Thinking inside the box

Vigornian has made some good comments about the whole social media/malarkey. I feel the urge to explain why I like Twitter so much.

The biggest reason for me is a slightly odd one: I’m obsessed with the idea of ‘formal constraints’ being a spur to creativity, hence an interest in crosswords, Oulipo, J-P’s “show me the way to go home” variations, etc etc. Having to write in 140 characters or less for me is a hugely liberating idea. I don’t use Twitter to keep up with friends per se – that’s what LiveJournal and Facebook are for (among other things) – though of course it’s great to see friends there, some of whom don’t use those other sites much or at all anyway. If you like, I use it to show off to strangers.

I have reasons for that, partly: I like creating oddball web quizzes and so on, and I’ve got plans for several Twitter apps that I hope could go viral. It’s a bit depressing to put it in such terms, but much of this is about marketing – I’m not interested in the whole “drive business with Twitter” tedium that’s everywhere, but I suppose I’m ego-brand building, which might lead to interesting work (I’m self-employed, remember?), but better still just leads to meeting interesting people. So, yeah, it’s all about me – but really that’s all about encountering all the myriad creative, interesting people out there I’ve never met before. I can gain an audience for my whimsies, and be the audience for others’.

Facebook is fantastic as a shared repository for friends’ experiences (tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend I haven’t seen for 15 years – thanks to Facebook); LiveJournal is best for discursive reflection and comment – but neither helps you meet new people much. I love LiveJournal because it’s all about writing, and that’s part of what I do in life; Facebook doesn’t offer much creative expression – other than the status update, which I loved until I found Twitter – so leaves me colder.

I also love the elegant simplicity of the Twitter concept. The way you connect to others through @ and to subjects through # is very simple, but has a lot of power (I’m not saying it’s without faults, mind).

Editor says he thinks Facebook would kill Twitter by allowing public updates. maybe he’s right, maybe he’s not – but I personally prefer the sites (as Cyclotronic says) to keep their separate strengths. Trying to be all things to all people might just end up being disappointing for everyone.

I like Twitter’s search facility: I find interesting tweets and people all the time through it, all well as skimming the thoughts of a zillion people. It’s like being telepathic. Many of those are dull as ditchwater, but with just 140 characters, gems shine out. Others on the web have written better than I can on how this “live search” concept is a big thing. It’s not Facebook that should swallow Twitter – it’s Google.

I couldn’t quite get all this into 140 characters.

Small edit: I should also have mentioned how useful Twitter is for news feeds, whether national or specific (eg BBC technology) – if headline writers are any good, you can get the gist, and lately (=baby) I’ve sadly little time to read full stories. Though I still prefer RSS feeds somewhat, as the timeline gets so cluttered.

Tea for two

Gosh. Years ago I did some subbing on The Lawyer. They ran an interview with Jack Straw, where da man was very grumpy: when he ordered a lackey to bring tea, he only ordered one cup. My headline was ‘One tea, no sugar’. (I think the pic of him might even have shown the tea – I have a copy somewhere.) Cos he was ‘no sugar’, right? I had to argue for ages to get them to keep it, ‘cos they didn’t get it. Eventually it stayed.

OK, so nothing very amazing, but I was Satisfied at the time. Today, I’ve just heard from a dear friend with an absurdly good memory that he met Straw today and they were discussing headlines. He told him mine – and Straw loved it, and then told it to the editor of The Guardian.

This is probably as famous as I’ll ever be.