Shifting Sands

sand-dunesI’ve noticed a pronounced shift in my synchronous online communication activity lately.  In this post, I’ll share details and then ask whether or not you are experiencing a similar shift and why.


I began using Twitter and IBM’s internal equivalent, BlueTwit, about three months ago.  I know — way late to the game, but better late than never!  Since then, I have found that tweeting has replaced IMing as my preferred method of communicating virtually in real-time.  That’s true both behind and beyond the IBM firewall.

There are probably several reasons for this shift, but in retrospect I believe they can be summed up in one statement:

It’s about us, not you or me.

In the Twittersphere, communication is generally addressed to the collective rather than to an individual.  You can post a question to no one in particular and quickly get an answer back (or, more likely, several answers!)  Conversely, information can easily be shared instantaneously with several people.

Twitter expands real-time communication to a one-to-many model, as opposed to IM, which was created to facilitate person-to-person, synchronous communication.  I explained this difference to my wife just last night, when she asked me with whom I was twittering.  When I explained how I interact with the Twittersphere, she looked at me as if I was a crazy man talking to thin air in public!

Isn’t it more productive to share what you know or what you are learning with everyone, rather than just one person?

The belief in the verity of the affirmative answer to that question has driven me to nearly stop using IM altogether and communicate almost exclusively via Twitter and BlueTwit.  Perhaps I’ve had an epiphany much like my colleague, Luis Suarez, had regarding the use of social software instead of e-mail (chronicled here.)  More likely, it was my non-techie wife’s innocent question and disbelieving reaction that made me realize that my online synchronous collaboration channel of choice had changed, probably irreversibly, and why the shift had occurred.

How about you?  Has tweeting begun to occupy a larger percentage of your real-time virtual communication activity, at the expense of IMing?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Please share your thoughts in a comment below.  If the accumulated feedback is interesting enough, I might create a short, quantitative survey on the topic!


2 responses to “Shifting Sands

  1. This is all about the move to what Stowe Boyd calls the “web of flow” – see his presentation from Web 2.0 Expo Berlin. It’s about attention data, and the ongoing flow of information. Blog entries are, in his terminology, like rocks in the stream.

    I tweet more, IM less, and read less that hasn’t already been recommended by my Twitter stream.

  2. Pingback: Microstreaming in the Middle « Together, We Can!

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