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Tweet, tweet

Rome Hartman | 17:30 UK time, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I'm not sure I can handle the pressure. Suddenly, Washington has gone crazy for Twitter.

Twitter logoIt seems that to occupy any position at all on the press or political landscape in this town, one must be "all thumbs"; constantly tapping out text messages from the mobile to let everyone you know (and many you don't) exactly what you're doing at any given moment.

Every day there's an article about another media luminary or administration official taking up "tweeting"; just this morning, the Washington Post has a story all about the members of Congress sending text tweets from inside the chamber during Barack Obama's speech to a joint session.

Now, I'm as tech-savvy as the next guy, and I completely get the way in which social networks like Twitter are changing the way information is shared around the world (remember how that great photo of the plane in the Hudson rocketed around the globe via Twitter?).

It's just that I'm not sure I really care to know in real time what the anchor of Meet the Press is having for breakfast, or just what the House chamber podium looks like from the seat of the junior Senator from Arkansas. And I'm sure that no one, not even my wife and kids (perhaps especially my wife and kids), are desperate to know what I'm doing all day long, in bursts 140 characters long.

So, don't look for tweets from me anytime soon. But if you must know, my lemon-poppyseed muffin this morning was delicious.


  • Comment number 1.


    Most people in Washington and outside of the beltway also do a fair share of Twittering ....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 2.

    Nicely said Rome.
    Twitter's a fad. Filofax, PDAs, smartphones etc, some people just like showing how 'switched on' they are.
    Once folk begin to realise that life and real news is passing them by, or they have a lover to text, no longer have to amuse themselves on commutes or feel they have to always look busy they'll give it up.

    I'm sure that someone, somewhere has found an indispensable use for it that couldn't be achieved by any other means, but I've yet to hear about it.

    Possibly it's journalists, getting newsworthy Tweets filtered through a news aggregator, but surely nothing major would happen that the major news-services wouldn't catch as fast?
    But then I can see that competition to be 'first' to break news could mean seconds do count.

    Otherwise Twitter's just another comm.'s medium and I suffer from technology / information overload as it is - and only 140 characters! Isn't that limit frustrating? One day it might evolve into email.

  • Comment number 3.

    a breath of sanity in a mad world...

    the fatuous suggestion that the most important question is 'what are you doing' rather than 'why are you doing it ?' or even 'how are you ?' is a mystery to me...

    are we really in the process of reducing life to a list of 'wanadoos' and 'diddits' ? have our lives really become that materialistic and shallow ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Funny article!, lets hope it cuts down on the mobile phone calls of train passengers who seem determined to inform the whole world of the state of their commute into work!!

  • Comment number 5.


    When are we going to be able to watch BBC World News America online? Currently forced to watch CBS Evening News with Katie Couric to catch up with news over the pond, which, as you know, is pretty good.

    Keep up the good work - and if you don't like Twitter, stay well away from your old colleagues at CBS... (though if you could poach Bob S that would be pretty good).

  • Comment number 6.

    I hope everyone using Twitter and similar services such as Friendfeed realises that anyone with a little expertise with Google anyone can 'eavesdrop' on what's being posted?
    Nothing you say this way is 'private' on the Web. Your feeds can also show up if someone (e.g. employer) does a name search or knows your log-on ID.
    That would worry me. At least emails and Txt messages don't show up (yet) in web-searches. And once out there on the Web it has a long, long life.

    I'm sure some-one will come to regret what they once Twittered on the spur of the moment. Those Congress members perhaps?

  • Comment number 7.

    Congratulations, you've written the 10,000th article to make a joke about people twittering about their breakfast.

  • Comment number 8.

    mmm, lemon poppyseed... that sounds nice! See, this is why people talk about what they've had to eat - it inspires other people to try things they might not consider!

    I love that I don't have to wait for the media to report things; it is going to be handier to log in on your phone / or text twitter than it is to faff around for the BBC text no. if you happen to be stuck in the middle of some newsworthy event.

    If you like celebrity stories & gossip - it's perfect, you can hear things straight from a few celebs that are genuinely on twitter.

  • Comment number 9.

    I tend to agree with you - yawn. Please feel free to not join in.

