August 2nd, 2007

Twitter Is A Publication

by

Here’s a theory that’s emerged from my web communication experiment: Twitter isn’t a communication tool, it’s a publication.

That’s not to say there isn’t a strong communication element to it, just like there is in the comment sections of blogs (on the occasions when commenter actually address each other’s comments). But the communication that occurs on Twitter combines with all of the other information that passes through Twitter to create what at times is a mesmerizing, often addicting publication.

Why am I using such an old term for such a new form of information flow? Because I don’t see any point in throwing out old words — better to adapt them to new realities. (And my blog is called Publishing 2.0, so give me a break.)

Twitter is a publication because it provides me with a flow of information — some it fascinating, some of it entirely useless, some it deep, some of it trite, but it’s a classic example of the whole being SO much greater than the sum of it’s parts — and you can’t appreciate this until you are following the right mix of people whose thoughts, ideas, sentiments, life experiences, and totally random banter are interesting to you.

And you have to see it in the right format — Twitterrific is one of the many great applications that has been built on the Twitter API — it shows you Twitter updates from all of the people you are following in real-time — like a news wire.

Twitter was originally conceived as a platform for sharing what you’re doing, i.e. your current status, from anywhere on any platform, but, like any great platform, its users have conceived of applications far beyond what it was originally intended.

What’s fascinating about following the flow of tweets (assuming, again, you’re following the right people) is that they contain an unbelievably broad range of content, including:

  • Ideas
  • Problems/issues/complaints
  • Links
  • Links + comments/observations
  • Questions & answers
  • Greetings
  • Deep meditations
  • Dopey nonsense
  • Jokes

And, of course, status updates about what people are actually doing, from the mundane to the exciting.

Despite the incredible diversity of content, a Twitter publication has a surprising coherence, which is made possible by the 140 character limit, which at first I thought was crazy, but now I see is brilliant.

What’s fascinating about my own use of Twitter is that it has made my mind work in an entirely new way — so many thoughts that never would have been communicated, on the blog or even to another human being, have been captured on Twitter. These thoughts range in quality from reasonably interesting to complete garbage — but that’s the beauty of it.

Twitter has a fascinating element of serendipity to it, which wouldn’t work if people were setting too high a bar for their tweets. So taking the bad with the good is part of what makes the whole so interesting.

What people do with 140 characters is, at the same time, as lame as many critics imagined and also far more compelling than even the creators of Twitter may ever have imagined.

My experience with Twitter isn’t exactly mainstream, because I follow mostly tech/media types who also blog and enjoy personal publishing — but even if this was just friends taking about their lives, I still think I would classify it as a publication, because even when it’s used as communication, the net effect for other people following the conversation is like reading a publication.

(It’s worth noting that you will inevitably see only one side of a conversation in some instances, because the people you’re following are following other people, and if you try to follow them, then you also need to follow everyone they are following, and everyone they are following, ad infinitum — unless you get a bunch of friends together and decide we’re ONLY going to follow each other and THAT’S IT.)

Here’s a definition of “publishing” that fits Twitter:

the communication of something to the public; making information generally known

What Twitter essentially does is reduce the barriers and friction to “making information generally known” — even more than blogging software.

The result is a form of publishing and an emergent “personalized” publication that “mashes up” MANY different forms of information in a way that has never been done before.

Twitter is the ultimate participatory medium — the entire publication is just us. We get out what we put in.

OK, I’m done with this riff — it’s just a theory mind you. And I don’t know whether this vision of Twitter has mainstream potential. Rex Hammock just tweeted as I was writing this post:

Observations – 1. real people have never heard of twitter 2. I can’t explain it to real people

If I’ve failed to explain Twitter to you, that probably means you’re a real person.

You can find me publishing on Twitter here.

Comments (40 Responses so far)

  1. it’s a publication, not a communication tool

  2. yet sure what it represents, or how I’ll use it, but I can already see how it can become addictive. I’ve added a feed for my most recent Twitter updates in the right-hand sidebar, just for giggles. I don’t really buy the argument that Twitter is a publication (via Jack Lail), although some news organizations are beginning to leverage it as an alternative, stripped-down means of publishing their RSS feeds (the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the New York Times, and

