This week, I wrote a column about Twitter — just a primer, really, so that the friends who ask me about it will get off my back. 🙂 I signed up for Twitter in our Digital Campaigns class, and though I knew what it was, I didn’t think it would be of use to me. Was I ever wrong. Though I don’t tweet much, I really rely on Twitter as a source of the latest news, as it’s happening, rather than after someone else writes an entire story about it. I sometimes feel like I looked into my Twitter feed and saw the future.
For example, I read a tweet last night about a cruise ship that outran pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Today, I was home sick and flicked on the TV right as Charlie Gibson was reporting this ABC’s World News Tonight. Granted, nightly news programs always report news later than others, but this felt like very old news to me. One of the great values of the Web is that it allows me to find news when I want to read about rather than when it’s fed to me. I carry this theme on in my final paper by discussing the need to put power in the hands of the people during the 2012 race for the White House.
The last time I wrote a column because I noticed friends asking about something was this past summer, when I wrote about BlackBerry tips because too many people I knew didn’t know half of the things they could do with their BlackBerrys. Like many of us, these people tossed the manual when they bought the thing. Even had they kept it, many shortcuts aren’t in the manual and aren’t easy to find. The column was the #1 most read and most emailed story on WSJ.com for the next few days, and remained in the top 10 list for the next couple weeks.
I received hundreds of emails from readers, thanking me for writing the BlackBerry Tips column. People who used a BlackBerry since 2002, when it first came out in its smartphone form, emailed in awe, hurling thanks and praise at me. They were so appreciative that I explained something they could have found with a few Google searches–but never did.
Technology amazes me because it reflects human nature: We can and do live with things that bug us for far longer than we should. If our car’s passenger-side door lock is broken and doesn’t unlock when we unlock the driver’s side door, we might likely get over it for months or even years (I did this with my old Saab for over seven years). If we accidentally hit a key on our BlackBerry that sends our cursor hundreds of emails backward to a message from three months ago, we might scroll up for 10 minutes straight to reach the top of the screen rather than pressing “T.”
The grass may always be greener on the other side of the fence, as the saying goes, but I’ve found that most people stick it out with what they have and grow accustomed to its idiosyncrasies–especially when they don’t have the time or money to try something new.
Barack Obama seems like he’s off to a good start with a new way of governing. He’s taking advantage of open-source government and using the digital world to enable more transparency. Let’s hope it continues.