Are Tweets Another Way of Saying I Love You at 300 baud

Yesterday I attended the very useful MIT CIO Conference. For the first time at a conference, I was one of those a live tweeters, using HootSuite on my iPad. Unlike that curmudgeon Bill Keller,  I did not experience anything akin to crystal meth. Tweeting along the way enhanced the conference experience significantly.

The most enjoyable part was sharing thoughts with others in the room in real time. I was able to see the emphasis on parts of the dialogue that I would have otherwise missed. Based on retweets of my own messages, others likewise found value. Being constantly tuned in helped me keep my focus even after hours in a darkened theatre.

The immediate feedback from presenters was a nice surprise. To comment about a presenter and then get an individual response three minutes after the session is new and exciting.

Finally, when a panelist made an odd statement, I could mention it, and give the panelist a second chance after the fact to clarify. This is a frustration I’ve often experienced in the moment of discussion, where I would have enjoyed the ability to clarify “what I really meant to say was….”

I was trying to think of an analogy in my experience of Twitter’s purposefully short messages. Way back in 1984 when I was 19, I spent a summer writing a real time chat program for VAX/VMS for a small online service that was trying to compete with Delphi. The program was reasonably sophisticated including private messages, in memory message passing, concurrency and locking, all features that would trickle into well-known products like Windows NT, AIM, and IRC. This was way back in the days of “The Source” and “The Well.”

I spent most days enhancing features and most evenings using the chat program to flirt with Genji and Grendel with my partner in crime, Maven. Since the only connection I had at the time as a poor student was a 300 baud acoustic coupler, messages had to be brief, to the point and most of all witty. Little did I realize that this was excellent training for cramming useful thoughts into 140 characters twenty seven years later. Plus ça change…

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