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One-Tweet Wonders 170

Posted by kdawson
from the like-snowflakes-on-a-hot-beach dept.
theodp writes "TIME has seen-the-future-and-it-is-Twitter. Slate, on the other hand, is more fascinated with the phenomenon of orphaned tweets, the messages left by people who sign up for Twitter, post once, then never return (not unlike one-blog-post wonders). While some orphan tweets betray skepticism about microblogging ('I don't get it... what's the point of this thing?'), other one-and-done Twitterers demonstrate keen enthusiasm before disappearing ('I'm here!'), and some tweets hint that tragedy has cut a promising Twittering-life short ('it hurts to breathe. should I go to the hospital?'). Slate notes that studies of Twitter accounts by Harvard and Nielsen suggest the service has been better at signing up users than keeping them, including the one-tweet wonders."
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One-Tweet Wonders

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  • by krou (1027572) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:17AM (#28277891)
    Krou's law: There is, on average, only one tweet per twit.
  • by orta (786013)
    It happens with everything, people try it then forget to go back and continue. Personally I end up tweeting about once a month or two, I really don't care that much about the smaller details in peoples lives. And I've got a few friends who've done the whole orphan tweet thing. Nothing notably funny though, Kinda funny if they start posting now because so many people have started to follow them through the press =)
    • by Hadlock (143607)

      so many people have started to follow them through the press =)

      About half the people following me are part of the associated press. I'm convinced that's all they do these days.

  • Ouch (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It hurts to post, should I go to the hospital?

    • by _merlin (160982)

      No, you should curl up and die. You're going to one day, anyway. It's a nasty experience, so you may as well get it out of the way as soon as possible.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:20AM (#28277927)

    Tweeting seems like a great idea for people who want to start cults or for people who wish they had stalkers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Henk Poley (308046)

      You should have posted that on Twitter, it would fit. 140 character limit and all.

      $ echo "I don't get it. weeting seems like a great idea for people who want to start cults or for people who wish they had stalkers." | wc
            1 25 125

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:25AM (#28277961)
    A great old sci-fi story by Margaret St. Clair "Prott" is a "boring" alien race, who did nothing but bore humans. They looked like gigantic space-going fried eggs. The story begins with a Prott discovering a human in a spaceship; the Prott enthusiastically begins telling the human about "--ing the --." However, the man can't make out what the noun and verb in the telepathically transmitted phrase mean, so the Prott explains some more... and more... and brings equally enthusiastic friends who want to do nothing but talk about "--ing the --" ad infinitum. Reminds me of Twitter.
    • by porl (932021)

      sounds interesting. i looked around but couldn't find any copy online. anyone have one? it's a pretty old story so i would assume it is legal. maybe i'm wrong though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        i looked around but couldn't find any copy online. anyone have one? it's a pretty old story so i would assume it is legal. maybe i'm wrong though.

        Unlikely. She was born in 1911 when copyright was already 28years plus another 28 if the author filed for extension. The puts her in the "mickey mouse envelope" so unless someone really screwed up along the way, or she deliberately donated it to the public domain, pretty much everything she's written will still remain locked up in perpetuity.

        Here's a useful list of american copyright extensions.
        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=249705&threshold=2&commentsort=0&pid=19855425 [slashdot.org]

    • by OzRoy (602691)

      Sounds like a digg user who keeps "accidentally the whole thing".

  • Long term? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pHus10n (1443071) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:25AM (#28277965)
    I just don't see this lasting more than another year --- and I think I'm being generous. I honestly can't understand why anyone is fascinated with reading
    It might be different if the messages were more directed, or useful. But sending messages so "my fans" (subscribers) can read them is just.... /shrug.
    • I just don't see this lasting more than another year

      Exactly. If the people that own Twitter are smart, they are seriously looking for s buyout right now, before the value drops to IP fire-sale prices.

    • I just don't see this lasting more than another year

      You underestimate the need of the unwashed masses to say useless things to people. You know how some people are sending pointless banter in text messages constantly?

      Twitter is the evolution of idle texting.

    • There are people that find it interesting to know how my personal life is going on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. On the other hand, I can communicate with them by causing alternating compressions and rarefactions in the atmosphere, in a completely non-electronic manner. When that is impractical, I resort to a point-to-point protocol for electronically transmitting such compressions and rarefactions. Should that be impractical, I've been known to send short text messages in a point-to-point protocol.

  • Further proof as to why people should protect theirs: to prevent news agencies from analyzing them :-).

