High Five – A Contemplation of Twitter

From Bob GilesHigh Five from Handshake 2.0:

I signed up for Twitter on November 31, 2008. I was taking my daughter’s advice but not giving up my skepticism. She had many answers to my surface questions. Most of the others were answered in the introductory “About Us” units of Twitter.

It didn’t cost me anything. That’s frightening! It sounds like it might do so later, but for now it’s free. That’s still frightening; I’ll not build a giant structure dependent upon it. They are secretive about how they make money or plan to do.

I’m not sure why the people behind Twitter are doing it. I can imagine it being on a pathway of a great practical joke that went awry and could not be stopped in time. Maybe it comes from a deep awareness of the importance of, and the great need for, more people to communicate, to share experiences, to feel more together, more alike, in common…to achieve  the commonwealth. Maybe I’ll learn.

As I watched my daughter tweet in her new business, I had a small religious experience. She was sending out her “good news,” the gospel of her life, the events, experiences, engagements, and discoveries.

She was also sending out her mishaps. These are like small social warnings, the equivalent of an animal trail confirming much use by other animals and thus safety, or there would be no repetitive use of the space. Hers were not giant failures requiring hospitalization, only notes that might suggest delays, grumpiness, or diversion to an alternative pathway.

Caution:  I’m just an observer and now getting started with Twitter.

It dawned on me that Twitter achieves for users “sampling.” It has roughly-working “sensors” in the homes and lives of all friends, piping inputs for various purposes to a potential user.

I see Twitter as another tool in the hands of a person trying to be fully aware and engaged in “the examined life.”

On the other hand, if it is populated with the trivial and nonsensical, then it will be easily seen as worthless and will die a lingering death, for the trivial is popular.

I cannot yet evaluate whether I have the time to tweet often, or to read and consider the tweets of others. Evaluation will occur over some space between quality of tweets (including those that generate longer comments by me by email and elsewhere), numbers of friends, numbers of tweets, risk in failure to participate, and competing activities for time at the computer.

I’m predicting for Twitter to be noted for:

  1. A new poetic form:  Twoos (130 – 140max characters and spaces)
  2. Sharpening meaningful action statements in writing, generally
  3. A new education resource – teacher to all students in a class (distance learning) for assignments, corrections, re-scheduling, hints, pointers to relevant resources, and emphases
  4. Helpful directed links to web resources
  5. Pointers to good or relevant books
  6. Pointers to great “sales”
  7. Help in making more informed purchases
  8. “Sales” for my blogs
  9. A means to direct attention to additions, changes, and updates made in web sites
  10. In the company’s Twitter unit, improved company esprit de corps and communication
  11. Evaluating “demand.” What do people like me seem to like, want, or need?
  12. Knowing “what’s going on?” as newspapers collapse
  13. Gaining ideas
  14. Sensing limits of all kinds  (before I cross one)
  15. If bored, finding out what people like me are doing
  16. Exercising the curiosity cat


Robert H. Giles, Jr. writes High Five for Handshake 2.0, a technology business news and business blog service venture of Handshake Media, Incorporated, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks.  The opinions Robert Giles expresses are solely his own and are not necessarily shared by Handshake 2.0 or its sponsors or advertisers. 

You can follow Robert H. Giles, Jr. on Twitter @Bob_Giles


Robert H. Giles, Jr. is a Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus with a vision for a rural land management system.  He writes two blogs, The Survivalists and Faunal Force. 

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  1. Wow! That is an insightful look into Twitter…very helpful in our attempts at Click and Pledge to incorporate social networking tools into our product offering.

  2. I’m glad that you were pleased. I learned yesterday the BlackBoard system used at Va Tech has the capability of teacher communicating by email to all members of a class.

    Seems like such a special use of Twitter is as much a must for all members of a company or company team or committee.

    I talked to 30 Tech students last night … I failed at bragging about joining Twitter … none knew about it!

    Time available seems to be the first question or comment after my discussions with anyone recently. Addressing cost/benefit may help with the answer(s).

    Tweeting may become like committee chairpersonship…Is there anyone out there?

  3. That is very surprising that awareness of Twitter is so low among students.

  4. I’ve heard the same regarding the lack of awareness of the service among students. That was surprising to me, as well – I’d been pushing a professor friend (@GoHokiees) to join, she asked her students who had heard of it. Very low response, maybe two.

    Nevertheless there’s a reason it’s working. It encourages engagement. It pushes real-time interaction and information. It provides a forum – a room – for conversation.

    High five.

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