tweeting under the door – an aspect

In Chris Brogan’s latest blog post he compares tweets to snowfall, but what I found more interesting was his take on some of the deficits facing corporate Twitterings. And they are what one would expect, the lack of the human touch. Twitter is not a broadcast system, even for the giants.

If you’re looking to use a social network to build business relationships, there must be a blend of personal and professional. No one (NO ONE) wants to read about your job all day. They want to know you. They want the “behind the scenes” of your communication. They want the “liner notes.” If you have to talk official all day, then brand it and stick a logo on it, and people will or won’t talk to it.

The humans, however, want to talk to humans.

And, they want YOU to talk about other people and not just your job. They want you to talk about them. They want you to wish them well on their spelling test. They want you to mention the great deals, but only once in every 12 tweets or posts. They want your account to be a snowfall, not a blizzard of business.

Ask anyone who’s receiving your message, and that’s what you’ll get for an answer.

via The Snowfall of Communication.

His thoughts had me thinking more about Twitter. It’s a medium that fascinates me, one that is very difficult to describe. I remember the first time I had to explain it to a small company CEO who very much was open to using it, but I only had 10 minutes to convince. I thought it would be easy to do so, but though I made good points he just didn’t “get” it, that is to say, he didn’t get excited about it and it fell away out of his very busy life. Below are some of the spontaneous thoughts I had after reading Brogan’s article, posted as comments, going to what is unique about Twitter:

There is something to the asymmetric connection of Twitter that is an art form. It’s the way that everyone is partially blind to everyone else, and the electric shot of communication proximity can occur in an instant pushing past barriers. Corporate Twitter has to create these vertical flashes of “behind the scenes” and the human, combined with horizontal information spread. All in a tempo or rhythm that connotes pulse.

and,

I think Twitter is a strange bird. It isn’t what it appears to be, or what you can even describe it as. It’s fast, thin and penetrative. But if you don’t “play it” (to mix metaphors) you won’t understand what is happening. It’s not radio It’s not magazines, it’s not even Facebook. Each Tweet needs a smudge of the hand that tweeted it. It’s a challenge, even for persons, let alone corporations.

Aside from the sweet melange of metaphor-mixures that occurred to me while thinking about Twitter (art form, music, heart beat, birds, game, fingerprint paper: ha), there is a point I’m getting to here, and it’s a point that I have been working through to for some time. It has to do with the asymmetry of the connection as well as its lexical thinness. Tweets are like – hear we go – small slips of paper you can pass under the door of even a big wig executive’s office or a house-wife’s kitchen but in such a way that they (more or less) do not pile up because they dissolve.

If you could slip something under the door of a reader you want to know, what would it be?

And what would you want slipped under your door?

Of course this is nothing at all what Twitter is like.  But…

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The Environment of the Question: Quora

Quora’s Clean Room of Answers

Chris Brogan has dipped into Quora and found the water pleasant.

I think I finally understand Quora, the social question and answer site. The part I understand is the appeal to users. Essentially, it’s a site where you browse around for questions you think you can answer, and/or you view interesting answers.

That last part was what hooked me. I stumbled into answers by AOL’s former co-founder and CEO, Steve Case. Holy cats. All kinds of people had asked really hard questions of Steve, and he took the time to answer them, and now me, just stumbling into it, had all kinds of amazing information about the heyday, the decline, and everything in between, about AOL.

How Quora COULD Get Interesting.

I too have been exploring, taking my cue from the Mashable article Why Quora Will Never Be as Big as Twitter. It was a brilliant title and subject. Well of course it won’t be as big as Twitter, but even being in the same breath certainly makes it very interesting. Maybe interesting for Mashites, but still…My own path into Quora was less question browsing, or people noting (certainly a huge potential draw for the site) rather was question asking. At the time I was working on some marketing strategy and among problems I was having was remembering an Excel formula and process I learned about a year ago. I loved the jump-right-in question bar at the top – which incidentally functions as a topic search not something immediately apparent – and within hours got informed attempts to find a solution, and a sense of comradery among the users. Question answering is a particular kind of social interaction which (when best) the dignity of the questioner and the answerer is affirmed. A great germinating basis for a social network interchange.

My brief experience there lead me to some over all impressions of the site in terms of its feel, the distinct sense I got that it was a genuine “space”, almost a clean room of answering. Much of this is captured in the comment I left over at Chris Brogan’s:

What I find most interesting, or perhaps, what is most suggestive for growth, is that there is a very strong interaction aesthetic there that they have been successful in establishing. It is just this kind of thing that promotes an anchored community of users and growth, a real sense of environment. Part of it is the simple, clean aesthetic (in vogue these days), and part of it is the rigorous testing for reading comprehension before asking a question, high language standards (without much exclusionary snobbery) and the repeated emphasis on grammar, distinguishing it from a vast number of other internet spaces. These thresholds which seem pretty firmly monitored – a grammatical use of “concatenate” in an Excel question I had (?!) was edited by a etymology maven – and then re-edited after a check with with the OED, coupled with the UI, create the dictionary-of-questions feel that really might be appropriated and fused to other media and resources.

That seems to be the double path: build a sense of community with committed users expressing an aesthetic, and make the result harvestable and linkable by other media services. Will it be long before Quora questions top Google organic searches?

If this can be coupled with the brush-with-knowledge experience of knowledge celebrities that Chris found so striking, and the Twitter-like tunneling into the interesting lives of otherwise sealed-off persons, there is room for huge development here. I do think though that this requires the upkeep of its already rigorous pruning, at the language and content level. This vine needs to be cut back continuously to produce the very sweet fruit required for social media wine.

Addendum (1/13): And more Quora love from SocialMouths.