  • No, I have not RTFA, but - I use twitter every single day but have only posted one tweet. I only follow a few interesting people but I now find it invaluable as a way of keeping track of them. I have stopped using facebook - I realise that I now am more interested in seeing what other people say than publishing my own content, I guess a lot of people are like that.
    • by value_added (719364) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:42AM (#28278087)

      I only follow a few interesting people but I now find it invaluable as a way of keeping track of them

      So she finally got that restraining order? ;-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Whether you're the pitcher (tweeter) or the catcher (tweetee), at the end of the day you're still gay.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mbenzi (410594)

      This is exactly the use case that the critics still don't understand. There are dozens (hundreds?) of ways to use Twitter that don't involve tweeting. @cnn @AJEnglish @woot @wxseattle @HouseFloor , etc.

      People read websites all the time w/o posting comments, no one says those people have abandoned the web. Just because Twitter allows for two-way conversions doesn't mean that is how you have to use it.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:27AM (#28277985) Homepage Journal
    This says about all there is to say about Twitter:

    In at least one instance, two orphan tweets appear to have been in conversation.

    marcbresseel getting ready for cannes - printing latest briefing - I hate folding my shirts
    8:36 AM Jun 14th, 2008

    Kolcott @Marcbresseel You fold your shirts?
    9:13 AM Jul 10th, 2008

    A lone call followed by a lone response; a social network of two.

    The best and worst of this new media, done and done. We can all move along now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Help!

    Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:35AM (#28278043) Journal
    Once it makes to the cover of Time, it is a sure sign it has peaked. If you see the bull (or bear) dressed in a suit on the cover of Time or Newsweek that will be a 3 year high (or low) and if both mags have the bull (or bear) in the same week, it will be a five year high (or low).

    It is much like that apocryphal story about a shoeshine boy (or a taxi driver) telling JFK's Dad (Patrick Kennedy?) to get into the stock market and JKF's dad figuring, if these guys are in, it is time to get out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JustOK (667959)

      JFK's dad was JFK, just an average Joe.

      • by Miseph (979059)

        Just an Average Joe who made a fortune running booze in from Canada and bought up tons of real estate and small businesses with the proceeds. The Kennedys since him haven't actually had to work very hard for their money, it just never really runs out.

      • by slackerboy (73121)

        JFK's dad was JFK, just an average Joe.

        Close. His initials were JPK [wikipedia.org]

    • by saforrest (184929)

      JFK's dad was Joe Kennedy. Here is an example of the story you mentioned (which I hadn't heard before):

      http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1996/04/15/211503/index.htm [cnn.com]

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      The thing is, it's artificially peaked, due to being pumped up by the media. People at my work, social gatherings, etc always mention/talk about facebook; I've never, ever heard someone say "twitter" or "tweet" out loud. It's only peaked (piqued?) in the social consiousness because of the media and it's use for advertising. For inter/intra personal communication it's a poor medium and that's why it will never take off like the media keeps saying it will. It has it's uses, but in general people don't need th

  • the reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ilblissli (1480165) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:42AM (#28278085) Homepage Journal
    the reason these people sign up in the first place is to follow tweets of others. be it someone famous and worthless like ashton kutcher, or to follow news tweets like cnn.com regardless, you can't subscribe to someone's tweet stream unless you have signed up. people probably sign up for that reason, post once just because they feel that urge to push the shiny red button. then they just dip back into the shadows to lurk and watch other people's lives unfold.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by manly_15 (447559)

      Actually, you can subscribe to just about any stream of data from twitter with RSS. Of course, most non-techies won't know how to do that, but it's quite possible to be a pure twitter follower with nothing other than an RSS client.

      Where twitter accounts do become useful is how they're a bridge between the informal aspects of IRC and IM and the persistence of email. Rather then spamming your friends with email or IM with a link to an interesting news story, you can just tweet it, and give them the control to

  • useless (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:54AM (#28278179)

    Can we just say that Twitter is public masturbation and be done with it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Virak (897071)

      I'd never sully the good name of exhibitionism in such a manner.

    • Would be nice if the term "tweet" hurries up and finishes its one-hit wonder cycle, going back to what it used to mean: the sound a bird makes.
    • Given that "masturbation" literally means "self-harm", I'd fully agree with calling tweets public masturbation.

  • Twitter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @08:56AM (#28278201) Homepage Journal

    Twitter (n):

    1: A service design to indulge the sense of self importance by posting information that history will care little for.

    2: A web site and infrastructure for passing small messages out to an open ended communication channel in which people what are extremely bored and track the likewise boring activities of others.

