Offensive Thinking

Internet Thoughtcrime

The thing about Twitter

Posted: 2009-05-11

Twitter is a phenomenon you can hardly avoid at the moment. If you don’t use it, you’ve at least heard of it (if not: this video nicely explains what Twitter is about).

My (and many others’) first reaction to Twitter was: WTF? People writing meaningless things in a maximum of 140 characters. Sounds like a blog for people with ADD. So I put Twitter aside as the next Facebookish thingy I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

But then one day one of my colleagues told be he’s following Twitter updates of some (well known) security guys. That of course got me curious. I searched for some names and yes, they were really on Twitter. And twittering (tweeting? That whole nomenclature still confuses me) a lot. There’s a whole website listing security people, companies and groups using Twitter. And as I was reading all that stuff, I noticed that about 1 in 10 tweets had some interesting stuff in it. Mostly links to e.g. a new project somebody is working on, an interesting paper, a website or blog with security related content I didn’t know before, that kind of stuff. I realised that buried under those typical “Opening my eyes”, “Driving to work”, “First coffee” nonsense tweets there were some valuable gems of information. It’s like sitting with a group of people in a room, listening in to various conversations, overhearing the occasional news you didn’t know about. And that was precisely what my colleague told me before how at least many of the security people use Twitter: as an asynchronous multiuser chat. It’s like IRC, but not in realtime.

Twitter also lowers the barrier for people to write about stuff they like or think worthy of telling others about. You don’t normally write a blog post with only a URL to something that you just read and found cool. Retweets, meaning to copy the content of other users’ tweets (crediting them by setting their username in front it) is something you wouldn’t do in a blog post. And writing tweets from your phone or whatever other mobile device is explicitely encouraged by Twitter, making people twitter all kinds of stuff without even thinking. Which has, as I said, a good and a bad side. Many times, you have to sift through loads of meaningless stuff until you find something good.

Ok, so am I a Twitter user now? No, I don’t have a Twitter account. And I really don’t plan on getting one. Seriously, I needed years to even convince myself to start a blog (and I still don’t like calling it that, as you may have guessed by this running in the “Thoughts” category). But I follow a bunch of security guys’ Twitter accounts via their RSS feeds. The gist of this is, add Twitter to your resources of information. It may be worth it.