Posted by: Steven Harris | April 24, 2008


A friend asked me a question about Twitter the other day. I had never used it before, so I got signed up. Turns out over 15 people in my gmail address book have Twitter profiles. Some of them were following me within minutes of signing up. Pretty amazing technology. Great to be able to make posts with a simple text message from the phone.

All that said, I have to admit that Twitter isn’t really doing much for me. In general, I’m not interested in inflicting my every thought on others (nor do I want to read theirs). Because of the simplicity and connectivity, I can envision some useful applications. It’s a great way to preserve thoughts and ideas. Some writers might be witty or insightful enough to inspire a devoted following. Webs of friends can communicate in new ways.

But what is here for libraries? I’m not sure. I’ve seen some Twittering libraries that post mini-news items. That’s cool. I’ve also seen libraries that post new books. Also fun. But kind of random. Unless you’re paying attention at the right moment, you probably miss anything you’re really interested in. As a kind of “short attention span” form of entertainment, I guess it’s pretty effective.

But I wouldn’t advise people away from Twitter. I suppose in order for the breakthrough application to develop, a lot of mundane has to happen first. So, Twitter on my friends!



  1. hey steve – as one of the first to follow you, i’ll tell you the benefit for me. i get to find out what people are thinking about their work in libraries and academic technology support as it happens. just saw a tweet asking for recs. on novels for a gender and technology course, which i was able to answer 2 minutes after it was asked. i’ve asked similar questions – “hey, anyone know anything about X?” – and gotten replies within minutes. it’s like email + IM, but you get to choose what you want to pay attention to and reply to. i like.

  2. Good point: making use of the instantaneous and the critical mass. Suggests that one should follow and get as many followers as possible.

  3. Yes, Steve – The real benefit comes in when you have a lot of followers and follow many.

    I’m just starting out, so not at that stage yet, but a blog I follow ( has published several posts on the benefits (he has over 5000 followers). One of his Twits this morning – a call to share a hotel for a conference next week, was answered in 30 minutes. He has also pointed out the benefits of asking questions that have him stumped – and then getting a correct response within minutes.

    So I’m coming to see that Twitter doesn’t necessarily have to consist of mundane comments about what color you are painting your toenails, or what toppings you are putting on your pizza. lol It CAN be a good thing – if there are many in your network…

  4. I’m feeling of two minds on this. If I want a critical mass of people to be able to answer a question, then many followers and followees would be good. But if I want to keep in touch with people and form a circle of colleagues, following 4,000 people would really be a detriment. There would be a lot of stuff that wouldn’t interest me, that I wouldn’t want to read. It would be a barrier to forming a close relationship with a few people. Noise for the stuff I did want.

  5. I’m catching up on my blogs and late to this discussion, but I’d been wondering the same things about Twitter, so it’s still timely for me. I haven’t made the leap yet, but who knows…

  6. […] conversations begin? So, I’m left very excited about Twitter (rather counter to my initial reaction), but still flailing about trying to grab onto something. Please through me a […]

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