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That’s o.k., lady, nobody thinks you’re interesting, either

Perhaps I’m feeling frisky because Jerry Falwell just died, or because I did my first Wikipedia edit, which was to the Wikinews article about him (I changed “reverend”–which is not a noun–to “minister”; it wasn’t the only style problem with this article, but it was the one that bugged me enough to take action).

But regardless, I have to respond to this slightly dated MSNBC article about Twitter, in which the reporter, Helen A.S. Popkin, concludes that “Twitter is stupid,” adding, “Twitter is just the latest development in the biggest generation gap since rock nā€™ roll invented teenagers.”

The first problem is the hugely sloppy demographic assumption. I would hazard the median age of my twit friends means many of us are in increasingly short supply of estrogen or head hair.

But the real problem is that the article is predictable and trite. A mainstream media reporter sneering at another new networked software? News at 11! A year from now, we’ll have the road-to-Damascus conversion, in which the reporter discovers, hey, there really is something to those doggone Internet tubes; then said reporter (after her gig is outsourced to India) will end up as the “content advisor” for some similar new service, cranking out press releases in which her company’s new product “moves the needle” (when it is not “opening the kimono” or creating “synergy”).

Popkin concludes that conversation on Twitter is banal. Lady, lady, lady: most conversation is banal. And ungrammatical. And mundane. And repetitive. And pointless, if you aren’t focusing on what Twitter is doing, which is providing a hangout for communing with your buddies, colleagues, and other interesting people. It’s a remarkably low-overhead hangout, as well, with no demands for special software, convoluted avatars, or special language.Of course, that may be the problem: for those of us who were around since the list of interesting places to go on the Internet took up two pages at best, Twitter is awfully easy. How can it be any good, if there’s no geek factor?

Popkin doesn’t even do the legwork to find out if what Twitter is really about–or if it has any interesting uses, failures, or successes. John Edwards’ campaign was using Twitter, at least briefly; what happened to that? I’d like to find out. I am now enjoying TwitterLit, which twice a day provides me with opening lines from novels–and I’m curious about the origins and motivations of this service. There’s enough real news about Twitter to do more than call me a teenager.

I don’t know if I’ll be on Twitter 4ever (Twitter’s 140-character text box puts a certain compression on one’s tping). I don’t know if I’ll be on it next week. But I do know that judging Twitter because it does what it is designed to do–transfer water-cooler chitchat to the Web–strikes me as the desperate cry of a reporter in need of a hot topic, stat.

Popkin’s takeoff on Twitter is funny (she imagines Jack Bauer keyboarding comments such as “thinkin i gotta torture this guy. oh well”), but the fundamental nature of Twitter comes from another well-known television event:

Angie: What do you wanna do tonight?
Marty Pilletti: I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do?

That’s Twitter: what I ate, and what you ate, and the temperature outside (or inside), and whether you’re happy or sad, and how you feel on Mondays or the first day of your job or the last day or any other day, and on and on. The dumb, boring, wonderful stuff of life.

Oh, and I’m kgs on Twitter.

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