Twitter Revolution Will Not be Televised

Kathleen Parker seems vaguely annoyed by the Twitter phenomenon.

Shorter than a blog posting, a “tweet” consists of a concise sentence or two and essentially answers the question: What are you doing?


On Planet Facebook, nothing in one’s life is not worth mentioning. To what end, one can only surmise. I am, therefore I am, therefore I am. But what are friends for, if not to feign interest in what’s not the least bit interesting?

Serious twitter subscribers expect more than a mood update, I’m told, and presumably won’t stick around long for less. Or will they? I recently created an account at Nary a tweet have I posted thus far, yet already I have a dozen subscribers.

Parker’s mildly famous and says interesting things; a handful of subscribers are just a sign that people are curious.  I’ve had a Twitter account for months, which I use mostly to push OTB and New Atlanticist posts and have 357 followers.

I’m only following 95 people but, in all honestly, am “following” them in the same sense that I’m quite sure a sizable number of my “followers” are “following” me:  Not very closely.   Here’s what they’re saying right now:

NPR Politics
nprpolitics will have a live stream of Obama’s introduction of Bill Richardson as his Commerce Secretary nominee in about 10 minutes. @acarvin
FP_Passport Report: Obama to inherit broken national security system: Five-plus years after the invasion of Ira..
Matthew Stinson
stinson Here’s another reason why I stopped teaching at uni here. RT @sinosplice New blog post: English Essay Templates
Michael Turk
MichaelTurk @seanhackbarth Based on the discussions I had about Newsweek/WaPo last night, I don’t believe so.
Matthew Stinson
stinson Dems worried about leadership? Maybe it’s because Congress will still be deeply unpopular once Bush leaves office.
Chris Abraham
chrisabraham Bookmarked The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development
Chris Abraham
chrisabraham Dugg 101 Everyday Uses for Twitter
poliblogger The Twitter Revolution?: Just shy of four years ago I wrote: While I have no doubt that there is an i..
Bill Frist
bfrist Blog: Letter from Cross Cultural Solutions Fellow: Thailand: I was a world away, in more ways than on..
seanhackbarth @MichaelTurk Has finally made their embedable player journalist/idiot proof?
bloggingheads Dan Drezner & Heather Hurlburt on the “#mumbai as India’s 9/11” meme. video:

It turns out that, by very carefully chosing whom one “follows,” there’s a sizable amount of good information available. At least half those tweets have info worth my checking out and about half the rest are mildly interesting.

Still, like Steven Taylor, I only “half-get” Twitter myself.  While I check email too often, I just haven’t made it a priority to check my tweets with any regularity and I’ve made a couple of concerted efforts to be more engaged in the community and found it not worth the tremendous time investment.    Steven’s also right that mainstream coverage of these technological “revolutions” are ridiculously overblown.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matthew Stinson says:

    Actually, the snapshot you posted illustrates one of the problems with Twitter and why it’s an imperfect substitute for a blog: it’s more like email than blogging, and it has more than its fair share of spam plus lots and lots of bacn, things you sign up for but aren’t always useful.

    There are 12 tweets there but only 4 of them have been written out and of those one of them is a retweet from me (someone else’s material), while the remaining 8 tweets are all automatically fed into Twitter from outside sources, mostly through Twitterfeed. The communication potential of Twitter is often muted by the noise that overwhelms the signal.

  2. tom p says:

    “twitter”… that’s what the birds outside my window do.
    I have a cellphone, and e-mail. If you want to talk to me, call me. I’ll decide then if I want to talk to you. E-mail, is communication at our convenience. What else does one need?

  3. Oogedy-boogedy Twitter.

  4. James Joyner says:

    There are 12 tweets there but only 4 of them have been written out and of those one of them is a retweet from me (someone else’s material), while the remaining 8 tweets are all automatically fed into Twitter from outside sources, mostly through Twitterfeed.

    While these are potentially bad, from a spam perspective, they can also be useful. Quickly scanned links can be handy.

    My Twitterfeed blog post links are generally the entirety of my Twitter output and yet I’m adding followers all the time. Some people apparently prefer that medium to RSS, even though I’m not among them.

  5. Rick Almeida says:

    Every week or so, check out “Sockington” on Twitter. Pretty entertaining tweets from the perspective of a housecat.

    That’s really not as lame as it seems.


  6. Matthew Stinson says:

    James, I’d call those tweets bacn, not spam. You choose to see those Tweets from web services and bloggers you enjoy, but overuse of Twitterfeed and auto-posting will flood your Twitter account with their Tweets, reducing the fun of Twitter, just like everyone’s favorite bacn, Facebook notifications.

    My advice to everyone using Twitterfeed is to limit high-volume Tweeting. If you blog ten times a day at different hours, then having all of those posts go to Twitter is okay. If you blog up a storm though you’ll flood us with links, which is kind of annoying. What’s more annoying, arguably, is promiscuous Twitterfeed-ing from web services like, delicious, etc. I use Twitterfeed to send those to my Twitter account but limit it to about two tweets per 12 hours. This ensures that most of my tweets will be ones I’m writing directly rather than mere aggregation of the nonsense in my life that most people could care less about.