Three Hidden Dangers of Twitter

SMS Text

It seems that everyone is talking about Twitter, and while the service is seeing enormous growth and all the celebrity bloggers have started using it like their life depends on it, before you jump on the bandwagon, here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
For me, Twitter remains a service that I haven’t used and don’t even plan to use simply because I am a blogger at heart. I prefer being thorough to brevity (read: just typing a largely useless stream of consciousness without any context) any day of the week. When our very own MG Siegler profiled Twitter and told us which feeds to follow, I decided to take a look at them. Let me exemplify my position on Twitter by looking at three dangers of unequivocal acceptance of the service.
Danger 1: Loss of quality and relevancy
What Steve Rubel Blogs
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Fired without Cause for Blogging
What Steve Rubel Twitters

@scobleizer Like Lycos? 😉 about 19 hours ago from web in reply to Scobleizer
@scobleizer That’s true, but as you know the web is extremely transient. Someone comes along with a better mouse trap and people will leave. about 19 hours ago from web in reply to Scobleizer
@scobleizer YouTube is going to go down as a purchase worse that broadcast.com or Geocities. There’s no moat. Then again, they can afford it about 19 hours ago from web in reply to Scobleizer

Am I the only one who doesn’t see any major difference between Twitter and regular instant messaging conversations or text messages (sms: short messaging service)? The only difference I see between the two is that Twitter makes your private conversation with another person – a conversation that is in all likeliness irrelevant to anyone else reading it – available for everyone to view.

I like to think of Twitter as a kind of massively-multiplayer IM chat. On one hand it’s kind of annoying if someone is only talking to one person in a tweet (marked by the @_ prefix) but on the other hand it’s kind of interesting and definitely voyeuristic…especially if you know both parties.

How is this any different from posting your conversation logs online (apart from the fact that posting entire logs would put the conversation in context and perhaps more sense than Twitter)? Based on the Twitter feeds I have seen while writing this article (and I saw ones from bloggers that I follow quite regularly), I am going to stick to blog RSS feeds, at least for now.
Danger 2: Hidden Costs
While I was looking for interesting Twitter feeds, I checked out Jason Calacanis’ and read the following,

Crushed by twitter bill… Ugh. Be careful people! about 18 hours ago from txt
oh sh@#$%@#$%t… jsut checked my tmobile bill: 2,367 extra messages… $236.70 in extra charges!!! does tmobile have unlimited?!?!?!?! about 20 hours ago from web

So before you start Twittering away, keep in mind that every time you do a status update, or publish something new but equally irrelevant on your Twitter feed, if you do it from your cell phone your carrier will charge you for every text message you send. And unless you have a plan that includes text messages, Twittering can be an expensive hobby, as Jason learned the hard way.
Danger 3: TMI: Too Much Information
It is a generally recommended practice for bloggers to disclose some information about themselves. Some personal disclosure allows your audience to have a more closer connection with you when reading your content. There is of course the problem of disclosing too much information, or all the wrong kind of information about yourself.
The same problem that arose from the popularity of social networking sites will come up with Twitter. As the masses get addicted to Twitter, people will start texting all sorts of things to the service, only to later realize that they shared some information that they shouldn’t have. While you Twitter, just keep in mind that you are broadcasting whatever you’re doing to the whole world (or at least your friends and colleagues). Please don’t tell us about what diseases, who you got them from, and who you’ve been doing what with.
After this diatribe on Twitter (though not unjust) I should point out that Twitter does have its uses too. People familiar with Sturgeon’s Law know that ’90 percent of everything is crud’. The law applies to Twitter more than I’ve witnessed it being applicable to anything else. If you manage to be selective, and weed out the irrelevant information, you can definitely learn a thing or two form what people are saying. Ultimately I agree with Siegler when he says that, “While the mundane can be interesting/humorous and may be important to true friends, the breaking news is where the power of Twitter lies“. This latter fact is exemplified by the list of top 100 Twitter users, over 21% of which is comprised of BBC, CNN, Google News, and other news outlets.
Are the benefits from reading Twitter feeds worth the ‘crud’ that you have to sift through? Please have your say in the comments.

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