Three Years on Twitter, or How I Spent 10.2 Days of my Life in the Stream

Today, February 23, 2011 marks the third anniversary of my first Tweet. Honestly, I don’t remember what I Tweeted. It would be great to say it was something memorable like, “Watson (the IBM Watson), come here I need you.” But alas it probably wasn’t that profound. During those three years I have Tweeted 7,665 times. It takes me about 13 seconds to craft a Tweet, so here’s how it stacks up.

13 seconds x 7,665 Tweets = 99,645 seconds = 1,660 minutes = 27.7 hours = 1.2 days

Doesn’t seem too bad spread over 3 years. That’s the publishing part. Now for the incoming. I spend roughly 25 minutes per day reading (more like scanning) the river of Tweets. I do it on an array of devices; desktop computer, iPhone, iPad, and occasionally my TV screen, but that’s pretty much a pain in the butt, so I don’t do it often. My scan time is spread throughout the day at breakfast to mid-day, and late afternoon, with a break in the early evening so I can spend time with my son. Then comes my favorite time. Twitter After Dark. The night owls are out and many of them are under the influence. I make no judgements. It’s more fun and interesting, but not as professionally insightful. Out of 365 days a year, I’ll say that I check it 95% of the time, so that’s 347 days.

347 days x 3 years = 1,041 days x 25 minutes per day = 26,025 minutes = 433.75 hours = 18 days

Now to be fair, I’m scanning Twitter while doing something else, like surfing the web, participating in a webinar, attending a boring meeting, waiting in various lines and of course the all time favorite, driving (just kidding on that last one). So it’s not like I’m setting aside dedicated time for Twitter When I adjust for multi-tasking it comes out to.

18 days absorbing Tweets – 50% multi-task benefit = 9 days

Total days on Twitter over the past 3 years = 10.2

Ten point two days of my life over the past 1,095, is .9% of my time. Sleeping has taken up 365 days of my life over the same span of time, which works out to 33% of my life! Note to self. Next killer app wil enable me to Tweet while sleeping. Warren Zevon was definitely on to something.

What do I have to show for this? Well there’s my Twitter Grade, 98 out of 100. So I got that going for me, and that’s nice.

And of course my Twitter mosaic. Couldn’t have one of these unless I was on Twitter. Do you see yourself in this snippet?

But I digress.

Am I smarter for being on Twitter? I wouldn’t say smarter. But I am better informed and learn about things sooner than people who are not engaged with Twitter. How much is that worth? Impossible to calculate. But here are some things I’ve done on Twitter over the last 3 years. The point is not to call out what I’ve done, but to point out that without Twitter I would not have known about these opportunities, facts or stories. Twitter is a distribution medium. Here is a sample of activities.

  • Assisted at least 9 people in their commitment to walk to cure cancer
  • Donated 4 times to help families who have lost their homes due to disaster
  • Connected people who are looking for jobs with people who have jobs available
  • Celebrated the personal accomplishments of my friends
  • Recognized co-workers for their tireless efforts
  • Forwarded over 100 articles or stories to co-workers
  • Met interesting people who have helped me solve problems

What’s next for Twitter?

The search world is giving way to the app and networked world. Twitter is a lubricant. It helps remove some of the friction and complexity that exists with connecting people wherever they are. They focus on distribution and their 140 characters is snack-sized and a huge advantage, allowing them to worm their way through even the smallest of pipes. They seem to be angling to deliver more than just random thoughts. They could deliver alerts, photos, videos and more. One of their challenges will be to deliver the stream in other forms. Sort by relevance vs. time is potentially a huge opportunity. Trends are their first step towards this. Lastly, there might be a commerce play on the roadmap. As I referenced above, Twitter is sometimes a catalyst for transactions. Why not bake it into the service?

On November 19, 2008 I published a blog post entitled Why I’m on Twitter and How I use it. I provided my perspective and insight into Twitter and how I put it to use.  Here is that content, unedited. It’s surprising to me how well it holds up.

Here’s my perspective. Twitter…

  1. Serves as a window into what’s going on in someone’s mind. These can run the emotional gambit from joy, disappointment and challenge, to triumph or simply stating a pet peeve. You are there with them as they experience it.
  2. Allows you to visualize what someone is doing at that moment, and one step further, what’s most meaningful to them about that moment. For instance, when someone Tweets that they are in a familiar restaurant enjoying a fine red wine and chatting with their spouse. It’s a rich picture that comes alive, especially when you know the couple and the restaurant.
  3. Can become the catalyst for later conversations. What were you guys talking about over dinner? What did you have? The wine? Etc.
  4. Provides the cadence of someone’s daily life. If they Tweet with regularity it’s a GPS of their thoughts as they navigate their day. They are turning left… right… now on a long straight track. You can sometimes watch them go off road.
  5. Is a rich digital network. In my unscientific study I have observed that Tweeple are generally early technology adopters, tend to be influencers, have fascinating jobs at leading companies and brands and generally love what they do. Of course some are just bored, which is to be expected with a media service with over 3 million channels. Surf past the noise.
  6. Keeps you in the know. Twitterers are constantly scanning the Internet for interesting and insightful ideas; including breaking news. Their Tweets are littered with tiny urls that lead you to a treasure trove of information and value hidden in the cloud. Great for impressing your friends and neighbors.
  7. Accelerates your knowledge. Tweets flow freely from user to user within the ever-growing social graph. Re-Tweeting, forwarding someone else’s Tweet, acts as an afterburner, further propelling that knowledge. A convergence of channels.
  8. Gets right to the point. After all you have to with only 140 characters. Short, sharp observations. Haven’t seen much Haiku though.
  9. Is entertaining. Some people broadcast on comedy central.

This is how I use Twitter

  1. Share my knowledge and experience I’ve collected over the years. I love solving problems and helping people solve problems. If I can give them a nugget or spark that advances their lives I’m thrilled. No great thought exists in a vacuum. If it’s a good idea then several people have it as well. If it’s a revolutionary idea then hundreds probably have it. It’s the universe’s way of improving the odds that great things reach the real world. Doing the work is much harder than having the idea, so share freely. when you share you get it back in large degrees.
  2. Learn from others much smarter than me. Of course not all smart people are on Twitter, and Twitter does not have only smart people. But it’s full of ideas and insights.
  3. Expand my network. All successful people are well connected. Who you know is critical. The smarter your connections the more power you have.

No Regrets

Do I wish for that 10.2 days back? Since it’s not possible right now to recapture time, it’s a non-question. I will say that I have found a place for Twitter in my life. Could I live with out it. Well of course. Bottom line, it keeps me pointed forward and that’s just fine, because for me it’s usually about what’s next.

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