Twitter as a Medium: Broadcast or Narrowcast?

There’s a fundamental disconnect, I’m afraid, in Twitter’s two user models. Twitter, no matter what you’re pushing out on it, can be used in two ways: narrowcast or broadcast. You’re either considering yourself to be a broadcaster of information, or you’re a narrowcaster and trying to hit just a few people. I think the main different would be whether your account is public or private, but it’s also in use.

I’m a narrowcasting person—sure, I “broadcast” information, but I usually try to keep specific folks in mind when I tweet. Most of the time, but not all, I ask, “Is this something I would phone a friend about?” The rare “broadcasting” I do is stuff like today, when I’m posting weather updates. Otherwise, my random ramblings of under 140 characters tend to be things that I’d tell my friends.

This is, of course, not the only way to use Twitter. Everyone has these conversations, at some level; but you can truly broadcast as things get aggregated. If a bunch of people tweet about an event—be it an Apple product launch, a weather/natural disaster, or the stock market—it shows up in tools that glean the chaff from Twitter.

We’re seeing the same thing that we saw with blogging—you were either doing it for personal or promotional reasons. To be honest, we’re all on some portion of that spectrum. But where I think feelings get hurt and people get riled up is when people who were sociable and narrowcast go to the broadcast end of the spectrum.

An example: my good friend Mark Traphagen. Mark’s a marketer. He went from the narrowcast model—sending things that he’d call his friends on the telephone about—to far more down the broadcast end of the spectrum. I think a lot of people are turned off by that; me, I quietly unfollowed Mark and then explained it when he emailed me about it. From reading between the tweets, I see that it’s a kerfuffle again today with a bunch of my RMFO friends, many of whom have said, of late, that Twitter has replaced the forum as their primary “hang” place.

And see, that’s the disconnect: we all tell our friends about things, like “Hey, the weather is bad in your area,” or “Yo, traffic is blocked on your drive home.” But when you’ve got this friend who’s calling you all the time to tell you about things that you’re not interested in, eventually, you stop answering the phone every time they call, right? On Twitter, you just stop following them. Sure, some people are going to take offense at that—after all, the following thing is public, and there’s tools like Twitual to show you who is and isn’t following you—and that’s understandable. There’s also different toolsets for reading Twitter, including some with grouping features that let you filter incoming stuff.

The point is this: everyone’s use case is different. I add and remove feeds all the time for my own needs, and the only difference is that I don’t make that list public, whereas Twitter does make that public. Twitter does that, I think, to push people to be more social/narrowcasted with their service. A lot of my friends—and me!—use it this way. But it’s so arrogant to tell Mark, “You’re doing it wrong!”

Again, to quote Rands, you choose who you follow. That’s it. Twitter is totally an opt-in system. If you feel spammed, stop.

[And this is where I again wonder why anyone reads what I tweet if they don’t know me. Because, well, I vent and it’s craaaaazy.]

Twitter + BitTorrent = AWESOME …?

I use BitTorrent to legally trade permitted concert bootlegs, including many I record myself and release on IndieRiver for the Square Peg Alliance. Yesterday, I had the idea to snag IndieRiver a Twitter account. Other than the obvious use case of announcing new torrents available, I just had the following brainstorm: what about a use case where a poorly-or-not-at-all torrent is suddenly leeched and is tweeted? “Hey, I need help seeding on $torrent … got peers that need seeds!”


[This is one of those “I blog out loud and hope it makes sense to someone else …” posts.]

Geof and Rick | Day 158

Geof and Rick | Day 158

Originally uploaded by Geof F. Morris

Now, here’s why I love Twitter. I started with: “Anybody local wanna go grab a beer this evening?” This morphed into “Quick dash through the shower before I go eat Tommy’s Pizza with @jcreekmore and @abcreekmore…“, “Pizza + beer at the World Famus Bridge St.“, and then “Chilling at Bridge Street with Creekmores, Kings, and Granades. 🙂” Sorry for those of you HSVLocals who already had dinner plans by the time this sprang up.

As for the look on my face here, I think I was trying to make Emily look at her mother. Oops.


So I’ve been thinking lately about openness. I am, fundamentally, an open person. As such, my decision six months ago to lock down my Twitter account was a very hard one. I reversed it today. Why? Simple: I am an open person. You ask me a question, and you’re going to get an answer. Whether you like it or not really isn’t my concern. I talk about my faults, probably not often enough. I understand and respect the reasons for privacy, but at my core, I would rather be transparent than not. As such, I have a tendency to say some surprising and shocking things—partially because I don’t have much of a filter, and partially because would rather just speak my mind and be judged for that rather than hiding things.

So I’m sitting here in my terribly messy house, waiting for guys to bring in my furniture. In fact, they just called—they’re 15 minutes out. Is my house a wreck? Yes, it is, but I’m working on it. My house is a metaphor for my life, I think—too much junk, too much stuff of little value being held onto, entropic, chaotic and full of music and computers. It’s just who I am, for better or for worse. There is some of that that I’d like to change—de-junk the house, learn to let things go more, etc.—and I think that I can change that if I put forth the effort. But I really don’t want to change the fact that I’m a fundamentally open person.

As such, you can read my Twitter account if you wish. Warning: it can be scary inside my head. 🙂

Venting, in Private [over the Internet, natch]

Every day I think about returning my Twitter account public, I have a day like today where I need to vent somewhere, and I choose to (ab)use my 60-ish Tweeps with my vitriol and self-flagellation. Why? Well, Big Brother might well be watching me on Twitter, and I have to have a place where I can blow off steam. Sometimes, well, I can’t leave the meeting … Twitter’s perfect for that.

And to the idea of having two Twitter accounts, presented by Mike Dolan: it is, indeed, something I’ve considered. But not enough to do it. Because, really … it’s not that vital. [But I do get the idea. Really, I do.]