    3: A simple text exchange in which creative people and some regular expressions can generate a swarm-like information network to gauge personal activity. For instance:

    "by following a demographic of X a researcher can key in on how people feel about Y topic."

    "An automatic event scheduler system can be generated by people tweeting possible event dates in which subscribers through a script can vector in and select an event date in which all or a certain threshold of particpants can agree to."

    4: A method by which information is exchanged into a open ended channel. See Broadcast SMS 2.0

  • by Tyr_7BE (461429) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:00AM (#28278239)

    I tried blogging, that fizzled out the night I started. I tried microblogging using facebook and twitter, that petered out after a month or so. I can only assume that once we have nanoblogging [toothpastefordinner.com], I won't be into that either. Some people need a forum to sound off to the world. Others, like me, are indifferent.

    • by albedoa (1529275) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:33AM (#28278607)

      Some people need a forum to sound off to the world. Others, like me, are indifferent.

      He said, on a forum.

      • by Tyr_7BE (461429)

        Yeah I was thinking that as I posted it. I think it's because forums are directional communication. You reply to something that is said to you, or you comment on a story. It's available to anyone who wants to read it, but it's not broadcast out.

        Sort of like the difference between having a conversation in a public place, and two people shouting at each other as loud as they can to make sure all their friends hear their conversation.

  • Name reservation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KlaymenDK (713149) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:03AM (#28278275) Journal

    One possible reason for people to have unused accounts is simple to reserve the name. That is to say, to ensure that nobody can go around tweeting "in their name".

    • It's not your average joe going out registering a name they might use in the future. It's a few name squatters who get a list of popular baby names and register a shit ton of accounts. Then hopefully in the future they can sell those accounts if twitter ever becomes more than just hype.

  • I feel like I'm just tweeting into the ether. And I have little or no interest in the various tweets floating around. Most regular blogs suck. So do streams of tweets.

  • by $1uck (710826) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:20AM (#28278435)
    Really its a tool. Something like a cross between IM, a mailing list and a personal RSS feed. It has its own niche. If its not useful to you, don't use it. I can only presume all the hate comes from its sudden popularity and the rather stupid name (both of which bring to mind obnoxious teenage fads). Oh well I would think people would be smarter than just hating on a tool b/c of two superficial reasons.
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:51AM (#28278841)

      I'm finding a lot of resentment towards Twitter within my professional circle because of the notion, floated by the Marketing Suits, that one "simply must Twitter." A lot of these folks -- Olde Skool writers, comedians, entertainers -- feel they missed the boat when the MySpace wave hit, and don't want to make the mistake again. So they hold their noses and jump into every new social networking trend that the trendoids say they should be jumping into. Some days it's kind of like watching a platoon of Marines dressing in lemon chiffon gowns and working the room at a gay bachelor party because their intel has told them Al Quaeda just might be jumping out of the cake later, on other days it's like listening to the Pink Floyd disco album that was released in the late 70s/early 80s. Happily, I'm easily amused.

      • Can we confine the hatred toward the marketing trendoids, then?

        I mean, credit where it's due, they're worthy of *lots* of scorn. But that's no reason to take out the genuinely interesting and useful things they congregate around.

        Surgical strikes. That's what's needed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Push Latency (930039)
      This service is popular because it has removed the technology-related aspects of a function that has basically been around for decades. Now that folks can make use of the internet without needing to know *anything* at all, it's acceptible to the masses. Even BBCode was too much to ask; RSS is not really simple to simpletons; e-mail has spam, scary header data, etc. Twits want something with a dickhead name that lets them move on with pure use-ability, and no background tech-noise.

      It provides a "turn-ke
    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      Not hate - backlash.

      Mainly backlash against the arty, trendy, luvvy types who think tweeter is such a wonderful, novel concept and how they can't imagine why everyone isn't using it.

      As an example, the BBC has gone twitter mad. Half the programmes - and I don't just mean those aimed at the under 10's, seem to want you to follow them. Most beeb journalists have blogs, which they promote and mention whenever they go on air.

      Basically WE DON'T CARE If they're reporters, get on with reporting. Just face the

  • Not News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @09:20AM (#28278439) Homepage

    This existed pre-internet. How many bought a diary and wrote one entry? Went out for a run, swim or to the gym once? Read a few pages of War and Peace? Only went to one foreign language lesson? Only bothered with a couple of piano/guitar/trumpet lessons?

    While twitter has many problems, the fact that the majority of people tend to play with a new thing and then stop isn't new, or news.

    • by owlnation (858981)

      While twitter has many problems, the fact that the majority of people tend to play with a new thing and then stop isn't new, or news.

