Dina—blogging over at The Line—caught up with my recent post on Twitter and left me a comment that’s challenging my thinking a bit.  She asked:

Bill– I wonder if you’re in a perfect position to talk about the valueset of Twitter *language*. Does Twitter not imply: You can communicate everything of importance within 160 characters? Or: revision is unnecessary, perhaps even SILLY (there isn’t even a function for revision on Twitter itself, just “delete”!) 🙂 Don’t get me wrong– I joined Twitter over the weekend and I’m having a ball. But I am fascinated with what the Twitterverse is saying to us about communication and human connection. It is not value-neutral. No technology is. Would love your thoughts.

Good questions, Dina—and questions that I think connect back to our ideas of what relationships are and what role technology can play in the development of a person’s “network of learners.”  This is a topic that I wrote about recently and that the brilliant folks at In Practice have been wrestling with as well.

In my mind, Twitter’s not designed to be the primary vehicle for an individual’s communication and human connection to others.  While I value the people in my Twitter family greatly—in fact, many of them are just plain brilliant and I’m thankful that they’re willing to let me “listen” to their Tweets—I don’t see Twitter as the best way of getting to know them deeply or to figure out who they are as educators or as people.

To me, Twitter’s not about extended conversation and reflective thought.  Consider some of the things I’ve done with Twitter this week:

  • Learned about a free discussion board service.
  • Shared blog entries that I’d written.
  • Read about 10 blog entries written by other people.
  • Seen several great articles shared by those in my Twitter family.
  • Asked and answered a few provocative questions.
  • Had my thinking challenged once or twice.
  • Helped out with a Skypecast being conducted in another user’s class.
  • Sent out two or three resources to help others with questions about topics I know.

Twitter is a really quick and really easy (which are two reasons Twitter’s so successful) way to share resources and get ready access to a collection of people who share a common interest.  It’s a way to join together with other likeminded individuals and offer just-in-time support to one another.

What’s really neat is when you start to pair Twitter with all of the other forms of communication that digital folks are using.  Most Twitter-ers (including you!) have blogs.  Most are keeping Delicious accounts.  Most have feed readers.  Finding and following all three give you a better sense of who someone is, what they know, and how they feel about issues that are of shared interest.

Clay Burrell—a remarkable thinker whose blog I started reading a few months back—described it (ironically enough in a Tweet) as “triangulating” someone.  I thought that was a neat way to think about it.

I certainly don’t think that you can communicate everything of value in Twitter’s 140 characters….But I don’t think that Tweets are the end of an individual’s communication.  Instead, they’re a new beginning that often lead to additional thought and expression carried out in other more appropriate and extensive forums.

I guess what I’m trying to say (in an all too long winded kind of way) is that Twitter is not designed to be a stand alone tool for communication.  It is only one tool that can help users connect to, learn from and support others.

Does this make sense?

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