter for a long time, because I didn't get it. I wasn't even sure I'd seen a tweet before, and kept referring to it all as twits, which is better than the other word I kept thinking of, that started with 'tw'... but I digress, and that will actually be my point here in a minute.

Twitter sounded like a bunch of people basically texting each other about the ham sandwich they had for lunch. And it is that, but not nearly as boring as it sounds. It's a little snippet, a quick peek, a shared moment. Another way to connect. And as someone who forgets her phone can actually make calls, and not just deliver email and texts, Twitter became appealing.

But I think it can actually help people write better. Why use a paragraph when a sentence will do? Show, don't tell, and all that.

Tweets are succinct. That's the word. I was getting there. Maybe I need to tweet more... Because brevity? So not my thing. Clearly.