The world goes mad for Twestival
comment Comment Written by on February 13, 2009 – 7:20 pm

I didn’t make it to Twestival last night. My internet connection went down so I didn’t have means of contacting other attendees or, crucially, knowing where it was. (It looks like there are some drawbacks of internet-based festivals.)

For those who missed the build-up, Twestival was a multinational event taking place for users of social-networking site, Twitter. It seems it was quite a success, with 175 events worldwide.

Some of the most extensive coverage of the event came from the Twitter-obsessed Guardian. The point they made repeatedly was that – aside from raising money for Charity: water – the events were all about getting people away from their screens and interacting in person.

In San Francisco, co-founder Biz Stone said he was pleased that users were coming together to do something positive, rather than simply socialise with each other over the net.

Meanwhile, London co-organiser Tom Malcolm said he was amazed by the turnout. “On Facebook people tend to know someone else before adding them as a friend,” he said. “On Twitter you meet people you wouldn’t necessarily meet in real life.”

However, these events were limited in only being able to allow attendees to meet users in their own city, thus giving a very narrow indication of the network’s global reach on a personal level.

Predictably, the positive coverage (written by active Twitter users Jemima Kiss and Bobbie Johnson) was shortly followed by plenty of mockery from the naysayers. Unfortunately for these critics, most of their arguments fell flat because they simply didn’t know what they were talking about.

Example one:
“I know who my mates are – I see them down the pub on a Friday night, I dont need to be kept informed of what the fat f****** are up to all week as well. Oh Richies up a ladder? Great. Daves stuck in traffic? Cosmic. Kevs having steak for dinner? Whoppee!”

Wrong. It’s not just about leaving status updates. It’s about interaction. For every status update, there are many more conversations going on and a mountain of information being shared. It’s also not just about chatting with your mates – it’s about expanding connections and “meeting” new people. If you only interact with people you know in the real world, you’ll have a very limited experience.

Example two:

“Twitter is a load of people talking about themselves. It’s the cult of the individual. Me! Me! Me!”

Wrong. Well, partially wrong. This does go on and some people do use it just as a platform to broadcast news about themselves. However, there’s a lot of people helping each other out too. If you join, you’ll soon learn to RT (“retweet” – ie pass on other people’s news as well as your own).

Example three

“Is coming onto a website and having a conversation so Web 1.0? On Twitter, noone can ever point out you’re an idiot.”

Wrong. This person thinks Twitter is just for signing in, leaving a note and signing out. D’oh.

Example four:

“Argh! Twitter. Twestival. And I hate the world a little bit more”

Not wrong, not right: This person doesn’t claim to know what they are talking about and they doesn’t want to know. This is just pure, unadulterated cynicism – which, admittedly, made me laugh.

This may sound like I’m a huge Twitter fan, defending it vehemently, but I only recently signed up myself. I’m still finding my feet and making up my mind on it. I agree that spending too much time online is not a good thing, and agree that one of the pictures on the Guardian site could be a still from Nathan Barley. However, I’m also discovering that dipping in and out can actually increase productivity and forge lots of real-life contacts. Ask a question there and get it answered instantly: no phone calls, no waiting for email responses. It’s certainly a good professional tool and it can come in handy for travel too, as Benji Lanyado found out on his TwiTrip in Paris.

If you still don’t get it, read this great introductory guide to Twitter from a New York Times tech writer who gradually came round to the idea.

However, there’s only one way you’ll really be able to “get it” and make up your mind. And that’s by trying it.

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