    If Stephen Fry wants to do it from a stuck lift, as a private individual it's his choice.

    But what about senators on the tax payers budget/firm's time, when they are supposed to be listening to their new president? New Jimmy Carter or not, I think they should listen to the guy.

    I think in that instance we have to ask the question of what any other employer would do in that circumstance?

    Is it an appriopriate use of tax funded time?

  • Comment number 10.

    Never has a fad been so appropriately named.

  • Comment number 11.

    Who cares if the Washington Post has gone twitter mad, like most people I couldn't care less how seriously this foreign newspaper takes the latest passing fad.

    The BBC in general needs to stop pretending it's a US media corp. It's meant to be a British Public Service for the British public. If you guys dream of being US media moguls, go there and become one, leave the BBC to serve the country that pays for it and stop pretending it's a US entity which should provide 24/7 US news coverage.

    Like most people, I really couldn't care less what Obama's pet dog is having for dinner tonight.

  • Comment number 12.

    Although I did create an account and tweeted once about 3 or 4 months ago, I quickly lost interest as I didn't see any benefit for me personally.

    I've contributed to various threads about other 'fads' namely Facebook, MySpace and smartphones where people seem to intensely critisize and name-call those who use them or those that don't. And even though i'm an avid user of all three, Twitter has not grabbed me, however I don't see why I should disrespect those that are enjoying it and seem to find it useful for them.

    Maybe one day I will reap the benefits of this new popular service but for now my tweeting count will remain at 1.

  • Comment number 13.

    I swear the BBC bloggers are obsessed with Twitter.

  • Comment number 14.

    #11, timOfBrum wrote:

    "a British Public Service for the British public."

    BBC in the UK is paid for by licence fee payers.

    Internationally, the British taxpayer via the foreign office pays for World Service radio and some TV (BBC Arabic, for instance) for the purposes of 'counter-propaganda'.

    The rest of BBC's international TV is paid for by advertisers. The BBC World News Channel on which I watch BBC World News America (the programme that Rome is the executive producer of) is commercially funded.

    Have you even read Rome's blog post on the subject?

  • Comment number 15.


    I think you miss the point. This blog is paid for by the license payer and if Mr Hartman was on the BBC payroll I would raise all manner of protest at Trust level. His contributions never escape the world of trivia and to be honest I am not surprised that his diet contain poppy-seeds.....

  • Comment number 16.

    Dear Sweet Mr.Hartman:

    Twitter is not intended for literalists. When it asks what you are now doing, you are not compelled to answer that and only that. That is the narrowest and most boring construction of what to do on Twitter.

    Here's what I do:
    1. I share information on stories I find interesting (e.g. newsy ones your publication and others have written) for others to enjoy.

    2. I invite and promote events to people I find worthy, including local salon-type gatherings, complete with links to learn more.

    3. I ask fellow Twitter users for information on topics I need to get answers on in my field, and use hashtags to help them find my topics (a hashtag is a self-created topic using the number symbol, as in #BBCnews or #cancer).

    4. I inject quotes, humor and art from web sites I find to make my fellow Twitterers' experience more fun.

    5. I participate in Twitter topic discussions on subjects I am interested in to both network and learn more.

    6. For sheer entertainment, I'll employ all manner of Twitter applications that enhance its functionality to expand its usefulness. For example, using add-ons that let me post my location so friends can find me or guage the most popular tweeting term to see what news is the latest buzz, etc.

    This is just a sampling of what you can do and get from Twitter. So explore and don't be so darn-tootin' literal.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Twitter's a fad. Filofax, PDAs, smartphones etc, some people just like showing how 'switched on' they are."

    I remember the days when transponder calibration at Soviet airfields involved looking for a column of smoke.

    For a question to be asked, indicated something was wrong, Soviet aviators would make great NYC cab drivers

    no technical means is as good as a head out the window.

  • Comment number 18.

    I would be most interested to learn little more of the commercial arrangements between the BBC and BBC World News America.

    *How much does World News America pay the BBC for the use of its name?

    *How much does World News America pay the BBC for use of its output and material?

    *How much editorial influence does the BBC have over World News America output?

