Last week when I was at SXSW one of the hottest technologies to use was Twitter. It seemed like everyone was updating their current activities through Twitter to let all their “friends” be aware of what is going on with them. It seems like it has become a success, but there were some entries sprinkled around the web talking about the demise of Twitter, which as we know always happens when anything starts to become remotely successful.
Now I don’t use Twitter and to be honest I believed it was the dumbest idea in a while, but that never means it won’t work well. When creating a product for the Web 2.0 world what many people tend to forget is fulfilling human needs. Not practical needs like Basecamp could fulfill, but our deep down ego-filled needs.
Twitter is for the attention economy that we live in today. There are some of us (hell most of us) who love attention. I don’t mean Kevin Rose in your face Digg attention, but we like to know that people want to see what is going on with our lives. We like to know that people read our blogs and comment because talking to ourselves only made sense in 1996. Twitter doesn’t have to be practical, it just has to allow people into our lives enough to satisfy their nosy wishes.
Twitter then becomes our personal paparazzi. Have you ever just called up a person or hit them up on IM and asked what they are up to? Well because of Twitter you already know what they are up to and you can move the conversation to that avoiding that question altogether. But again, we don’t see how Twitter is practical for anyone so we shun it, laugh at it and pretend that we didn’t think of something so simple.
Imagine Twitter in the hands of Paris Hilton (okay maybe not the best example). How many people would subscribe to her Twitter feed vs. a blog feed? Celebrities could control their own gossip. Don’t think you can create something powerful with such a simple tool? Well I actually had an example of something getting blown up out of proportion because of how someone worded their Twitter message. The message was simple, but the effects were amazing:
is amused that Scrivs is wearing my clothing around his head about
This little message caused a large number of people to come up with many, many different scenarios of what happened that night. Quite simply I had a woman’s scarf wrapped around my head, but reading that message and other messages around it you could imagine what kind of stuff people could come up with. A simple tool, with powerful effects and the fact that people feed into it shows me that Twitter does things that most sites could only wish to do.
We love attention and we are nosy people, that is why I think Twitter will work.