1. Twitter is dominated by self-obsessed Twits talking about themselves
A study released this week by a Harvard University professor and a graduate student told many who use Twitter what they may already know: The network is dominated by a few tweeters talking about themselves, much more so than other social networks.The university, as if in a hurry to support this observation, was quick to trumpet the research on its own Twitter feed, @HarvardResearch.
True to the study's predictions, I tweeted this development. There as here, I tipped my hat to The Periodic Table, one of two leading academic blogs written by Professor Bill Gleason of the University of Minnesota.
2. Twitter has already begun changing the way we live
A sweeping essay in Time magazine predicts that Twitter and (more fundamentally) the ingenuity of its users will change the way people approach social networking and the Internet. It predicts, among many other things, that "the key elements of the Twitter platform — the follower structure, link-sharing, real-time searching — will persevere regardless of Twitter's fortunes."
One anecdote is particularly revealing for those of us in higher education:
Earlier this year I attended a daylong conference in Manhattan devoted to education reform. Called Hacking Education, it was a small, private affair: 40-odd educators, entrepreneurs, scholars, philanthropists and venture capitalists, all engaged in a sprawling six-hour conversation about the future of schools. Twenty years ago, the ideas exchanged in that conversation would have been confined to the minds of the participants. Ten years ago, a transcript might have been published weeks or months later on the Web. Five years ago, a handful of participants might have blogged about their experiences after the fact.
But this event was happening in 2009, so trailing behind the real-time, real-world conversation was an equally real-time conversation on Twitter. At the outset of the conference, our hosts announced that anyone who wanted to post live commentary about the event via Twitter should include the word #hackedu in his 140 characters. In the room, a large display screen showed a running feed of tweets. Then we all started talking, and as we did, a shadow conversation unfolded on the screen: summaries of someone's argument, the occasional joke, suggested links for further reading. . . .
At first, all these tweets came from inside the room and were created exclusively by conference participants tapping away on their laptops or BlackBerrys. But within half an hour or so, word began to seep out into the Twittersphere that an interesting conversation about the future of schools was happening at #hackedu. A few tweets appeared on the screen from strangers announcing that they were following the #hackedu thread. Then others joined the conversation, adding their observations or proposing topics for further exploration. . . .
When the conference wrapped up at the end of the day, there was a public record of hundreds of tweets documenting the conversation. And the conversation continued — if you search Twitter for #hackedu, you'll find dozens of new comments posted over the past few weeks, even though the conference happened in early March.
Injecting Twitter into that conversation fundamentally changed the rules of engagement. It added a second layer of discussion and brought a wider audience into what would have been a private exchange. And it gave the event an afterlife on the Web. Yes, it was built entirely out of 140-character messages, but the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles.