Topical, Polemical And Short: Twitter? Or American Revolutionary Pamphlets?

from the don't-knock-it dept

Just as we’re seeing the various naysayers of any popular new communications technology come out swinging against Twitter, Rick Klau does a nice job reminding people that this is nothing new. With every new form of communication, people freak out about how there’s no "rules" and that some people are using it for bad things or (worse!) mundane things. Rick points out the following quote to prove his point:

"Twitter is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and "high-brow" than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since Twitter is always short, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, Twitter does not have to follow any prescribed pattern… All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short."

The quote comes from Pulitzer Prize winning historian Bernard Bailyn… except that’s not the actual quote. Rick simply replaced pamphlets with Twitter — as the original is talking about the use of pamphlets in the lead up to the Revolutionary War, and how they helped spread ideas. Yet, today, as then, people will complain that the content is "currilous, abusive, and seditious." Every time I see someone complain about how Twitter (or blogging) is somehow not valuable because of all the crappy, boring or mundane content found via those platforms, I simply wonder why the complainer follows crappy, boring or mundane Twitter users and blogs.

On top of that, the question of content being banal or mundane is really in the eye of the beholder. For example, many people point to Twitter messages about "what someone’s eating for lunch" to show how useless Twitter can be. Yet, for me, just such a message has resulted in me getting to meet someone who I might not have met otherwise. And the more that I’ve used Twitter, the more and more useful I’ve found many of those same "mundane" messages. It certainly may not be for everyone, but I find it amusing that some can brush off the entire idea as being useless when so many people (including myself) have found it to be tremendously valuable and useful, if used properly. Are those who are brushing it off assuming that the millions of people who find it useful are lying?

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