Yesterday, I listened to the latest episode of TWiT (This Week in Tech), episode 134 to be exact. In this episode, the question was asked, is there value in these 140 character message conversations being had on the likes of Twitter, Jaiku, & Pownce? One would think that 140 characters is not a lot of space to say anything in but if you really sit and think about it, you do it everytime you send a text message. Can you same something worth while in a text message? Most of you will answer "Yes" to that question. So it stands to reason that valuable conversations can be had in short, 140 character messages.
Its What You Say
When you are limited to one hundred forty characters to say something in, you try to find the best way to say it. You have to make every character count. If you can do it in less and have the same (or better) effect, then more power to you. The trick with such a limited amount of space is vocabulary. You have to almost become a thesaurus or a word smith in order to find the correct words, in the right order to say what you want with the premium effect. This makes you stop and really think about what you want to say. Is it worth saying? Does it matter if anyone sees it (chances are it will be lost to the masses posting at the same time)? Is it insightful, witty, or just a status update? Does it convey an idea, feeling, or emotion? When you are limited in space, you really think about what you have to say. Sometimes you don’t have to, and that’s part of the fun.
Its How You Say It
Like I said above, when you have limited space to make your statement, you really think about it. Not just what you have to say, but also in how you say it. The simple, yet obnoxious, "ROFL STFU NOOB!" just isn’t going to cut like you might have thought (who knows there might be a situation where it fits). But you really need to ensure you strike proper tone, emotion, and inflection in those 140 letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols. This requires you to stretch that writers brain, it makes you consider every word, comma, and letter. If you are replying to someone then you are limited to even less space because you need space for the "@username" in the message. When you have only so much time, you have to make every part count.
But is There Value?
I think that when it comes to the micro-blogging websites, it is the same as anything else. The concept of "garbage in, garbage out" really starts to take on new meaning when you choose whom you are going to follow. You have to ask yourself with each message a person sends, "Do I want to see stuff like that on a consistent basis?" and that says a lot. I am currently following 32 people on my Twitter account. I have a couple of people local to my area, some "internet famous" folk like Leo Laporte and Robert Scoble, and I have returned the "follow" of some that have been kind enough to follow me. Not everyone is set to that phone chiming "Notifications On" setting but a good number of peeps are. This keeps me inundated with interesting conversation. I have learned about interesting sites, had a debate about Silverlight/Moonlight, and have even found out about some cool local happenings. So I would have to say that, yes, there is at the very least some value in these short messaged conversations that are happening on the internet today.
Look at it like this, there is definitely value in blogs. If there was not, then so many wouldn’t be popping up and many would not be making the kind of scratch they are from blogs. Micro-blogging is just that, blogging at a much smaller scale (in terms of words at least). Making a point or conveying a thought in as little space as possible. There’s something to it, and as such something to be gained from it. However, I doubt that some of these folks who are following hundreds or even thousands of people are really getting much value from the conversation. I doubt they even see much of a conversation anyway. Remember, garbage in garbage out folks.