    *As this is a "commercial" venture is the BBC committed to propping it up should its advertising fail?

    *Why is the BBC involved in a "commercial" project at all?

    Perhaps someone in the BBC would be kind enough to point me in the right direction for the facts of this venture.

  • Comment number 19.

    Americans are doing it? In Washington? How interesting! I wondered why the British media had suddenly started banging on about it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Carmen#16 and Rob#2 - Hear Hear!

    No one has to Twitter, and if you are not interested in what a particular individual is saying you don't have to 'follow' their tweets.

    I have a small group of people with whom I twitter -I find that it works better then text messages or e-mails when several of you are joining in a conversation, it's also useful for passing on links to interesting. Twitter is described as'microblogging' - many of the peopel I follow are people whoseblogs I read - having them tweet that they have posted a new blogpost is handy.

    Use - well, one of my friends is in Australia - her extended family used it during the fires(tweeting for mobile phones) to let frends and family know they were OK - it's a quick and effective way to pass info. to a lot of people at once.

    To the naysayers, may I ust ay, lighten up. Its's fun. If you don't want to join in, no one is forcing you to!

  • Comment number 21.

    Twitter isn't for everyone.

    It would just be nice if those who don't like it stop judging those who find it a great place to meet people & network. I don't need an iPhone or iPod but some people swear by them so good for them.

    It's a shame some people are still susceptible to peer pressure!

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree with post 11. Why are the BBC enabling American journalists to imbed themselves in blogs and attempt to change or influence the way public service broadcasting and their owners (UK CITIZENS) communicate?
    It's interesting to note that this arrangement for US journalists on these BBC sites is not reciprocal for UK citizens?? Most informed folk are fully aware that arrangements are underway for the BBC to be sold off, gradually and by stealth.

  • Comment number 23.

    Strongly agree with post 18. This blog is not about the twitter, ipods, iphones etc., 'discussion'. It's everything about one-way traffic via ,and at the cost of the BBC . Do wake up and smell the American coffee, as much as we love it! Angelina.

  • Comment number 24.

    I love Twitter! Actually I find it useful in these credit crunched days and I want to stay 1 step ahead of those greedy bankers - so I started following Moneynetcouk

    Every day there are updates about what the banks are doing - from launching new products to changing their rates - check it out yourself at

  • Comment number 25.

    Just to echo the thoughts expressed in 11, 14, 18, 22, and 23, it is rather strange to find Mr Hartman (independent from the BBC is he?) with a blog on the UK site. What on earth has this man to do with anything BBC other than a commercial agreement with them? Why is he treated as an employee when we are informed that he is not?

    We all know that the BBC likes to indulge in the "special" relationship the UK has with the USA especially all the pleasant junket trips there whenever something even mildly exciting happens. But isn't it strange to have a "private" company using the BBC brand and relying on advertising for income? Does that not directly influence World News America's output? Or is there not something about this "deal" that we should know about that the BBC seem a little shy of telling us?

    The BBC is not as it once was. Some will say the changes have made it better, but most who remember its traditional values would strongly disagree. In a very mediocre media world it is not hard to make programs that stand out from the crowd and there is still talent out there, but it is becoming increasingly hard to find. Commercial ventures like World News America seems a valueless way of projecting the BBC at anyone other than those already converted. So why has the BBC entertained this idea? I would really like to know.

  • Comment number 26.

    We are all alone in this world, the political hacks of the U.S. congress may have stronger sense of this dilemma than many of us, so they need "to reach out and touch someone" as the saying goes in the non-twitter world of yesteryear.

  • Comment number 27.

    Seems to me that the Beeb are behind the times yet again - Twitter has been around for a couple of years now - even Barack Obama used it in his campaign which clearly proves it is not a fad. It's a very valid way of keeping in touch on your mobile device as well as your computer.

    What I find so very amusing is how consistently late BBC are to the Web 2.0 (soon to be 3.0) party - same thing happened with Digg/StumbleUpon links etc. Amazed you even have blogs. You're going to have to embrace this "web based culture stuff" far more quickly if you expect to survive in this medium.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    No 27 is spot on. The BBC always seem to be late to the party with anything developing in the Web 2/3 area. The cool kids were using Twitter years ago, but, as with blogging, the BBC seem to have caught on just as the technology was becoming passé.

