Saturday, April 19, 2008

Twitter and the Art of Accidental Discovery

Last year I wrote a post for AOL's Developer Network on Accidental Discovery. It is one of the joys of the Social Web that is Web 2.0. I got to thinking about Accidental Discovery as I browsed my Twitter feeds. You see, I am with Stowe Boyd and his thinking about the flow of conversation that has formed around and through Twitter.
I have found it fascinating to add people to my Twitter flow. I am realizing where the value is in the flow. There are two types of posters emerging on twitter. They are:
  • The self publicists  
  • The conversationalists. 
The self publicists are concerned with pushing their messages out to the world. I include in this category some of the companies and magazine publishers that have Twitter accounts and use it to publish news.  
On the other hand the conversationalists use Twitter to have open conversations with people that they are happy for others to listen in on. This is why I have described Twitter as the world's virtual water cooler.
Have the self publicists not learned from the Cluetrain Manifesto? The market is evolving (or is that devolving?) in to a rich tapestry of conversations. Unlike Web 1.0 at the turn of the Millennium it is no longer a soap box that you broadcast your message from. The conversationalists are in the ascendance. People value true conversation. This is the case with Twitter. I am finding that the people I want to follow are those that are engaging in open conversations with others because that provides the opportunity for Accidental Discovery of a new and potentially valuable perspective that can add to the flow of ideas that thread through these conversations.
Damn it! Scoble is right, yet again! Twitter is not about how many people follow you. It is about the richness that comes from the people you follow and for Twitter to be valuable you want to follow the conversationalists because the self publicists are a dead end. When you follow a self-publicist you get fewer opportunities to accidentally discover new candidates for your flow of ideas. 
So, if you are thinking about using Twitter - Do it! But do it in a way that you take part in conversations with others.
I hope to meet you soon at the Virtual Water Cooler. Drop in and say Hi!