Archive for July, 2009

Birds of a diferent tweet

July 3, 2009

“Spring bird walk finds Scarlet Tanagers plentiful, but few other migrants” – reads the headline to last year’s spring bird count on Towle Conservation Land, led and reported by avid birdwatcher Ken Harte. Later that summer he observed a total of some 132 different species in Helen Lyons’ article “Exploring the Towle Field Conservation Land” from August 15, 2008.

Our rural neck of the woods, no doubt, offers a wide range of fauna and flora, both native and migrant, sometime invasive, but mostly essential to keeping an ecological balance in our immediate environment.

In a way, taking a short walk in cyber space today is analogous to taking a nature walk in one of the many wooded sites surrounding us – sans the Bobolinks, warblers or Scarlet Tanagers, more like small numbers of teenagers native to the digital world, and rapidly growing flocks of early adopters, migrants of the global village. The virtual habitat called Twitter is a social network which allows its users to share real-time online updates that are 140 characters-long via their computers or mobile devices.

While birds’ morning chatter is one of the most audible signs of spring, the Twitter messages, or tweets, have been heralding anything from the devastating earthquake in China, to the arrest of a demonstrating student in Egypt, the simmering post-election protests in Iran, or Michael Jackson’s untimely passing, which dominated Twitter’s Trend List throughout last week and drove general web traffic to new heights. The Twitter wilderness is characterized by loosely connected flocks of people who are “following” the message streams of other users. The message stream can run from a personal broadcast to “followers” about one’s opinion on the weather or favorite selection of green tea, to CNN or local WBUR urging their audiences to “follow” them on Twitter, or “friend” them on Facebook.

And much like in the wild, where birds will flock together in masses to establish roosting territories, the Twitter crowd recently willingly, literally followed the “1 million followers” challenge declared between Ashton Kutcher and Larry King over the public media chatter. Guess who won that “race”?

A couple of weeks ago, at the 140 Characters conference in NYC, I interviewed Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey about the uniqueness of his networking platform. Asked about the evolvement of “followship” on this service, he explained: “We were on the focus of following the updates …I think that’s very important in terms of the lightness of being that is Twitter,” and adds, “one of the most exciting things about Twitter is the globalness of it.”

He goes on to say that he would “like to see more transparency in the world, more personability … and to do so all in real time, so immediately. That’s what I’d like to see in the world.” Back in March 2006, Jack’s first public tweet read: “Just setting up my twttr,” and the rest is his-story. And, as the Twitter chatter catches on, we (or some of us) are sure to flock and follow..