      Not sure that's the case. The Harvard study suggests that Twitter is different, or at least different from other flash-in-the-pan fads like MySpace, Facebook or blogging, in the it really is bleeding an enormous number of users compared to other social networking fads.

      I have to say, that while I know many technoliterate people, and many who use myspace or facebook, I know

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        Its an excellent marketing tool, but for non-corporations, it's medium is too limiting and doesn't really provide any extensible media tools or user generated , which is why Facebook (and to a lesser extent Myspace) have taken off so well.

        I think it's closer to 98% hype. I've never heard someone in a social setting mention twitter, and at work it's only the marketing type that talk about it. Reporters only like Twitter because they can search for #trends and get interviews easily. Facebook is here

    • Or bought a kayak and made one run down a river... yes I think the "one twit wonder" phenomenon is caused by this; at least in part. Plus, let's face it, most people really don't have that much to say. Interesting or not. Nothing you can do will prod them into actually saying something other than, "cool!".

      I got a Twitter account for the sole purpose of following Lance Armstrong's return to cycling and, because Armstrong is a really dedicated tweeter, it was worth it. I found, to my astonishment, that a bunc

  • I have a Twitter account that I used mainly to follow IT industry talking heads that I like to keep up with. I even managed to tweet every day or two myself.

    I haven't been back to Twitter since the day Oprah sent her first Tweet.

  • by adnonsense (826530) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:00AM (#28278967) Homepage Journal

    From the end of TFA:

    Yes, it was built entirely out of 140-character messages, but the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles.

    Yes... (backs away slowly...) I'm sure a suspension bridge made of pebbles is just what society needs, now you drive over it while I stand there with the camcorder and a direct line to YouTube.

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:08AM (#28279081) Journal
    I recently discovered a very cool use for Twitter. I was at a state team wrestling meet, and there wasn't any live coverage of the event, but there was WiFi. So I fired up my iPod Touch and started tweeting match results & team scores. They started using my tweets to update a statewide wrestling site. It was actually quite a neat experience, I had followers from all over the state who were interested in finding out the results.
    • by harl (84412)

      This is an example of a good use of twitter.

      This is also an example of no compelling reason to use twitter for this. Email or text would both work in this situation.

      Honestly the only difference I see between twitter and email/text is a lack of security. The information originator cannot control who has access to the feed.

      • Well I think that is part of the idea. You don't need to know the people receiving your tweets, you broadcast and people subscribe if they are interested. I'm not particularly interested in the concept, I prefer to rant without a character limit :), but some people like it.
        • by harl (84412)

          So you're saying it's just an exhibitionist or ego thing?

          The belief that you're somehow interesting enough to be listened to? By such a volume of people that security might get in the way and you want anyone to be able to opt-in?

          That explains why it's popular, but still doesn't explain how it's more useful than existing techs.

          • Hehe. I don't think it is more useful but more of an expansion on an existing idea. From what I've heard from the founders twitter was meant to be like a subscribable SMS service. The idea of using facebook for this stuff doesn't work too well. 1. The popular person has to friend the other person to get them the updates. 2. There was at one point a friend limit, though I think that has been removed. 3. CNN/Fox News anchors would be unable to say tweet/twitter so often which would eliminate half of their con
      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:07PM (#28280779) Homepage Journal

        This is also an example of no compelling reason to use twitter for this. Email or text would both work in this situation.

        How so? Say 100 people wanted to get the live scores without waiting for the web page to update. The OP could've created a special-purpose mailing list, walked everyone through signing up, and then deleted it afterward. With texting, I suppose he could've stored all their numbers and texted each one every time someone won a match.

        Honestly the only difference I see between twitter and email/text is a lack of security. The information originator cannot control who has access to the feed.

        Well, openness and the fact that email and text are one-to-one channels while Twitter (and Facebook) are one-to-many. But other than the access model and the difference between direct communication and broadcasting, yes, they're very much alike.

        • by harl (84412)

          Huh?

          What's the difference between waiting for a web page to update and waiting for an email to hit your inbox? The only difference I see is what you're staring it.

          People know how to use email. Subscribing to a mail list is trivial. Last time I did it it involved sending the word subscribe to an email address. Everyone knows how to do this.

          You also set up your example is invalid due to the artificial limitations you put on it. Why would you create a one off list? Why not leave the list around for the t

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Just Some Guy (3352)

            What's the difference between waiting for a web page to update and waiting for an email to hit your inbox?

            In this case, it's the difference between the OP sending the results to everyone listening, and one of those listeners taking the data and uploading it to a website. In other words, between primary and secondary sources.

