Twitter bashing. Or, if you will, twashing

There’s a brand new sport in town. It involves shaping a Twitter-shaped stick and bashing the hell out of whatever purpose that stick’s shape is best for.

Sometimes the target of this is Twitter itself and involves beating the stick repeatedly on the ground. Sometimes the Twitter-shaped cudgel is the right shape for giving something else a good thumping. And occasionally the stick turns into a scattergun.

I imagine that if the rules of this sport were ever to be written, they’d probably be quite similar to Brockian Ultra Cricket.

As with any flavour of the month, people are queuing up to give Twitter a darn good slapping down, whether it’s in the comments about the global Twestival, getting psychologists to make sweeping assumptions about the users, or decry any organisation that dares spend cash on social media that could be better spent on, ooh, let’s say locking up feral children.

To those of us who’ve been on Twitter for quite a while and use the tool as part of our everyday life, these articles can be seen as a bit baffling and tend to provoke an angry response. My Twitter feed on Sunday was full of people getting angry about the Sunday Times piece [1]. Indeed, my Twitter feed is increasingly full of anger about the way Twitter’s portrayed.

But is it really worth getting worked up about any more? Any flavour of the month is prone to Freddie Star Ate My Hamster stories. Facebook had it, MySpace had it, mobile phones had it, mobile internet had it, Friends Reunited had it. Email probably had it, if I could remember that far back.

Twitter’s well and truly entered the mainstream and when that happens you’re inevitably going to get sneering and snide comments, both from people who, for whatever reason, what to have a pop at it, and from media outlets who either don’t want to get it or know that’ll provide a response and get read and passed around [2].

So, is it worth getting worked up about every badly written Twitter article or comment now? Probably not. It’s a good thing the Twestival organisers popped up in the comments to provide a bit of context to those who didn’t like it. And if it directly affects you or your company, then it probably doesn’t hurt to put a quick rebuttal wherever appropriate.

But as for the rest? Meh, I say, and meh again. We know Twitter. We love Twitter. And Twitter is no big enough to stand on its own two feet without us rushing in to defend its honour on a regular basis.

There are plenty of sensible conversations going on outside of the traditional media sphere. The celebrities who are active on Twitter, like Stephen Fry or Phillip Schofield, will attract and probably encourage users into trying out Twitter and, hopefully getting the service.

And if you don’t get it, don’t worry. David Mitchell doesn’t either and is funny and accurate in not quite getting it.

Twitter’s now getting enough coverage both in and out of traditional channels (and often a mixture of the two at the same time). It’s now at the stage where having hoards of angry Twitterers leaping on every badly researched article (and by God, there have been enough and there will be more time come) makes the service look, well, a little bit closed to those who don’t like it. Which couldn’t be further from the truth and we’re a very friendly bunch.

While there’s a certain amount of fun to be had in picking apart the badly-done Twitter pieces, it’s getting to the stage where it’s not worth getting worked up about it.

I know Twitter’s useful in so many ways. And continuing to demonstrate that is probably the best thing that can be done to counteract any negative coverage. You just have to look at the money raised from Twestival or the instant news reporting from the Hudson Crash or Mumbai to show this.

Some have posited that the reason there are so many anti-Twitter stories out there is that the traditional media is worried that it might kill them off. Ok, there may be a slight bit of fear there, but I’d argue it’s just as much that Twitter is news right now so any way of shoehorning it in fits in with the news values. And there’s nothing like giving the flavour of the month a good kicking – it’s something the British media does well.

Twitter is another communication tool. It’s a great backchannel and, integrated into any news site, it complements traditional reporting rather than threatening it. Journalists are starting to understand that Twitter is a great news source. The really good journalists will have probably already written a lot of stories thanks to Twitter.

One thing’s for sure, the likes of Twitter won’t kill traditional media. It’s perfectly capable of committing hari-kari without any help.

Related reading: Shiny Red – The Twitter backlash starts in earnest in old media.

[1] And probably with good cause. It was a somewhat daft piece of space-filling.


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February 2009

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com

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