The Evolution of E-mail
Does anybody remember their first e-mail address? I do. It was firstname.lastname@example.org. The same company that hosted my favorite dial-in BBS also became my first e-mail provider. And it was great except I only knew three other people who used e-mail (and they lived only a couple of blocks away from me).
So I would check my e-mail address for weeks and not receive anything. What did I do to remedy this? Well, I signed up for some newsletters (about cars because I was still a teenager) and I started conversations online about politics, sports or Ham radio that would spill over into massive reply all e-mail fests.
Which was great, at least for awhile. Then more widespread adoption of e-mail took place and in between newsletters and virtual conversations came e-mails that I needed to read from family and friends. And then later, e-mails from fellow students and co-workers. In between all of those were e-mail forwards from people I did want to hear from but just not on those subjects.
What eventually happened was the initial use transformed into something different as time went on. Now I am rarely involved in an e-mail chain that lasts more than three or four e-mails because then we need to discuss it in real time. Now I rarely receive e-mail newsletters for anything but the most pertinent industry news. Now I rarely have discussions with strangers via e-mail that goes beyond either a “not interested” note or a “let’s discuss this on the phone” note.
What’s Happening With Twitter
When Frank Roche posted about his 10,000th tweet, I was first a little surprised that he beat me to 10,000 (by about 1,200 tweets too!) even though he was on the service only a few weeks before me. But then, I was interested to hear that he thought the best years were behind Twitter.
I’ve told my friend Chris Ferdinandi multiple times that Twitter was easier to manage four years ago. There were maybe a few dozen then maybe a couple hundred people that were on in our niche and almost all of them were worth following. Early adopters of a service usually have similar goals, norms are established and the network is smaller so it is easier to influence (and be influenced).
Now? You can’t watch ESPN without hearing Twitter mentioned. Not a conference goes by where I don’t end up talking about Twitter at some point. It’s a different world out there. You can’t just follow back everyone like the “good old days.” The network feels less tight, less special, and less useful. So does that mean its heyday is behind it?
Twitter is Changing (And We Shouldn’t Be Surprised)
The way we use Twitter is changing. For me, it has become a utility like e-mail or my RSS reader. The people I follow are more than likely people I know or have met at least virtually. Some people I have met I don’t follow because they tweet too much. Some companies I do like I don’t follow because their updates aren’t interesting. Some people I haven’t met but are producers (writers mainly).
It’s not about being cool or being part of a clique anymore. After all, anyone can send me an @ message. And for those longer messages, my e-mail is widely available. There isn’t a special crew of people who knows a special e-mail address. It all comes into the same box
It is about getting the maximum usefulness out of the service in as little time as possible. It’s the same way we manage e-mail, calendars, or reading schedules. That may seem cold but it also makes Twitter something that I view like e-mail: indispensable, constantly available (though not constantly monitored) and available to anyone who wants a quick reply to or from me.