I like the mess

“Twitter isn’t good for conversations”

I heard that line in a conversation yesterday. It was probably the 400th time I’ve heard that line since I started using the product

The statement usually is followed by a few other lines like

-you can’t have a conversation in 140 characters
-there is too much noise
-there should be comments for each tweet ( a la Facebook or Instagram )
-it needs to be better structured
-others can’t see all of the @mention unless you follow all parties
-it’s too messy

I have a different view.

I like the mess.

Actually I don’t think it’s a mess at all.

If you think about it, twitter is actually extremely civil and the community is for the most part extremely positive.

Compare @mentions on any given tweet to the cesspool which lives inside YouTube comments. I have no idea what happened at YouTube but their comments are nuts.

People may disagree with my tweets and people often do but it hardly if ever gets nasty.

And I follow the various discussions on twitter routinely. It works. Elegantly and quickly.

Further twitter isn’t a merely a news or broadcast medium. It’s something completely different. Importantly, there is a back channel. It’s alive and well. And we all have a voice. We can tweet back. We can @reply. We can use hashtags. Our voice and our 140 characters belong to us. And we can use it to shout, sing, laugh, cry, celebrate, mourn and yes, we can even argue.

I once saw a video of Clay Shirky giving a talk about open source software. He tells the story about a big former client of his who couldn’t understand how or why members of the open source community would help each other out – for free.

If I recall correctly, the line he used in the talk was “the client couldn’t understand it [open source] could work in reality because they couldn’t possibly imagine it working in theory”.

I feel the same way when people say that twitter won’t work for conversations. Public conversation at such scale isn’t supposed to work in theory. But it does work in reality.

(Please excuse any typos and lack of links. Wrote this post on my iPhone in a bumpy cab)