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Why Twitter *can't* be conversational for me

Sunday, January 04, 2009 by Dave Winer.

I've tried to use it conversationally, but it quickly falls apart.  Permalink to this paragraph

Consider an example. Permalink to this paragraph

Suppose I say the sky is blue. Permalink to this paragraph

Someone says: "What do you mean by that?" Permalink to this paragraph

Now I have three choices: 1. Ignore it. 2. Ask what they're referring to. 3. Assume they mean my statement that the sky is blue, and explain what it means for the sky to be blue. Permalink to this paragraph

Suppose I choose #2. Because I might have said 5 things in the last hour, and how do I know which one my correspondent is referring to. So I respond: "Which item are you referring to?" But before my friend can respond someone else asks "What are you talking about?" Now to that one I have three possible choices, the same ones as before.  Permalink to this paragraph

Back up a step. I could have chosen #3. How do you explain what it means for the sky to be blue in 140 characters? And if you try, someone else will ask you to explain your explanation. But how will you know which twit they're referring to!  Permalink to this paragraph

Right around this time someone chimes in with a political objection to something I've said. By trying to cram real conversation into 140 character snippets, you're bound to offend someone, because in order to be politically correct you have to allow for the possibility that you're talking about a man or a woman, someone who is young or old or inbetween, or if you assume they're American you'll get a lecture on how all Americans think everyone is an American or somesuch.  Permalink to this paragraph

Honestly don't see how anyone gets past the first step in a conversation, but as I've gotten more people following me, the opportunities get narrower. When I try to satisfy everyone, what happens then is someone tells me I'm posting too much and I should STFU or they're going to unsubscribe. Ohhh. Permalink to this paragraph

So when someone asks me a question that I want to answer, I DM them. But usually I choose option #1. For me it's not and can't be conversational. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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