Pointless babble or something more important

Doug Clow has a thoughtful blog post sparked by a cod ‘research’ report that 40% of the stuff on Twitter is “pointless babble”.

Fundamentally, though, this study (almost) entirely misses the point of what people on Twitter experience. It sampled the Twitter public stream, which is the total assemblage of what everyone using the service is producing.

But what looks like ‘pointless babble’ isn’t pointless, if it’s from people you know or care about. It’s social grooming, it’s keeping in touch. It’s what most human conversation is about. If you think this stuff is pointless babble, you’re really not going to enjoy parties. Or indeed be likely to maintain fulfilling personal relationships. On Twitter, you get to choose whose ‘pointless babble’ you want to follow. Almost nobody who actually uses Twitter uses it by reading the public stream.

If you learn about Twitter by reading these sorts of reports, you’ll get a bizarre view that really tells you very little about what it’s like to use as a service…

I’m consistently amazed by the way people in the mainstream media and elsewhere project their fantasies onto Twitter — much as they used to do with blogs until their employers told them that they had to blog. Twitter is one of the most useful web services that I use, but that’s because it provides me with a low-intensity way of plugging into the collective IQ of colleagues, friends, acquaintances and peers. For me it’s at least as important as RSS, and that’s saying something.