            People know how to use email. Subscribing to a mail list is trivial. Last time I did it it involved sending the word subscribe to an email address. Everyone knows how to do this.

            Your mouse-incapable uncle surely doesn't.

            You also set up your example is invalid due to the artificial limitations you put on it. Why would you create a one off list? Why not leave the list around for the team?

            That's possible, sure, but not in the context of the OP's situation. He was able to send text messages but quite likely not able to set up a mailing list while sitting on the bleachers watching the wrestling.

            You're saying rather than doing that trivial step it's some how easier to have people create yet another account, this time with a system they are not familiar with.

            You mean, like creating an account on th

            • by harl (84412)

              Pedantic definition of one-to-one:

              Sure they're both one to one in implementation but that's meaningless. In every day usage they're one to many. The difference it academic and in no way noticeable to the end user.

              listserv:
              How is sending a single word to an address, with an existing technology easier than getting someone to create a new account on yet another service? All for one event?

              usage differences:
              So in one he's sending the data to a web site and people are looking at it with a client and in the othe

              • Twitter is trendy but has no functional advantage.

                And yet, the people flocking to it think you're wrong. Apparently they see value in the way Twitter works compared to the other available tools and have chosen it.

                I run my own website and my own mailserver (complete with listserv), so it's pretty much equally convenient for me to post data to Twitter or my local services. However, everyone I know seems more willing to subscribe to one service (Twitter or Facebook; your pick) and follow all their friends from there than to subscribe to a separate RSS feed

    • Tweets to update a statewide wrestling site.

      Harkens back to the days before live radio broadcasts of sporting events, when townsfolk loitered in front of the telegraph office during World Series games, most places had a billboard updating scores every inning. The luckier towns had a diamond-shaped mechanical board facing the street, some dude pulling levers to simulate the action for spectators.

      Picture a couple of baseball/tech geeks in suits and bowler hats, discussing hot shit technology in between updat

  • by Geekthing (541122) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @10:22AM (#28279293)
    I explain twitter as "Push" RSS. Grandma totally got it when I put it like that.
  • How many tweets never, ever get read?

    I can't help the feeling that most twitters, tweets or whatever the hell they're called, are merely written to satisfy the writer (in the same way that some people write diaries) as a cathartic experience - never expecting, nor intending them to be read.I would venture further, and say that a large number of blogs are exactly the same - but written by people who can't organise their thoughts into SMS sized bytes (or, vice-versa: tweeterers haven't got the attention spa

  • I heard so much about the service, I finally signed up for it to see what all the hullabaloo was about. I found a desert in which people were wholly absorbed in themselves (sad) or trying to bask in the reflected glory from other twitter users (sadder, if possible). There were some worthwhile pieces there, but the signal-to-noise ratio was quite poor - nothing even close to the "quality" of slashdot's content. What's really disturbing is seeing respected journalists tossing off references to twitter like
  • Twitter democratizes feeds, just as blogs democratized websites.

    I never did like the polling aspect of RSS. At least Twitter allows updates to be pushed to a central server.

    But is Twitter then just like email from whitelisted, default-no-reply addresses, made low-latency with rapid server polling, where the message fits in the subject line, plus an easy way to join and leave personal mailing lists.

    The no-reply feature does allow people to talk without listening, which I'm not sure is a good thing. Bu

    • by emurphy42 (631808)
      It's often used that way, but it's not the only useful model; it was first explained to me as multi-cast IM, and that's mostly how I use it (kinda like Facebook minus all the stupid apps).
  • one twit wonders?
  • If I hear one more person on television say "We're tweeting at..." I'm going to go mad!

    I do, however, believe that Twitter is the IRC of the Web 2.0 generation.

  • At least there's a length limit on Twitter.

    Yesterday, this article by Jon Caroll [sfgate.com] appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. This guy is a paid columnist. He wrote about forty column-inches about taking his car to a car wash. Nothing exciting happened; he just washed his car. This is how far down the print media have come.

    The Chronicle is considering shutting down their print version. This guy may not have much of a career left.

  • The problem is that 140 characters is not enough to write everything we are trying to convey n we all know that incomplete tweets may cause
  • I've successfully worked through the necessary stages of Twitter: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

    Some tricks I've learned to consume and produce to Twitter effectively:

    1. Find some people or businesses to follow that you "might" be interested in. Be aware your choices are not carved in stone. Change them around. Suggestions: @LeoLaporte, @dane (know in the bay area), your local newspaper.

    2. Install one of the many clients that make it easy to follow tweets without opening a browser but wi

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