I was reading the twitter transcripts from a recent conference and it struck me that the most prolific tweeters weren’t necessarily contributing the most meaningful insights to the backchannel conversation. In fact, given the audience, those with the most to contribute seemed to be relatively quiet…perhaps they were participating in a live discussion, or maybe paying attention to the developing argument before posting an opinion. Yet the prolific tweeters were conferred an authority by other tweeters that seemed solely based on their volume of postings. I’m concerned that as we move more quickly toward information on demand, the fastest typist wins. This is not to say that the fastest typist doesn’t have a contribution to make, or that in some cases the fastest typist should win, but I worry, with so much available, we may stop at the fluff before reaching the substantive information.
Is Twitter providing a venue for superficial lamentations, or is it encouraging meaningful dialogue? The brevity of posts suggests the former. In fact, the brevity combined with the instancy of tweets seems to encourage knee-jerk emotional responses. Although I can think of many profound one-liners (Thoreau and Emerson come to mind), most of the Tweets I’ve seen are more of the “I’m bored” or “this speaker is clueless” variety: possibly interesting to a few, but not particularly inspiring. In the case of the recent conference, much of what was posted in the morning felt more like teen angst than provocative comment. Some attendees posed interesting questions that sparked meaningful dialogue, but much of it was dominated by posturing or rants about lacks in the presentations.