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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 n’ 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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10 Comments

  1. Debra Hamel wrote:

    I’m with you on the Popkin article. And I very much appreciate your including TwitterLit (as a good thing!) in your post. Thanks!

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Permalink
  2. therapydoc wrote:

    Hardly much to twitter about then, is there?

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  3. kgs wrote:

    But that’s the point. It’s like understanding the value of wandering over to your neighbor’s front yard to say hello. The function is sociable, and that’s good in and of itself.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Permalink
  4. The Lum wrote:

    Actually, “reverend” is a noun.

    From http://www.m-w.com:

    Main Entry: 2reverend
    Function: noun
    : a member of the clergy — sometimes used in plural as a title

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  5. kgs wrote:

    The dictionary may say so, but it’s incorrect usage. It’s like calling me the short.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  6. David Fiander wrote:

    Actually, it is a noun. One is a Reverend, and one might refer to one’s local minister in the third person as, “I was talking to the reverend last week….”

    Of course, the adjectival form is more common, and is the first definition according to M-W.com.

    But then, I’m a closet copy-editor, as I told somebody else recently.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  7. kgs wrote:

    It’s used as a noun, but it’s bad usage. I’m totally out as a copy-editor… and an opinionated one, at that!

    One is not a Reverend, one is THE Reverend (Whatever), or the Right Reverend (Whatever). People use it as a noun all the time, but it’s wrong.

    Oh, for one day as editor of that dictionary…

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  8. The Lum wrote:

    It is a noun. But it’s also your blog, sweetheart.

    The Reverened Lum

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 7:56 pm | Permalink
  9. kgs wrote:

    Yes, but I do let you comment on it. :-)

    Remember, I live with a minister…

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 8:21 pm | Permalink
  10. David Fiander wrote:

    I am beginning to suspect that this is an American vs Commonwealth English thing. Either that, or the Anglicans are in yr wordpress breaking yr dashes.

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink

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  1. [...] let you read it to find out more. I loved Karen Schneider’s post at Free Range Librarian, “That’s OK lady, nobody thinks you’re interesting, either” where she lambasted a journalist for their review of Twitter, because of their sloppy research and [...]

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