Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tweet This: Alex Beam Doesn't Get It

Failwhale Boston Globe

Alex Beam writes in the Boston Globe, Twittering with excitement? Hardly:
"You have heard about Twitter. Maybe. It's something other people do, mainly younger people. You subscribe to the service, then you can post little messages on people's cellphones, or on their instant message accounts. About nothing."
Alex Beam is a columnist. In this case I guess the definition of being a columnist is being a writer who does no research.

When you read something in the newspaper, on a subject you are very familiar with, it easy to see if the writer knows what s/he is talking about. Alex does not.

Let's look at a couple of things he says in the first paragraph:
You have heard about Twitter. Maybe. It's something other people do, mainly younger people.
Where are the statistics on that? I see people of all ages on twitter. It's not a question of age. That's ageism. It's a question of early adopters. They can be of any age. I'm not sure there's any way to actually know the age of twitter users. They won't even disclose the number of users.
You subscribe to the service
Actually, you sign up for the service. You subscribe to the newspaper.
...then you can post little messages on people's cellphones, or on their instant message accounts.
You actually post messages using your cellphone or computer. Those messages can be viewed on a cellphone or computer. There are many ways to have the messages delivered, granted instant message is one, but SMS and web applications are others.
...About nothing.
The content of twitter messages are not about nothing. I subscribe to people who write about things that I am interested in. They share links with me, alert me to news, inform me of local meetings.

Twitter is a lot more than just a place to tell people what you are doing.

There are two comments on Digg about this article:
sageone73: "Alex Beam does NO homework for this story on Twitter. He just doesn't get it."

ariwriter: "Alex cites Twitter feeds that are broadcast channels, not real people with conversations. It's no wonder - and a shame - he doesn't get it."
It's sad that the end of the article says this, "Alex Beam is a Globe columnist who does not twitter."

If he actually tried Twitter, he might like it.

I'll refer Beam to this article written by Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWrite Web, How We Use Twitter for Journalism. Kirpatrick says:
The scoffers can scoff all they want, but here at RWW our use of Twitter so far has included:

- the discovery of breaking stories,

- performing interviews,

- quality assurance

- and promotion of our work.
That post has 44 comments. Beam's Globe article has no comments.


You can't comment on Globe articles.


  1. One small quibble. Don't you think "subscribe" and "sign up" have come to mean pretty much the same thing online? Otherwise, nice critique.

  2. Hi Dan,

    When I was writing this, I did stop for a moment and think about the difference between sign up and subscribe.

    In the end I went with the analogy to newspaper subscriptions.

    Maybe that part is wrong.

    I'm not sure.

    Thanks for commenting.


  3. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Great job Steve. Now I'm off to tweet your link.
    I've gotten work through Twitter connections and I tweet recipes in 140 characters.
    I especially liked your journalist vs columnist comment. :)


  4. Alex Beam should look at @ColonelTribune , the Chicago Tribune's Twitter presence. The Trib tweets items of interest, and reported on a bomb scare at a courthouse on their website and in the paper after reading about it while it was happening on Twitter.

  5. I think, perhaps the problem is that if you aren't indoctrinated into join Twitter through someone you already know, it may be initially difficult to find relevancy and build a trusted network. And if you aren't a bit of a techie, it's probably even harder to build that network (although lots of non-tech-focused people/orgs are using Twitter recently too).

    If you look at the public timeline on Twitter, there are typically a lot of personal messages, usually several of them in Korean and Japanese, and nothing that actually relates to ME. If you aren't already connected to someone, that just looks like a lot of noise.

    But when I joined Twitter, it was because someone I knew was using the service, and when I started following them, I found other people I knew (or knew of) in their network. And now I have a small but trusted group of people who I follow, with all sorts of useful information being shared -- but what's useful to me may not be interesting to you, and probably even less interesting to Alex Beam.

  6. Anonymous10:56 PM

    Sure hope it is more useful than the cell phones glued to the ears of pedestrians hurling themselves in front of vehicles in the financial district....