What's the Point of Twitter?

If you got to this article via Twitter or happen to be connected to me via twitter, hear me out hitting “send”.

Good question… I asked myself that for quite a bit of last year. Twitter seemed like what blogging was in the early days. A running inner monologue detailing the silliest thoughts, concerns, and non-sequitors… trivial, stupid stuff that no one would listen to. I teased/openly mocked a couple colleagues on it, specifically David All and Aaron Brazell. 😉

Well, I was right.

…but still horribly wrong.

First, once I got into my conference swing last fall – ZendCon, PodCampBoston, and DCPHP – it started to make a bit more sense. By following some of the other people at the conferences, it was an easy way to keep an eye on the discussion and get a feel for what else was going on and where the discussions were going.

Admittedly, the back channel discussions were interesting to follow but the 3-4 conferences I go to each year are usually clustered tightly together. So what's the value the rest of the year?

Next, I figured out that the same people continued talking. They weren't silent the rest of the time. Since I happen to care about some of their opinions, I continued to listen. Mixed in with some of the random "good morning" messages, a steady stream of great blog posts, interesting things to think about, and miscellaneous banter appears. At first some of the banter annoyed me…

And that's when the real value of Twitter hit me.

On any given day, I work on a number of projects for a number of customers. For the most part, I work remotely interacting with people via IM, email, and phone. The vast majority of this communication is business-related and/or has a specific point in mind. The standard banter and discussion that happens around the office – water cooler talk if you prefer – is missing.

For those of us who are disconnected from a real office, spread across the country from our colleagues, or have projects that start, move, and close quickly, Twitter can serve as that virtual water cooler. That place where your officemates and friends talk and trade ideas, where they share the news of the day, share what's important to them, and generally connect with other people.

Sure, sometimes it can be a distraction, but that's also where Twitter shines… unlike the chattering hordes that congregate at your water cooler… you can mute Twitter. You can just turn it off.

To David and Aaron… alright guys, you were right and I was wrong. Now I get it. 😉 Since late October '07 when I started to get active on it, I feel like I've gotten closer and better connected with more of the PHP and DCTech Communities… in addition to random people all over the place.