Kvetching over Twitter's fate follows a familiar cycle by now: will it survive? How will it get new users? How will it advance the product? What is it even for? I would like to know the answers to all of those questions, sure, but I also really like that we have this medium that doesn't even have firm answers to those questions. I like that it has limitations that enforce creative ways to write and talk to each other. I like that it creates this interplay where small features that were designed to be used one way can be made to enable some other thing.
I'm being vague, so I'll just get to it. Just now I engaged in a little Story Time Twitter, a new thing that exists that we just sort of made up, together. Story Time Twitter, as David Pierce explains here, is an evolution of the Tweet Storm. Instead of taking to some full-on writing platform (like, say, The Verge Dot Com!), you blast out a series of interconnected tweets to tell a single story. If you're smart, you "hack" the Twitter reply mechanism and reply to your last tweet so they're threaded together. You have to move kind of fast to keep the threading working (elsewise other random replies will interrupt it). But it works.
10 years ago or so I had lost touch with a friend and didn’t know how to reconnect. But I really wanted to talk to him again even though— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) February 5, 2016
Here's the story I told, in a few paragraphs
10 years ago or so I had lost touch with a friend and didn’t know how to reconnect. But I really wanted to talk to him again even though I didn’t know how. We hadn’t talked in a really long time and I really didn’t have anything specific to say, just no context at all for each others’ lives. But I knew I should do it. So I just sent an email with nothing in the body, just a subject line: e2 e4. He got it immediately, and all of the sudden we were playing chess together again, a few moves a day. And then the bodies of the emails filled out, like it was nothing, like no time had passed. The details of our lives, the little things you say to your friend as you play a game together. It was easy and wonderful. That’s all, really. But this Facebook Messenger chess game reminded me of it.
Instead of sending a chess move to a robot, send one to a friend.
…he kicked my ass in the chess game. He always does.
That's nice, right? If I wanted to, I could probably fill this out into a 500-1000 word rumination on the benefits of reviving a friendship and the ways we can use the ridiculous plethora of communication tools at our disposal to do just that. To explain, like Reply All's Email Debt Forgiveness, how you can just stop worrying and say "hey."
filled out, like it was nothing, like no time had passed. The details of our lives, the little things you say to your friend as you play— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) February 5, 2016
But that's a lot of work? More to the point, that's a lot of hard, ineffable feelings that are difficult or impossible to put into words. Look at that paragraph above and it's a trite Hallmark story, a Readers Digest heartwarming bit of pablum that feels way less important than what it meant to me.
But on Twitter, all those feelings can come through a bit more authentically, somehow. It has something to do with the pauses, the time between. There’s something to the moments between tweets, when you suspect people are watching and waiting for your next sentence, while you're trying to write quickly enough to stay connected through Twitter's haphazard threading system. The beat of a single tweet, "e2 e4," that on its own is nigh-meaningless but nevertheless is a single and complete thought that deserves to stand on its own as a single and complete thought.
So go on, worry about Twitter's stock price and moan about the switch from Faves to Likes. Fret about how the incoming 10,000-character Tweets are going to ruin the platform. I don't care. I just like that I have this medium to play with, to broadcast thoughts and make some kind of poetry in the infinite spaces between these 140-character spaces. There's more to figure out with this platform, more to learn, more to create.
My friend, by the way, liked one of the tweets. e2 e4.
…he kicked my ass in the chess game. He always does.— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) February 5, 2016