Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom

You can look at Twitter as text messaging or as micro-blogging.

If it’s text-messaging, of concern only to your closest friends, then content such as “Dude, where are you? We’re in the mezzanine” is perfectly appropriate, and “Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom” is practically overachievement.

If it’s micro-blogging, then you may be obliged, like any writer, to consider your reader’s need for value.

Writers inform and enlighten. They create worlds, ideologies, and brochure copy.

In 140 characters, a good writer can make you laugh and a great one can make you march.

You thought I was going to say “cry.” That, too.

Not everyone who blogs is Dostoevsky, and with ten Twitterers for every blogger, the literary riches are spread thin.

Fine writers are using Twitter—they’re using it even more than they’re using their personal sites, because it’s an even faster means of distributing what they have to offer, which is jokes, poems, and ideas.

The good writers are easier to discover thanks to tools like Favrd. (The best thing about Twitter is its unfulfilled potential. Some developers reach their highest level of attainment creating some of the many features Twitter didn’t come with.) Tools like Favrd also change the discourse: writers write differently when they think someone is reading, and self-consciously clever Twitterers have responded to Favrd by posting stuff that’s more likely to get favored—like directors playing to critics.

But nobody just follows on Twitter. Sure, you follow, but you also create. And you might consider that an obligation to occasionally create meaning, color, and richness.

I don’t view http as a medium for phone chatter. I don’t mean you can’t place phone calls over the internet—of course you can. I mean I’m old-fashioned enough (or have been doing this long enough) to view the web mostly as a publishing medium, with all the obligations that implies. So while I sometimes use Twitter as a homing device, I mainly try to think of it as the world’s smallest magazine, published by me.

In my ceaseless effort to impose my views on others, I recently declared a moratorium on banal tweets about food and drink.

The public was overwhelmingly supportive.

Whether it’s good for your readers or not, approaching Twitter as a writer’s tool (or the world’s smallest magazine, published by you) can be good for you. Getting off a nice Tweet can be like popping a breath mint or finishing a work-out at the gym. It refocuses the day, relieves tension, empowers constructive criticism, and generally helps clarify the muddle of your thoughts.

Conscious Twittering FTW.

[tags]writing, twitter, publishing, the web[/tags]

41 thoughts on “Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom

  1. Sorry, I just objected to your declared moratorium :) As you point out, some people use Twitter as a text messaging equivalent which is fine. We aren’t all writers, and we have the choice of how to use Twitter to meet our own needs.

  2. I have twittered the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me, they were delicious, so sweet & so cold. Om nom nom.

  3. Twitter is just like every other social content site in the sense that people will use it however they want to — and neither you, me, nor Twitter itself can stop them.

    When Flickr came out, it tried for a while to stop (or at least discourage) people from posting non-photographic content (screenshots, illustrations, etc.). Mike Davidson tells a story about how, when Newsvine was new, he was bothered by someone using their column as a place for comedy writing — Newsvine is about the news, after all. And now, with Twitter, there are people on both sides of the coin. Some are saying, “don’t post about banal, mundane crap; make your tweets interesting,” whereas others (including myself) will say, “Dude, the question is ‘what are you doing?’ Answer it. Be funny if you want, but answer the damn question.” None of these attempts to regulate exactly what kind of content users will generate have ever worked, and none of them ever will. The site’s users and administrators alike need to realize this, and accept it.

    On the topic of microblogging, though, I will say this: if you’re really into the idea of microblogging versus the idea of answering, “what are you doing?”, you might consider trying Pownce. Whereas Twitter wasn’t designed for microblogging, Pownce was — and so it has some unique features that make it more well-suited for the application. I allows more than 140 characters, allows for comments directly on the posts (rather than hackish @relipes), and more. I’m not really a Pownce user, because I’m not really into microblogging. But, Pownce does appear to be a better microblogging tool than Twitter, from what I can tell.

    But in the end, I think we all need to lighten up and accept the fact that people are going to use Twitter however they damn well please. If you don’t like it, you can unfollow.

  4. Look, different groups of people find different ways to use these tools. Some like to be clever, some like to kvetch, some… whatever. As it happens, most of the Dutch people on Twitter use it to chat, a bit like IRC. Personally, I like food and enjoy hearing what people are eating. I don’t want to even try to be clever all the time. Fish tacos FTW, yes sir.

  5. Jeff and Caroline, no one is telling anyone what to do. Tweeted “moratoriums” are not serious announcements. The mixture of agreement and pushback I got on my “moratorium” Tweet made me think it might be worth sharing how I use Twitter as a writing tool.

    I think we all need to lighten up

    Hear, hear.

    Brian, no one, not even the rain, has such small hands.

  6. Interesting assertion and interesting comments. As a young Twitterer of 1288 tweets, most of the time (or so I think) I write about what I am pondering or else what I have just accomplished — not always what I am doing presently.

    While I can understand both (or the many) sides of this argument, it seems right to think that if you have a ‘following’ on Twitter, there should be some sort of etiquette that guides your tweets.

  7. Jeff and Caroline, no one is telling anyone what to do. Tweeted “moratoriums” are not serious announcements.

    You may not have been telling anyone what to do, but certainly here have been people within our community on Twitter loudly complaining about both the boring, mundane tweets, and the folks who don’t ever answer the “What are you doing?” question.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you were telling people what to do (I didn’t see your “moratorium,” I’m afraid), and I apologize if it came off that way. In re-reading my comment, I realize I said, “you” several times, and that may have been interpreted as you, Jeffrey Zeldman, when I meant it in a more of a general sense.

