A Response to Patrick Kershaw

Dear Patrick Kershaw

I see that you are new to Twitter. You’ve posted two tweets from your Twitter account (@patrickkershaw1). Perhaps just one if we consider your latest tweet to be a sign-off:
[quote]”has decided twitter is a fad… and this will be his last update”.[/quote]
I know Twitter can be hard to understand for a new user, so perhaps a brief introduction would be in order?

Twitter is a place where I can chat with 1,500 friends and acquaintances, and indirectly with hundreds of thousands. If I want to address a tweet directly to another Twitter user, I type @TheirUserName somewhere in my message.

It’s a place where I can tell my friends about the great web hosting service I receive from @sitehostnz, or complain about @vodafonenz‘s roaming data charges. I can book a table at @thefallsnz, a local restaurant in Henderson, and if my @orcon web service goes offline, I can txt a message to Twitter to let them know. I can see what’s coming up tomorrow on TVNZ’s @BreakfastOnOne, I can get wine advice from @thewinevault, and follow design and new media trends with @idealogmag.

Twitter is a place where @LewisBostock can tweet “Help, I’m stranded in Auckland and need to get home” (‘home’ being 45 minutes north of Auckland), and be inundated with offers of help, lodging, and transport. It’s a place where Lewis can tweet later in the day, pledging his thanks for the generosity of Twitter followers.

For me personally, Twitter has netted several speaking engagements, and countless tidbits of wonderful advice. Just today, after landing in Sydney, I posted a comment of outrage at Vodafone’s extortionary $10/Mb data roaming charges. Minutes later I had a response from @regen suggesting I buy a pre-pay sim card, which gets me data for $2/Mb. I can post a question about the intricacies of some obtuse software development task, and receive educated, specific responses in minutes.

And yes, Twitter is a place where I can type a short message about what I had for breakfast. One of my favourite things is to post early in the morning, informing my friends as to how many times the 6 week old baby woke up in the night. They respond likewise. We call it Parent Poker. How good was your hand last night?

Yet Twitter is just a fad, according to Patrick Kershaw. It has nothing to offer small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand. Apparently, it might be useful for corporates and celebrities, but for SMEs, “the time spent in actually using Twitter as a business tool will be a loss-making venture”. I’d like to suggest that Patrick have a chat, perhaps on Twitter, to a couple of the SMEs I listed above.

One example from many: Jayson Bryant (@thewinevault) has picked up a wonderful niche on Twitter, and is now posting a daily wine video blog, including a cameo from @JohnJCampbell (yes, of TV3’s Campbell Live). Jason estimates that 20%-25% of his sales can be directly attributed to Twitter and Facebook.

Ironically, I think Patrick will be back on Twitter in a few months. If you look back through my Twitter history, you’ll find I had the same feeling early on. Just like jogging, Twitter has an early wall that you need to break through. The term ‘conversation’ is a cliché used far too frequently in social media circles, but quite honestly, the key thing is to find a few like-minded users to connect with – perhaps friends or businesses you know through the ‘real world’ – and join the conversation.

Then you can post about what your cat had for breakfast.

AVG: Quick! Buy our product before it’s too late!

I wouldn’t go so far as saying that anti-virus and security vendors lie to make people buy their products, but this latest scare is stretching the truth a little far. Sure, one could hide an attack site behind a tinyurl, but to say Twitter is the optimal delivery mechanism for such an attack shows a rather thorough lack of understanding.

The great thing about Twitter is that you only see information from people you choose to follow. Generally through the incidental recommendation of someone else. The only way you’re going to get a “spam” link is through a random mention, and that sticks out like a sore thumb.

The anti-virus industry has a bit of a history of beat-ups and scare tactics. They’ve even gone as far as suggesting you “must have” a virus scanner for Linux, which is about as useful as being forced to de-shoe before boarding an aeroplane.