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twitter_logo_sThere’s still plenty of twitter buzz and hype, if you’re looking in the right place. And it doesn’t look like it’s going away quite yet.

Principally, the discussion seems to centre around questions about the point, or lack there of, of Twitter. Isn’t it just a distraction? Is it worth while? etc etc.

Paul Bradshawe at the Online Journalism Blog is all in a flurry about twitter, and making some excellent points while he’s at it. Some of these are drawn from there.

Apart from the fact that all this discussion ultimately helps twitter grow, there are a few issues particularly guilty of generating negativity.

One comes from the Twitter site itself where it principally sells itself with the tag

stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Sure, it’s simple, but it doesn’t exactly imply any serious use or depth. It sounds like: ‘trivial, and ultimately something you could do without’. Now, like the Metro free sheet, perhaps this is all Twitter needs to make some money, but it would not really be deserving of hype and acclaim.

Closely associated, but not propagated by Twitter itself, is the claim that ‘it’s just like facebook profile updates’. Elicited response: ‘err, so?’ Quite right.

Another source of curious negativity comes from the association with celebs. Those who think that many celebrities already make meaningless noise blindly consumed by a bored Joe Public will think Twitter is just another slimy tentacle reaching into peoples lives and distracting them from being themselves (or something similar).

The thought is that surely if Twitter is anything good it should amount to more than a new medium for celebrities to mouth off.

Thus there are plenty of quizzical whats-the-point questions to keep the debate up. What fuels the other side of the debate? Why don’t we just throw up our hands and say that it has no point? That it’s ‘dumb but fun for some’?

I think the answer is that Twitter feels like it has potential – something as yet mostly unrealised but glimmering and promising somewhere in the near future.

Quickly-breaking-news-stories and organising-large-groups-of-people  point towards this potential, but aren’t quite it -the it that many are anxious to be a part of but can’t articulate yet. That it’s unarticualed probably accounts for the fact that it is so often described as ‘answers to ‘what are you doing now?’ ‘ or ‘like facebook updates’ – and hence more quizzicle questions. The supporters want to say more, but they don’t quite know what to say yet.

I’ve enjoyed Twitter so far – it’s a bit like being in a small (but growing) exclusive club, like Facebook in the old days  – but have a lingering feeling that there really does need to be more of a point to the Tweets.

How can I make it purposeful? Both in what it put out, and in who I follow. Here’s a thought:

“Twittasophical: Philosophy in 140 characters.”

Since much of philosophy is about asking questions, it might sit well with some probing 140 character questions. Perhaps it should be called Philosophy140.

In the meantime though, I can try and make at least some of my tweets non-trivial, and keep looking, with all the others, for that elusive ‘it’.

I follow – 15

Following me  -12

Verdict in progress: Fun, but looking for something more.

See also:

The media hype continues:

Will it go mainstream? Almost certainly, yes. …This is the sort of service that could go ballistic in a recession.

Perhaps.twitter_logo_s

I’ve posted a few tweets, and even had a reply from a friend who started to follow. I’ve also been trying out applications for easily reading and writing tweets. I’ve tried desktop app Twirl, which does the job but requires Adobe Air and is perhaps a little bulky for my needs.

Better is TwitterFox – a small plugin for Forefox that sits in the bottom bar of the browser and brings up new tweets at intervals of your choice.

I’ve set it to 30 minutes. A distraction from what I was otherwise doing every 30 minutes. Is this just more noise to take my attention away from being productive? Clearly if Twitter is to work, we need to find ways to ensure that it serves us rather than visa versa.

More twitter based activity: I set up facebook to update my status with my tweets, providing a potentially wider audience, and found the cogs were beginning to turn today when a friend at church asked about ‘Forum for Change’ – something I had tweeted (twittered?) about.

So far:

I follow – 8

Follow me  – 4

Verdict in progress: more interesting than I thought, a little worried about the distraction.

I’ve just returned from a day of discussion and networking at the Lowry hosted by the Evangelical Alliance (they’re not as scary as they sound)The Lowry Art Gallery at Sunset, Salford Quays.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people from business, media, arts, health, education and politics and we were given the opportunity to think and talk and dream about how we can be involved in changing society for the better.

