Twitter is a simple, sufficient method of one-to-many and many-to-many communication. It’s free in the first instance (I haven’t read its terms and conditions for non-individual not-for-profit use), it provides syndication through close integration with SMS and RSS, it has an API that means existing vast network silos like Facebook and LiveJournal have already been hooked up to it in some way or another. In short, it would be worth any organisation considering it as an alert system, if they have to watch their expenditure for some reason.
With all that in mind, it seems odd to be warning museums against using Twitter. I wouldn’t like to comment on how many “normal” people use Twitter (or indeed how many “normal” people visit or would visit museums!) I’d also resist estimating—without any research—how much taxpayer’s money has been wasted on putting a single link to Digg on the BBC News livery, although it’s probably considerably less than the iPlayer has cost.
It would take either hubris or a misunderstanding of Digg, for someone to use Digg’s top 10 stories in 2007 to condemn Digg, given that its main use seems to be to promote stories transitorily rather than record league tables over time. And attacking or defending both Twitter and Second Life in the same manoeuvre carries risks of guilt by association of the streamlined with the inflated that, frankly, I’d rather not run.
Instead, here is a breakdown in no particular order of the demographics of the people on the list of people following me through Twitter:
- Half a dozen programmers
- 1 librarian I gave an LRB subscription to (as yet unrenewed)
- 1 ex-publisher programmer with a 1st in English
- 1 project manager, music fan and balloonist
- 1 green activist
- 1 DJ/record-label owner
- 2 graphic artists/cartoonists
- 1 actor
- 1 ex-president of a university music society
- 1 musician, studying at Goldsmith’s
- (And there’s me: programmer, failed musician, failed comedian, occasional author and compère and ex-organizer of a literary festival)
Hardly a relentlessly technical bunch of Sanfransiscorati there, although they’re all reasonably at home with technology of course. You only need to be born after 1970 to be at home enough with technology to use Twitter, mind, so it’s not that surprising.
Still, who would possibly want to try to encourage such people as my Twitter followers to visit dusty old buildings like local museums? I mean, after all: almost all of them already do.