    IT and the BBC always seems like watching your Dad dancing at a wedding party. Full of enthusiasm, but just really painful to watch.

  • Comment number 30.

    You're kidding me, you're using the death of someone to report on twitter being used - on the front page?! Has no one thought that one through?

  • Comment number 31.

    Heard about this blog on Twitter and....

  • Comment number 32.

    No 30
    It's amazing, and almost as if the BBC have a commercial interest in Twitter? Why else try to mention it in every other story.

    Twitter, like phones, is a way for people to stay in touch. And like phones both have been around for years. I can't imagine a story being hung on the hook of "Mr X used phones to update people on progress", but the BBC will hang the story on the hook that Twitter was used.

    Get over it BBC, it's old technology that many have been using for years. Just because you have finally got round to using it, doesn't make it some amazing new discovery for the rest of us.

    As No 30 said, the story here is the tragic death of a snowboarder, not that people used phones and/or Twitter.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hello! Hello! Yes, I'm in the Senate, love!
    Yes, carrots and broccoli! See you later! Bye!

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi, if you refer to the 60's classic: "The Medium is the Massage (sic) by Marshall McLuhan, you will find an excellent study of this subject.

    Basically, the medium of communication delivery changes both the content and the style. You wouldn't get tweeting ephemara on parchment, for example, which costs a bomb and had to be physically transported to readers.

    I appreciate that technology can be around for ages - and that many have used it for a long time - you'll just have to forgive us slow types who only hear about it when it "goes mainstream".

  • Comment number 35.

    Tweet, tweet or twit, twit?

    Washington was so busy twittering it didn't notice the arrival of another twitter from over the Pond. No bird seed on offer - not one grain. Twitter-in-Chief had little time for live tweets, and left for some more online entertainment. Visitor twitter twittered his way into Big Twit House where he twittered contently with the other twitters present - some traditions just don't budge......

    Will we soon be able to say that "Obama twittered whilst Wall Street burned"?

  • Comment number 36.

    I've never yet twittered, but I'm considering it, if I do will I be labeled a twit??

  • Comment number 37.


    If ephemera is short lived then electronic equivalents of dialogue (or in many cases monologue) are making meaningful interaction between people increasingly more banal.

    There is a wealth of difference between a profoundly disabled person making use of technology to INCREASE their quality of life and an ordinary person debasing social skills by hiding behind a screen or a microphone. The latter is almost sinister, a weird inversion of our need to show "we are here".

    Whatever happened to our ability to meet, greet and be social, giving attention to those happy to spend time with us rather than those for whom time means a silly phone call, text message or "twitter"? Are we arrogant or what?

  • Comment number 38.

    Is it possible that I can read an undercurrent of defensiveness in this post? If you aren't interested in knowing things as they happen with near zero delay, then you probably picked the right job being a BBC Editor.

    That was probably a cheap shot but if you don't like it then don't use it.

    Also, to the person who called PDAs/Smartphones "Fads" ... Well I don't think I really need to say anything about that.

  • Comment number 39.

    On the subject of the net,
    I notice you've finally changed Steven Fry's 'The internet and I' to the grammatically correct 'The internet and me'. It was irking me more and more every time I saw it, and I can only imagine it was changed at the behest of Mr. Fry himself, whose reputation as an intellectual must now be somewhat compromised as a result.

  • Comment number 40.

    The nice thing about Twitter is that you don't need to use it or join it, and you can follow/unfollow who you want. I find it a useful means of communicating with family members abroad.

    @jezza86: BBC World can be watched on line if you get the Livestation client at

  • Comment number 41.

    A fad though it may be but even in South Africa the tweeters are out in full force covering the South Africa 2009 election news. The current election is the largest one ever and the local Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is expecting an 80+% voter turnout.

    While I agree it's hard to validate many of the tweets, taken in aggregate they do give a reasonably good indication as to what is happening on the ground which is great for news junkies like myself.

  • Comment number 42.

    Guys it seems your links are not working on the new commenting platform - the South African 2009 election news link in my previous comment is:

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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