Friday, 15 May 2009

To twit, or not to?

Lots of interest in Twitter these days, and not just from celebrities like Stephen Fry and Jonathon Ross. Clive Shepherd, e-learning consultant and chair of the eLearning Network, undertook a three month personal trial, detailed in his article in the current issue of e.learning age, but could reach no definitive endorsement. Clive likes it himself, but says, “whether the benefits I have found are universal, I couldn’t possibly say”.

Without having undertaken any trial, I have reached a similar conclusion. It’s an interesting and laudable attempt to offer something new in the field of social networking, and may be personally attractive to some, but I doubt it will offer enough lasting value to remain as a widely used tool. And its application specifically for learning is doubtful.

I’d liken it to instant messaging, in that it has immediacy, it’s a small-scale app, it appeals to those of limited writing ability (I don’t mean that to sound condescending – that has its place) and it can combine well with other things. But how many of us still use instant messaging regularly? The gap it set out to exploit between email and texting doesn’t seem to exist any more, especially with many of us using the same handheld devices to do both.

To be fair, I’m not a great one for generic social networking sites either – I don’t have a Facebook account, although I am on LinkedIn, a site with a sharper business focus. But I have been using niche discussion forums for nearly a decade, and I was an early adopter of Friends Reunited, perhaps now the most passé social networking site.

My guess is Twitter won’t last. Partly because I question its long term value, once the novelty factor has worn off, and partly because I can’t see how anyone is ever going to make any money from it. But maybe I’m just being a twit.

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