BBC BLOGS - dot.Maggie
« Previous | Main | Next »

What does Twitter mean to you?

Maggie Shiels | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

For people like myself who use Twitter to follow news, broadcast from events and connect with possible subjects, it is an indispensable tool. It is hard to believe it is only five years old. It seems so ubiquitous in Silicon Valley.


Biz Stone

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone at the company's headquarters

It reminds me of the time as a junior reporter working for a BBC rival when I got sent out to cover a murder in North London with the aid of one of the first mobile phones. It was the size of a brick and weighed a ton.

Previous to that "mobile" era, I would have to find a red phone box to file copy and then take the phone apart to attack crock clips to feed audio down the line.

Now with my trusty BlackBerry, I rarely log onto my BBC PC and do everything via the phone. Especially tweet. Which takes me back to where I started this conversation.

When I spoke to co-founder Biz Stone, he described this birthday much like sending a child off to school.

"It's so crazy, it just doesn't feel like five years have passed. We were sitting up here [at Twitter HQ]: me, Jack [Dorsey] and Ev [Williams] in front of the company talking about what we were doing and the fun stuff and messages between Jack and me when we were building the first prototype. I think one of the first SMS text messages I sent was 'come here Watson, I need you'."

"The other day someone asked 'you are five-years-old, what does that mean to you?' and I said the image popped into my head of a five-year-old getting ready to go to kindergarten. We are at that point where we are at the beginning of a life of adventure."

For the last couple of weeks Jack Dorsey, who had been noodling on this kind of idea since early 2001, has been digging through his archives and tweeting his thoughts, memories and copies of the tweets and IM's that passed between the team. See them on his stream here. They make for fascinating reading.

Contrary to popular belief, the first tweet was not "just setting up my twttr", which was an automated message. Instead, Jack revealed the first message was "inviting workers". While it doesn't hold a candle to "one small step for man" it will go down in the history books nonetheless.

If you want to see what other people were tweeting about back then, go here. Jack's plea to ask people to dig into their own archives helped get the #5yrs hashtag into trending topics.

So as the once commonly referred to micro-blogging service grows up as an information and communications platform, what does Twitter mean to you?

It was a question I asked all the founders. Naturally answers conform to the 140 character rule. Biz Stone had this to say:

@Biz: Twitter means connecting with those things I find most meaningful in life and it really has been true.

As an example he cited trying to find out details about what was going on in Japan and the fall out from the nuclear reactor at Fukishima. He was looking for specific answers and not the generalisations he was finding everywhere else and said he found them thanks to Twitter.

Evan Williams replied with this:

@Ev: Twitter means having a direct link to the minds of hundreds of the people I most admire on the planet--and millions more I've yet to know.

And Jack Dorsey tweeted:

@jack: The best technologies make us more human. Twitter enables one to take what was once unapproachable & complex, and makes it human, instantly.

So what does Twitter mean to you? No more than 140 characters please.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    My twitter is set up to republish my #Facebook status updates automatically sometimes the 140 character limit can be a real pain in the A...

  • Comment number 2.

    Maggie Shiels.

    "Instead, Jack revealed the first message was "inviting workers"."

    intriguing, workers to do what? was anyone offered renumeration or did Mr Dorsey and friends intend to exploit other people's goodwill from the start, sorry, seek volunteers?

    "As an example [Stone] cited trying to find out details about what was going on in Japan and the fall out from the nuclear reactor at Fukishima. He was looking for specific answers and not the generalisations he was finding everywhere else and said he found them thanks to Twitter."

    that's such a sweeping statement, it says nothing -- a bit like a David Cameron quote; which "specific answers"? what "generalisations"? without factual information, I can not determine whether Mr Stone isn't simply promoting the service he helped found.

    "Now with my trusty BlackBerry, I rarely log onto my BBC PC and do everything via the phone. Especially tweet."

    no disrespect Ms Shiels, but the BBC's long-held reputation for quality journalism seems to be disappearing at the same rate as BBC journos change their working habits, like you did. coincidence??

    "So what does Twitter mean to you? No more than 140 characters please."

    nothing. never used it, never will.
    (35 characters)
  • Comment number 3.

    When mobile phones started to become more popular, and when the Internet was in its infancy, a lot of people I know said that they'd never use it and never would - they couldn't see a use for them, at the time. However they are all now online and texting.

  • Comment number 4.

    Twitter is a bit like Facebook without the privacy controls. It is used for self-promotion, by people selling themselves or their business
    (138 chars)

    As many have found to their cost, everything you write on Twitter is recorded and might be used against you in the court of public opinion.
    (139 chars)

    I’m not knocking Twitter! Many interesting people use it to communicate over the top of traditional media. You can't be misquoted on Twitter
    (140 chars)

    We are voyeurs and Twitter makes it easy to follow our favourite celebs. Online is different, in real life, you could get locked up for that
    (140 chars)

    I think of twitter as being a bit like a nudist colony where some people enjoy to bare everything about themselves. Each to their own, I say
    (140 chars)

  • Comment number 5.

    Twitter means nicely packaged, often thought-provoking, digestible pieces of news that is mine for the consuming!

    MK Juric, Airfoil
    @mkjuric

  • Comment number 6.

    Too busy learning science so don't have time to micro-blog, friends "follow" me and I follow them back without knowing what's the fuss about

    (140 chars)

  • Comment number 7.

    Mary-Katharine Juric #6.

    "Twitter means nicely packaged, often thought-provoking, digestible pieces of news that is mine for the consuming!"

    'pro-Gaddafi forces attacking protesters in Benghazi'
    53 char's, thought-provoking, digestible, yours to consume, and yet, totally misleading. frankly, if you cannot take in information in larger chunks, why bother at all?

 

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.