When I started out researching Web 2.0 back in early 2007, I spent ages looking at and trying out different Web 2.0 sites and applications until I settled on my thesis idea. One such site I signed up to was Twitter. At the time I remember the selling point being that it was mobile and everyone at SXSW was apparently twittering, it was the new way for friends to know your every waking moment, as long as you twittered it. It was an American phenomenon, I joined, I knew no one on the site, so I had nobody to Twitter with and so have never used it. Even now I know 3 “real world” people with a Twitter account. By “real world” I mean people I actually talk to in the old fashioned face to face method (only occasionally obviously).
But now, like Facebook and MySpace before it, Twitter is suddenly everywhere. I cannot turn on Radio 1 anymore without hearing DJ’s twittering on about twitter. I succumbed to MySpace, before I knew it was Web 2.0 and I would one day be listening to talks about it. I gave it up in favour of Facebook, which I do use and I like because it is good to find and keep in touch with old friends I would have lost forever. But I am trying not to succumb to Twitter. I find myself mostly put off by the amount of celebrities who have embraced it. I’m sure at 16 I would have loved to know what my idols were doing, I’d have followed them and maybe even made contact with them. But now I couldn’t give a stuff. The days of searching for celebrities on MySpace, finding 150 of the same person and not knowing whether they’re the real person or not, must nearly be over, because we’re told all the time if a celebrity is on Twitter. Perhaps it is so they can get more followers and then they can gauge their level of fame and popularity compared to other celebrities.
But then you have to be more extrovert (egotistical?) to be a celebrity and I think to fully embrace social applications, being extroverted helps. I am an introvert, I approach social sites as I would if I were at a party, I stand by the wall with a small group of friends and wait for people to come to me. I have more time to think about what I’m saying on social sites too and so inevitably end up not saying it. Do I really need another application in my life that allows me to waste all my time informing people of things about my life they have no interest in? And of course reading everybody else’s insights on life? Would my life have been better had I not known my supervisor had had a really good dump at some point last year? There really is such a thing as too much information.
All that said I am finding myself more and more interested in the micro blog concept and how it could be applied so that all these opinions floating around could be utilized in some way? Despite my objections to the furore about twitter, as a social application I can see its uses. Its appeal, like Facebook and MySpace is to feel connected to people. If you can engage in communities and find a place to belong online, it’s possible to escape a lonely or troubled real world existence. These sites are a goldmine of social information, but what other information do they hold? Can a micro blogging environment be utilised to create collective opinions on web resources? In the same way that collaborative tagging can use people power to create collective descriptors for anything from websites, music, photos, movies and academic papers. The same old questions arise however as to what motivates users to interact with a micro blogging site and how can those motivations be harnessed to make the users participate in an activity that produces useful, usable data?