How do we engage with the the society that we are a part of, the polis, rather than withdrawing into the individual? Through a recession do we find a safe cave and weather the storm, or use the opportunity to pull together and see what is common?

Not that these are easy questions to answer in practice, but they are made easier by connecting with others and having conversations and being inspired.

One of the most interesting things about the Obama phenomenon has been peoples positive reactions to a message of hope. If we believe what we see in the UK news, millions of people have felt a personal connection to that message, drawing them out of themselves and into political engagement.

Something that struck me from the conversations I had today was that we could probably do with a bit of that hope over here. We do satirical, we do irony very well, we do self deprecation, but what about a bit of hope that things could be better?

What would this hope look like? I don’t think it looks like the ‘national-lottery-it-could-be-you’ style hope that the media is so good at. ”TV hope’ you might call it: presenting an ideal, a better house, or better lifestyle, or better way to cook beef, held out as an unreachable prize while we sit on our couches and disengage, drool and get fat on chips.

Real hope surely has to connect with our own lives, our own stories, our own everyday selves, and those we know of who deserve better.

Welcome to the second instalment of my exploration into Twitter. twitter_logo_s

First up, I log onto to the website http://www.twitter.com and get an account.

This is as easy as any online sign up could be. What’s more, since Twitter is still quite young I get to use my actual name as a user name – geoffstevenson. That is a bonus. Good so far.

I also rather enjoy the site aesthetics – you can choose a design for your feed home page and they’re all pretty easy on the eye. I add my own picture.

I’m now a Twitter user and I’m offered some “well known” Twitter feeds to follow to start me off. I choose the no. 10 Downing Street feed. So far I’ve learnt that the guy who writes it is called Ian.

What next? I need some more people to follow. I must feed on their tweets. I go to facebook and see that a friend from my undergrad days uses Twitter, so I add his feed. He is an interesting person and will probably have some interesting things to say. “Fish and chips” he says in a tweet.

But who else to follow? I’m a bit stuck, and will have to do some digging around to find something. I obviously move in the wrong circles.

But enough of who to follow, what shall I say? No one is listening, so it doesn’t really matter. I break the ice with something banal:

“I begin the Twitter Trials. Follow my progress on http://www.40three.wordpress.com”

It feels a bit like speaking out loud to an empty room.

No prizes for noticing the slowly growing buz on the web about Twitter. Along with all the hype however, there is a perhaps greater than usual (usual for an emerging web tool) volume of noise from those expressing dislike or just down right puzzlement. twitter_logo_s

‘So, what, you just post short messages about what you’re doing (“i’m brushing my teeth”) and anyone who wants to follow your life can? I don’t get it. Isn’t that just a lot of distracting noise?’

Say some people.Then:

‘Doesn’t it just feed the celebrity culture, where people are more interested in the banal events of others lives than the significant ones of their own?’

Say other people.

Like these people, I am predisposed to skepticism with this one. ‘Sounds dumb’ was my first thought. However, when I first heard of blogs a decade ago, I thought that sounded pretty dumb too, so what do I know?

In that spirit, I propose an experiment. I’ll try twitter, but better than that, I’ll share the experience with anyone who chances upon this blog. So join me on this journey to a deeper understanding of all that Tweets.

A few disclaimers before I start. I don’t text very much, and my mobile is a bit crap; I don’t have an iPhone; I’m on Facebook but I can count the times I’ve updated my status on one hand. Perhaps that means I’m not the ideal candidate for this experiment. But perhaps not.

If you Twitter, is it any good? Should I follow you? Is it a load of crap?

Next up: getting an account.

Last night I was at the Manchester Blog Awards at Matt and Phred’s. It was an excellent event that has come a long way in two years.

I sat back with a beer and a tasty pizza and very much enjoyed the high quality of the readings. I think I was a little surprised by this. I think I expected to go ‘mmm..that’s nice’ or ‘mmm..that’s some good writing’ but not actually enjoy the readings.

