Friday, November 20, 2009

What's the Haps with Tweets?

Just a bit more proof that this thing we often call language really is imprecise and functions quite differently than we think it does, might, could, should, would. Or, rather, people might just choose to make meaning fit their own contexts of practice before making their practice fit prescriptions for practicing (and tweeting) their context. There's a story from TechCrunch that might illuminate, excerpted as follows:

Twitter Now Asks “What’s Happening”

Posted: 19 Nov 2009 10:45 AM PST

Twitter has implemented a small change today, which by comparison to Retweets and UI redesigns isn’t such a huge deal but it’s definitely worth mention. Twitter’s prompting question above the box from which you Tweet from has been “What are you doing” since the microblogging platform launched. Today, it’s been changed to “What’s Happening.”

It’s a wise move because “What are you doing” seemed too narrow for the platform. Broadening the question to match all the things people use twitter for was necessary. Considering that Twitter is now used for breaking news, that term doesn’t really cover it. Here’s the full text of co-founder Biz Stone’s blog post:

People, organizations, and businesses quickly began leveraging the open nature of the network to share anything they wanted, completely ignoring the original question, seemingly on a quest to both ask and answer a different, more immediate question, “What’s happening?” A simple text input field limited to 140 characters of text was all it took for creativity and ingenuity to thrive.

Sure, someone in San Francisco may be answering “What are you doing?” with “Enjoying an excellent cup of coffee,” at this very moment. However, a birds-eye view of Twitter reveals that it’s not exclusively about these personal musings. Between those cups of coffee, people are witnessing accidents, organizing events, sharing links, breaking news, reporting stuff their dad says, and so much more.

The fundamentally open model of Twitter created a new kind of information network and it has long outgrown the concept of personal status updates. Twitter helps you share and discover what’s happening now among all the things, people, and events you care about. “What are you doing?” isn’t the right question anymore—starting today, we’ve shortened it by two characters. Twitter now asks, “What’s happening?”

We don’t expect this to change how anyone uses Twitter, but maybe it’ll make it easier to explain to your dad.

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