The other day I trashed Twitter a bit (Twitter and The Age of Information Overload) because I already have so many sources for information and didn’t really see why I needed another one, and didn’t see how it was much of an improvement over existing technology. I wrote from the standpoint of someone who had not yet joined.
Well, now I have joined. My Thursday trial was adjourned, so I opened a Twitter account (@Turkewitz), downloaded Tweetdeck, and started noodling to see if my opinion would change. After two days I now consider myself expert enough to write on the subject.
There are two fundamental issues with Twitter that exist for any social networking site: Technology and Community.
I am certainly not impressed with Twitter technology and stand by the point I made the other day about listservs or other electronic forums being superior. And when I write about technology I don’t mean the geek end; I mean the user end.
I first joined the online world with Prodigy back in ’92 and have used one forum or another for online discussion since then. Twitter may be different than other current platforms, but is it better? The answer is clearly no.
Any good forum should have these critical components to allow for posting links and engaging in discussion:
- Multiple discussion boards so that those that want to talk baseball aren’t in the same forum as those that want to talk knitting;
- The option to follow a discussion either in threaded fashion or chronologically, or simply to collapse the thread into the heading; and
- The option to ignore certain users because they want to talk about Mac and Cheese instead of the forum subject.
Twitter doesn’t really do this well. It’s a type of scattershot approach to social networking, but the discussion is strewn so far and it would be tough to follow any kind of conversation that might actually break out. And if you actually wanted to make a decent point in reply to an article or blog post, you would still be limited to 140 characters. (Though that might be a blessing in disguise for many.)
One of the best discussion forums I’ve seen is the one created by The Motley Fool financial site. If you look at this board for Apple, for example, you can see a neat, clean user interface. You can ignore people and threads with the click of a button. These boards have existed since the mid-90s.
A good law forum should work the same way, with the ease of dropping in links and creating bios and arguing with one another, because that’s what so many like to do. If you want to get rid of the Mac and Cheese Poster or the chucklehead only concerned with self-promotion, then poof — they’re gone.
The Motley Fool boards blow the doors off anything Twitter has to offer.
Great technology is useless without users. And even crappy technology is good if you have good users.
Twitter has succeeded in attracting the legal community, in lightening speed. How fast? An article by law technology guru Robert Ambrogi on August 8, 2008 in Law Technology News reviews various social networking sites for lawyers. Twitter isn’t even mentioned.
And then there is an article in the January 2009 Trial Magazine (sub. only) about social networking for lawyers. It discusses Facebook and Linkedin and a couple others. But still no Twitter. Assuming the article was submitted a couple of months back, it gives you an idea as to how fast Twitter has taken off in the legal world.
So Twitter appears to be succeeding in the community development end. And that means it can be a valuable tool if you value finding articles and cases that may get swapped here and there, though they may be of limited use if (like me) you have a narrow geographic focus and practice area. I’ll get far more value out of a forum with 25 local personal injury attorneys than I will out of a forum of 2,500 attorneys in different fields spread out over the nation. But I’m not everyone and your mileage may vary.
So Twitter is succeeding, and can be a decent tool for some things. I will continue to noodle with it and use it to see how it goes. Not because the technology is good, but because that is where people are congregating. Yes, I know, that is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But I don’t see it as a keeper. Twitter is not the future of the legal blogosphere. My next piece will be on what I think the future holds.
Links to this post:
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i ran across an interesting post from eric turkewitz, a new york personal injury attorney who offers up his wisdom on his blog – the new york personal injury law blog. his post, titled twitter: a review was a lucid overview of a social …posted by admin @ February 10, 2009 5:04 PM
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