  8. Uh, I for one don’t mind the “fish tacos nom nom nom” tweet once in a while. In fact, those kind of comments is what make us conserve a human dimension to others, since those are things we all can relate to. Loosing off and being mundane and even stupid once in a while is great. Being so all the time isn’t.

    These days, I see Twitter as an interesting exercise in brevity at communication. Is it possible to condense a snippet of literature in 140 characters? I definitely think so. “What are you doing”? is a good start point, but over the day you usually come across many thoughts that are way more interesting than that, and that fit Twitter’s character limit perfectly. Not deep enough to bother making a blog post, yet too good to let it slip by into oblivion. Then again, no one is pressed to be the Hemingway of the tweets all the time. It just comes and goes around.

  9. Does this mean no more tweets about your dog’s health?

    All joking aside, I do feel there’s a place on Twitter for both “writers” and “texters” and honestly, I appreciate a good amount of the irrelevant banter in my stream, as much as I do interesting links and other content. Working largely alone in a home office, Twitter in many ways serves as the mindless office banter that I miss out on working solo, and frankly, I like a good fart reference (or a pic of someone’s shady looking take-out burrito) every once in a while.

  10. personally i find “Dude, where are you? We’re in the mezzanine” annoying but ““Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom” enjoyable and even favourite-worthy :) i like twitter for the stream of small life moments expressed in simple and sometimes amusing ways. it’s notable that for the most part, i don’t follow the twitter streams of the bloggers i read.

    and i agree with jeff croft: pownce is probably more suitable for “microblogging” than twitter. twitter is all about “what are you doing?”

  11. I’m fairly new to Twitter and did, originally, find the “nom, nom” food tweets kind of odd. Then, accepted it as a part of Twitter. (But still find the “nom, nom” annoying.)

    It’s a funny quirk. And, even funnier when clever people riff on it. Would it still be Twitter without Cupcakes (and Merlin Mann’s interpretation of them) and Dan Cederholm’s moldy blueberry bread?

  12. as if the internet didn’t waste enough of peoples time, twitter to me just seems stupid. No offense, but I think people have huge egos if they think anyone gives a F what they are doing every five minutes, or what they are eating. reminds me of a ALA post about blogging… Twittering is Crap!

    I want something real, decent writing like the three weblogs I still go too (obiviously this is still one). Content is king has been preached from the soapbox for years, but only GOOD content is King, the rest is just well, peasent crap.

  13. At my age (65) I don’t think I’ll be getting into Twitter, unless they start making cell phones with keypads as big as my laptop. Nice post!

  14. Off topic with the possibility of a little troll bait thrown in (just a little).

    What ever happened to Ariel Waldman and the Tweets at Twitter?

  15. I find myself agreeing with Beto, having some mundane and more human tweets is a good thing so long as it’s not all or even half of what you tweet. Having a computer between you and what’s being said it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re talking with other people if everything they say online is work/science/not stuff people talk about normally with friends. When someone sounds like a news feed for their job or hobby it sometimes takes a “taco’s for lunch, num” post to remind us they’re not some script grabbing random bits of information tagged with their topic.

    And Jeff, technically Twitter can tell you how you use their service, or even if you can use their service. Not that they’ve really done much of anything, but as I recall there’s a part in the ToS that allows them to get rid of your account if they want to.

  16. I think Twitter should be used in any way that people see fit. I read an interview with one of the flickr masterminds recently, and he said something about letting an application grow into something other than what you might have originally intended (or something like that, and, sadly, I have no citations). I think this is good–Twitter might have originally been a place to let people know what you’re up to, but people have decided to use it for other things. I’ve seen folks ask for advice, hold conversations, or just fart out something that was on their brains.

    As in all communities (even those in the real word), there are members who will despise the fact that others don’t have the same idea about what makes the community an enjoyable place to be. I guess people who don’t smile in real life bring the same hum-drummery onto the Internet.

  17. It is ironic that blogging and commenting about twitter takes more than 140 characters. Funny stuff.

  18. I always enjoy your Twitter updates. But I think Twitter is for life as well as art, and will gladly tolerate the dull tweets of friends as much as the polished wit of a stranger — I like a mix of both.

  19. Your Frank Rich, South Pacific tweet last week end inspired me to read his column and then to buy two tickets.
    You were both clever and cryptic – enough to intrigue, but not infuriate.
    PS-I cried, too.
    Thank you.

  20. i stumbled upon your blog while looking for an email address so i could ascii you why the W3C validator keeps rejecting my doctype.

    [no, no not that stumble — you know, stumble, the old fashioned one]

    anyway your link to favrd is great.

    i actually laughed [love soupy sales]

    i never have gotten twitter
    but, then, again, my cell phone is still on a party line.

    [no, no not that kind of party line — you know, party line., the old fashioned one as in “hello central”]

    i would say i’m just too old for twitter, except i found larry king on favrd
    then, again, have you ever read his column?
    one long string of sms sized tidbits

    truly a man ahead of his time

  21. I still can not find any reason to read or contribute to Twitter at all. I guess it really boils down to “why the heck should I care.” For instance, I read the Tweet or whatever web hipsters call it that this post is associated with and my first impression was… who cares. Who cares how people are using it and who cares that Jeffrey does like some of the ways they are. There is nothing resourceful in “I am eating this type of food.” or “Design is true communication” microblogging type posts. I suppose it just isn’t for me since I feel I have better things to do to announce what I am eating or 140 characters of how I personally feel about any given subject and/or read the same. My true friends know how to contact me and I them, the rest of the internet should also have better things to do than waste time on reading my ramble. Out of all the social network trends to me Twitter is by far the corniest and most desperate for attention.

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