But the offered set of witty, playful and amusing narratives had me wanting more. There’s nothing like a good bit of story telling. Fortunately, some of those reading were reading from books due to be published soon, so I shall make a note to buy them.

The full shortlist can be seen here. And the winners:

Best New Blog – Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Best Writing on a Blog – Every day I lie a little

Best Arts and Culture Blog – Northernights

Best Personal Blog- Travels with my baby

Best Neighbourhood Blog – Manchester Bus

And Citylife Manchester Blog of the Year: Travels with my Baby

And so I was well and truly beaten, which is a good way to lose, because justice is done. Nice also to see that buses and blogs still make good bed fellows.

Thanks go to Kate from Manchizzle for making the event happen, and to the Manchester Literature Festival for getting involved. And it’s also good to see the MEN taking such an active interest in Manchester Blogging.

On another note, does the MLF involvement have anything  to do with the literary focus of the Manchester Blog Awards? Is Manchester unusual in this respect, or does every major city have such writing talent in their blogsphere? Certainly it makes for an excellent Blog Awards event.

Exciting news: Kate of The Manchizzle has teamed up with Chris of Mancubist to produce a new website sporting a ‘writers map’ of Manchester for local content. Kate:

It uses a Google map of the city to organise stories or poetry linked to particular places. Readers can click on a place marked by the little cloud icon to read a piece of writing associated with that spot.

This looks like a fantastic project. It’s local, it uses web2 new media (and all that jazz), and it has some great potential.

Of the stories that are up I particularly liked Rats and Mice by Mike Duff.

It’s short enough to to be readable on the web, and drew me in quickly enough to keep my attention to the end. And it’s a nice bit of writing to boot.

I think perhaps the little speech-bubble/cloud icons on the map could do with being a bit more visible, but I like the idea. (Since they asked for feedback).

Both Kate and Chris speak of new developments on the horizon, so it will be interesting to see firstly how the project takes off, and then where they take it. Watch that space (and get involved too!)

The ‘writers map’ brings to mind a BBC local media project that is on the cards (as far as I know), involving local maps pinned with multi-media content. Lets hope that if that does arrive it doesn’t harm the progress of Rainy City Stories.

Well done Kate and Chris.

How do you connect philosophy and new-media? How do you connect philosophy and old media, for that matter? Philosophy is ideas, and ideas don’t translate well to visual media easily.

So I was interested by what this guy is trying to do.  I think it’s fun. Does it work? Do you have any idea what he’s going on about, if you don’t know what he’s going on about already?

The BBC are keen to not only produce content for the full spectrum of the UK audience, but to pull employees from across that spectrum as well. And quite rightly.

Hence the BBC’s in-house newspaper Ariel was very keen last week to make the most of the diversity of the new intake to the recently revived BBC Production Training Scheme. They wrote:

Not all in the BBC mould: they include an ex-lawyer, a stand up comic, a former scaffolder and soccer coach.

What’s more,

They’re all graduates but they’re not predominantly from Oxbridge, as may have been the case at one time.

More ticks for diversity, or such is the implication.

However, a quick scan through the profiles reveals that the ‘former scaffolder’ has a masters in anthropology from Cambridge. He has also been a bookshop owner. We can assume he did a-levels and at least four years of higher education, and he’s only 24. In the picture he is wearing a jacket approximating a blazer, and a pink shirt.

‘Not in the mould’ because he got his hands dirty on a summer job? This is clutching at diversity straws. At least we needn’t worry about Jeremy Paxman being right.

It is surely unashamedly playing that shallow media game to reinforce the notion that how our PM takes his holiday matters to us. Sure it might be interesting for the kind of people who are interested by Heat magazine, but I doubt they are interested for political reasons. He could Mr Famous-For-Being-Famous for all the Heat readers care.

But we can’t seriously think that we should criticise him as a Prime Minister for what he wears on the beech.

Some think otherwise, and even say the holiday snaps that were taken

seem to tell a wider truth, which is that Brown doesn’t understand the country he’s running.

Seriously.

I accept that this might be ‘just how it is’ – how media and politics work- but that doesn’t mean we have to like it and pretend it’s all ok.

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