  3. — Twitter Is A Publication » Publishing 2.0

  4. assertions about Twitter as publication

  5. Twitter Is A Publication » Publishing 2.0

  6. del.icio.us Links GTD Forum Deutschland (Getting Things done) | Startseite DEVONthink Tutorials Gute Fragen – hilfreiche Antworten – die Ratgeber Community gutefrage.net Twitter Is A Publication » Publishing 2.0 mangoomangoo – Good things for a better world – Fairtrade Bio Öko Sozial fair Bewusst einkaufen Gewissen Kinderarbeit Sweatshop Ethik Nachhaltigkeit lohas fair kaufen Clean Clothes Campaign oxfam lush nachhaltig gruen edun kritische konsumenten zotter

  7. 01000101 01110110 01100001 00100000 01010011 01101001 01101110 01100111 01101000 . Your Power Animal is the: White-lipped Peccary. 25% of the letters in this name are vowels. This means you are poorly envoweled.Sample of blog posts by possible relatives:Comment on Twitter Is A Publication by Birth of pubmunication <b>…</b> (by Birth of pubmunication tools : Brij Singh’s One More Idea) Transcend T.sonic 840 MP3 Player (by himanshu singh) Hukamnama Translation – August 3, 2007 (by support@sikhnet.com (www.SikhNet.com / Sukha Singh (UK)))

  8. continues

  9. Twitter Is A Publication Publishing 2.0 [IMG] Platform Wars: Netvibes Launches Facebook Widget Read/WriteWeb [IMG] Facebook Loses Vodafone Advertising Due to Racist Profile Mashable! [IMG] Avskaffa r??str??tten f??r horor?

  10. uzna? twittera w?a?nie hurtownia lecz produkcja kukurydzianych ; dzie? nie hurtownia lecz produkcja kukurydzianych rozwia? w?tpliwo?ci, przy chrupkach kukurydzianych niós? za to tekst, który jeszcze ich przy chrupkach kukurydzianych daje: scott karp pisze

  11. ‘Publishing 2.0′

  12. Twitter Is A Publication — Here’s a theory that’s emerged from my web communication experiment: Twitter isn’t a communication tool, it’s a publication. — That’s not to say there isn’t a strong communication element to it, just like there is in the comment sections of

  13. Twitter isn’t a communication tool, it’s a publication. — That’s not to say there isn’t a strong communication element to it, just like there is in the comment sections of blogs … Source: Publishing 2.0 Author: Scott Karp Link: http://publishing2.com/2007/08/02/twitter-is-a… Techmeme permalink

  14. co-founder of Twitter, talks about funding for the first few minutes ? we start the interview as Biz is on the move just as they were starting to celebrate Niall Kennedy?s birthday. I?ll watch the video right now and add a list of what?s discussed. Why should you be on Twitter if you’re a busy business person in the online marketing world? Because Twitter is the essence of sharing ideas, services, platforms, theories and products. It represents a new way of thinking, communicating and consuming information.  Twitter is,

  15. co-founder of Twitter, talks about funding for the first few minutes ? we start the interview as Biz is on the move just as they were starting to celebrate Niall Kennedy?s birthday. I?ll watch the video right now and add a list of what?s discussed. Why should you be on Twitter if you’re a busy business person in the online marketing world? Because Twitter is the essence of sharing ideas, services, platforms, theories and products. It represents a new way of thinking, communicating and consuming information.  Twitter is,

  16. Twitter is A Publication Scott Karp talks about my latest favorite thing, twitter. While Essential Posts that Every Blogger Should Know. from Collis Ta’eed, provides a good resource for backup material when you’ve just got nothing to write

  17. Twitter Is A Publication » Publishing 2.0

  18. Twitter Is A Publication – Publishing 2.0

  19. Thank you, Scott. I now have something to point “real people” to when I am trying to explain “what is Twitter.”

  20. [...] Twitter is a publication | Publishing 2.0 Scott Karp explains one of life’s deeper secrets: What is Twitter. (tags: twitter micro-blogging) [...]

  21. [...] Scott Karp has a great post on Twitter. He thinks Twitter is a publishing tool: That’s not to say there isn’t a strong communication element to it, just like there is in the comment sections of blogs (on the occasions when commenter actually address each other’s comments). But the communication that occurs on Twitter combines with all of the other information that passes through Twitter to create what at times is a mesmerizing, often addicting publication. [...]

  22. [...] 2.0: Twitter is a publication. Ryan Stewart: Is Amazon getting into the Flash media streaming [...]

  23. [...] Karp comes close to capturing the essence of Twitter when he says “Twitter is a Publication” rather than a communication tool, but he is missing some vital elements that make using Twitter [...]

