Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Friday, March 27, 2009

Being A Twit Is Not So Stupid

When my wife asked me if I wanted to join her twittering, I was taken aback as it was mid-morning, I was in my pyjamas, while she was in her office. As a proposition, I had to think whether this was the cue that her car was going to rustle up the driveway in a few minutes for something spontaneous. My ardour was quickly dampened when I saw the link to http://www.blogger.com/www.twitter.com.

I have to admit that I could not really see the need for another piece of social networking software. Facebook is great for staying in touch with most people I want to, and my love of photography now has a happy outcome as I can share gladly the images I take. Why did I need something that could "Send status notices through your cell phone, instant messenger, or via the Web, and notify friends and followers of the little things you're up to during the day"? But, as one who encourages people to "give it a try then tell me that you don't like it", I couldn't just turn away.

I played with Twitter for a few days. One of its 'selling points' is that you make your updates in 140 characters (including punctuation). Now, there are some people with limited attention spans or who feel that if something takes more than five words to say that somehow it's worthless. I worked in a central bank where documents sent to the Governor had to contain the essential arguments on one page. I then went to work for an international organization, whose management and review styles were such that no matter how short my original draft was, it always ended up considerably longer. "You've not said enough" I heard. "No one reads past the first page" I retorted. So, blossomed a happy marriage of minds not as one on the matter of writing styles. When I taught, the brief explanations were always met with "Can you elaborate or expand on that, please?" I never had the urge to say "It was all in the first sentence. Review your notes!" I know that both the brief and the lengthy statements have their place. Those who scorn the monosyllable, I tell you, the monster you fear is now your friend.

The word limit, though, takes time to deal with. Can one entry do it? Should the update be split over several entries? I guess each Twit has his/her preference. I started to use Twitter to make updates about financial market developments relevant to my trading--really notes to myself. I quickly found that it was a nice 'notepad' for what I was going on in the financial markets too, and as such a potentially useful thing to remind me of how I got to where I am. But you have to be cute, and use symbols and short words to live within the '140'; there is a counter to keep you to the limit, and the software wont post updates that are too long. I have not ventured much beyond the 'professional' updates, but am putting my toes into that water a little. Being a twit at work is alright, but not when I am at play.

But which twits are also using Twitter? The idea that the updates can be followed or that you can follow others is helpful, if you are not in too big a group. I found myself quickly in rarefied company. I began following a currency strategist who works with my trading company. Nice to know that he goes public with his trading ideas on Twitter, I thought. I then found David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press, who seems to be harnessing all the social networking stuff, with a Facebook page, a blog, web chat sessions, the whole wazoo. Then, there was the instigator herself, my wife. Well, she had never done anything twittish. Her picture was there, but it had no updates: her life was at a standstill. I told her that it was time to get a move on. Get 'a move' on not 'her move' on. You see, the choice of words has to be carefully done, and e-mail and short code practices can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

But, I quickly found that like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I had a following of all sorts and some are rats. Some are clearly undesirables as far as I am concerned: those real twits into dodgy stuff, who are just looking for another way into enticing someone to 'be a friend and check out my sexy body'. Get a life, nuh! Then there are twits who want to tell you about every little software dink. Nah. It's all geek to me. Then there are bozo twits who seem to have to list everything: the fact that the parrot's cage needs cleaning; odd items they are trying to sell (nail clippings from Bono's hotel room?). Mrs Murgatroyd across the street just opened her curtains. Nah. So, I have blocked as many followers as I have accepted. My elder daughter was ready to reject an automated suggestion that she follow my twitterings: I know the twit already, she thought.

I do not feel the need to be a mobile twit, and have not put this thing on my phone: I keep my twit-like behaviour strictly at home. Facebook mobile is very useful. How else can I banter along with comments on my walls and photos and links and notes and now 'what's on your mind'? But, I don't need to be seen as a twit in public. So, I guess that I am a half twit. Not a half wit. Though a half twit could be just 'It'. Hmm. Better than 'That one'? Time for an early morning update, I feel.

In case you had not noticed, my twitterings are linked to my blog. What more can I say.

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