The Power of Twitter

kinnon —  February 17, 2009 — 11 Comments


I’ve been on Twitter for a while now. I think it was Darryl Dash who called it the “new front porch” based on a conversation he’d had with Jordon Cooper. It’s a great analogy.


I picture myself walking down the street past my friend Ed’s house. Ed calls out to me and I ask him what’s been happening in his life. He tells me briefly about his travels and how it’s good to be home. I share a little of my own story and then continue my walk. A few hours later Ed wanders by my place while I’m out on the porch and says, “Hey, did you hear about…” and begins to tell me about something he found interesting. I tell him that I’ll check it out. And off he goes.

Ed is a neighbourhood friend who keeps me in touch with what he’s up to, his travels, how he’s coping as a husband and father and the cool things he’s come across. I try to do some of the same with him.


But let’s say I walk by Fred’s house. Fred’s says, “Hey, Bill did you see my book? Dya’ wanna buy my book? Ernie just reviewed my book. Me. Me. Me. Me.”

Ever freakin’ time I go by. It’s about nothing but Fred. I’d quickly find the best ways to avoid Fred.

In January, Doc Searls wrote an important post on signal vs noise regarding Dave Winer’s new approach to Twitter. In Screw Popularity. Just Make Yourself Useful, he says this,

“Friends” and “followers” aren’t what matter. If you want substance, you need useful inputs. Not volume. Not style. Not popularity. Those have their places, just not in your face when you’re looking for useful and interesting stuff.

That’s what I want out of Twitter. Not just to be the waist in an hourglass where a pile of god-knows-what flows from Following to Followers.

And later,

The result of Dave’s work is a pared-down Twitter stream, reduced to people who Dave knows have substantive things to say. They’re not just naming their socks or reporting that the light just changed. They carry news. They provide links. They make themselves useful.

Perhaps this makes Twitter a little more utilitarian than you might like, but it’s one heck of a lot better than non-stop self-promotion. If what you are doing and how you are living life is interesting and informative, tweet on. But if you’re just trying to sell me something…including yourself, I’ll be defollowing your tweets. As I said on Twitter yesterday,

Twitter can be a place of insight in 140 characters – or a place where certain people market themselves 24/7. I am so tired of selfpromos.

Let me end by saying that some of my favourite Twits are Darryl Dash, Jordon Cooper, Ed Stetzer (as in Ed above), Bob Hyatt, Joe Thorn, Steve McCoy, Glenn Hatcher, the iMonk, Ed Brenegar, my Missional ‘gator buddies and just recently my friend, Gary Lindblad. And of course the incomparable Doc Searls and Kathy Sierra.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

11 responses to The Power of Twitter

  1. Guy Kawasaki wrote somewhere that Twitter was about building trust. If that is the aim, then being a person who is trustworthy begins with what you have to say. It is what brought me back to Twitter.

  2. I’m really having problems getting it. When I run Twitter, certain names are constantly, endlessly, telling us everything about their lives, about once every couple of minutes. To me, If I were in a room and you talked to me at that rate, I’d go to the bathroom and crawl out the window to get away from you.

    I know, I know. Drop them.

  3. Totally. I don’t twitter, but man I recoil at self-promotion through any communications technology.

  4. You say “non-stop self-promotion” like that’s a bad thing . . .

  5. Bill,

    I don’t get Twitter.

    I don’t know why anyone is intrigued by what I am doing RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT.

    And as far as making it useful, it’s too ephemeral to be a useful reference point. It’s nearly impossible to search for an info-bearing Tweet three months from now, so what’s the point?

    Here’s the grouchy old man: “In our day we had e-mail. AND WE LIKED IT!”

  6. I found this blog post via Ed’s tweet. Twitter was useful for me this morning.

  7. I found this post via Ed’s tweet, who I might have met once in person. But I’d consider us acquaintances. I’d like to meet Bill too, all through the power of twitter.

    Loved the post, and I hate it when all people do is point people to their blog.

  8. Ditto.

  9. I think limiting who you follow is key. I had to quit Twitter after two months because of all the noise.

    For me, even ‘helpful links’ become unhelpful when there are 5+ of them coming every 60 seconds. I’d actually prefer to see 10 tweets from close friends telling me what socks they put on or what snack food they’re enjoying than hear 5 tweets about the latest Christian conference or article. Maybe I too qualify for the grumpy Luddite category, being in my late 30s …

  10. You CAN actually find a useful post later by adding it to your favorites, and you can use various twitter utilities to organize your favorite tweets in various mannners.

  11. Good post. I saw a very similar article on another site a few months ago … here.


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