  24. Scott: I agree that Twitter is wonderful, but I really disagree that it is a publication format. Blogs are the publications these days; the thing that prevents Twitter from going down that road is that it is *so* informal. I love Twitter because it’s a constant flow of information that is totally disorganized and relatively uncensored stream of consciousness. Someone was bound to invent Twitter because blogs were increasingly becoming formalized and carefully crafted forms of communication.

  25. I view it is an information resource too – only wish is that some folks weren’t quite so zealous about it’s use. There are limitations to how much you can absorb from one source (hint hint Robert) before you finally start tuning most of what they say out.

  26. I don’t think I can buy into the publication aspect. The only thing I need to explain what Twitter is to people is its key question: ‘What are you doing?”, and then follow with a few examples of how these little updates put me in touch with what’s going on without reading a blog or otherwise investing a chunk of time in learning the same thing. As Jill says, the informality, no chunking and very mixed stream of stuff that comes through is more like a news ticker.

  27. I wouldn’t say Twitter is publication just yet. I think the conversations are too unstructured to qualify as a publication.

  28. @everyone,

    The theory is that twitter is the fist application to create coherence around totally homogenous bits of information. A news ticker is isolated, unrelated bits of information. But the communication element of Twitter, and the fact that we’re all following each other, makes it all connect in a mysterious way.

    It’s that surprising and unexpected coherence that makes it feel like a publication.

  29. [...] Of course, I’m also sharing the mundane facts about my day that definitely would have no place on this blog, but that’s part of the strange and wonderful Twitter mix. [...]

  30. Absolutely…its a content aggregator, and in todays value chain that a publisher. Because of the etremely low cost of transacting, “classified ads” have moved (stooped?) to this level.

    Of course, another function of the aggregator is to provide the channels and program guide…..

    10 million channels and nothing on :)

  31. When I get asked “What is Twitter?”, I usually describe it as ‘pseudo-blogging’ or a headline news-type service where you can post short quick thoughts. That makes sense for the individual who wants to get into it.

    It’s also how I personally Tweet.
    http://www.twitter.com/merubin

    As for companies who ask, I use a similar description. However, I am more and more turned on by the opportunities of using Twitter as an add-on to deliver quick tidbits of information surrounding a specific campaign.

    For example, I *love* how the Live Earth people used Twitter to communicate new environmental tidbits every 10 minutes or so during the concerts. I also like how organizations like JetBlue and the LA Fire Department are using it as a headline news-type service. You wouldn’t post this stuff to a blog, but it’s perfect for a quick hit medium like Twitter.

    twitter.com/JetBlue
    twitter.com/LAFD

    —-
    Michael E. Rubin
    Manager of Emerging Media
    Arment Dietrich, Inc.

    Call me — 312-787-7249 x212
    Tell a friend — fight destructive spin! http:///www.spinsucks.com
    See what I’m up to — http://twitter.com/merubin
    See a picture of an orangutan — http://tinyurl.com/yosceb

  32. [...] Scott Karp på Publishing 2.0 menar att Twitter inte är ett verktyg för kommunikation. Snarare handlar det om ett [...]

  33. [...] Twitter Is A Publication » Publishing 2.0 “Twitter is a publication because it provides me with a flow of information… you can’t appreciate this until you are following the right mix of people whose thoughts, ideas, sentiments, life experiences, and totally random banter are interesting to yo (tags: internet socialmedia socialnetworking blogging twitter) [...]

  34. [...] einen dann von übernteich dieser Geistesblitz bezüglich der in diesem Frühjahr mit Traratamtam gestarteten Microbloggingplattform Twitter [...]

  35. Great post! When my husband noticed the tab for Twitter always open and frequently updated, he asked me what it was, and I described it as a “group instant message” . It is everything you mentioned, and I must admit, I love it! The immediacy gives more of a feeling of intimacy, and I really like that.

    I found your post through Susan Reynolds’ “Arty Asylum” link.

    Thanks for your insight – hope you have a wonderful day!

  36. [...] that it wasn’t doing it for me and I didn’t check it for months. But then Scott Karp made a compelling case last month that there was more to Twitter… and I started “getting [...]

  37. [...] a lot of Twitter hype in the blogosphere today, and I’ve contributed plenty of my own Twitter hype in the past. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to offer some anti-hype, derived from my [...]

  38. [...] That, from a former booster, someone who described Twitter as a full-on publication. [...]

  39. Very good article.

    Twitter combined with Jaiku, Tumblr, Digg, Reddit, Nowpublic, Newsvine and Youtube can even be called a media imperium.

  40. [...] didn’t know what Twitter could do. Now, I know all kinds of things that it can do, and the best part is basically none of them matter still (so feel free to [...]

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