I’m attending Tweetcamp on Saturday 8 October. I even moved my holiday to get along there. Although I’m helping with the cleanup operation at the end of the day (somebody has to, right?), I’m also hoping to get along to some of the sessions during the day too.
And if I can pluck up the courage I may even try and chew the ear off someone nearby in an attempt to see whether my current view on Twitter has any traction.
Here’s how it all started for me and where I’m at with it four years on.
I remember signing up for Twitter because I saw a friend at work using it. ‘Register your username,’ he advised. I did so and then let it go. I didn’t see how it could be useful to me.
Twelve months later (I think) I revisited it, and in the process of settling into a new job, found it was the perfect tool to establish a new network of friends, associates and colleagues. It was a unifying experience. All of us beginning at the same point, learning how to use it together.
I ended up using Twitter to shamelessly self-promote myself. This in the mistaken belief that I would succeed in achieving a glittering career on the radio. Twitter was the free, boundary less equivalent of the radio world I loved. Such a shame so many others saw it the same way.
Some of my original aims remain, even if the ultimate prize seems like nothing more than a pipe dream. I strive to use Twitter to reflect me and my interests. That’s why I can at times appear a little scattergun. Where others might have a focussed brief for their Twitter account – I prefer to feel a little freer about things.
And that’s important because for me – and remember this is my personal view about my own personal use of Twitter – it’s a creative tool. It’s something which still challenges me to write 140 characters which will hopefully hook someone in. That’s the goal every time I tweet.
The hope is – and I’m sure a great many people are the same only they probably wouldn’t admit it – that my tweet will make someone either laugh or think. If I’m lucky they’ll come back to me with a response. A conversation might ensue. If I’m really lucky I might even be retweeted. If I’ve totally missed the mark, just silence.
Even if you’re not quite so ego-centric as I am, that is the creative challenge presented by Twitter. That’s one of the reasons I’m still using it now.
All too often, however, I chickened out. I fell into a trap. Just as most of us jump unto the 9-5 treadmill at the expense of our underlying happiness, so I frequently resort to tweeting links to blog posts I’ve written. ‘I need more than 140 characters,’ I’ll think, ‘and I’m sure if they just read the first paragraph of the blog or see the picture, that will be enough to hook them in.’
I’m not the only one who does that. I’d say a high proportion of us do the same. Twitter is for sharing. That’s the point of it. That’s what it’s good for.
But I wonder whether – two years after the first Tweetcamp and four years after I signed up for Twitter – whether it’s time for me to attend some remedial classes on how to use the tool, in a bid to rekindle the joy I experienced when I first started splashing around.
Take this comparison. Anyone who’s learnt how to play a musical instrument up to a reasonably high standard may have gone through a similar process. When I was in my late teens, it was suggested to me that maybe the way in which I could progress my clarinet playing was to go and have a few consultation lessons with orchestral pros in London. LSO clarinettist Colin Bradbury offered me some and after a handful of lessons suggested that the problem I needed to deal with was the way in which I breathed. Six months later having effectively ditched my first clarinet teacher in favour of another, the breathing was sorted out. My tone was transformed. It was quite an amazing experience.
It’s hardly surprising really. Change the dynamic between teacher and pupil and change will be effected. Great things might even follow.
So it is with Twitter now and my relationship with it. Can I develop my Twitter activity by changing my interaction with it? And, if I can rekindle that initial thrill by unlearning some of the bad habits I’ve acquired over the past few years, how might my ‘output’ develop over time?
And thinking bigger for a moment, I wonder whether we are – inevitably – moving into a new phase where Twitter is concerned. A phase where we might be in danger of overlooking the editorial opportunities offered by the publishing platform and seeing instead as nothing more than a distribution tool?
The web. The technology should deliver the content. And it’s the content we need to hang onto.