Over the weekend I had discussions on Twitter with someone who is against the democratizing of the web. This person believes it brings the overall quality down and the media should be left to “professionals” (although this was never defined).
This discussion, combined with last weeks Cluetrain thinking, brought about a thought that I tested on my fellow Twitternauts. I didn’t want to ask directly and tip people off on what I was thinking, so slyly I asked the following question:
If you could only follow one Twitter user, who would it be and why?
My ulterior motive was to see how readily people could come up with a single Twitterer. I was also expecting those who could select a single Twitter user to follow would choose the person with the most variety of Tweets, but I was also hoping for people to choose “connectors” who re-tweet.
Why? I had a theory that, like blogs and society in general, the Twitter community is more than the sum of its parts.
I wasn’t disappointed. Only a few people could name a single Twitter user that they could be happy to follow. Other than family members and close friends it was Problogger followed by DoshDosh who came out tops.
OK, unscientific, and I was aiming to find support for my argument rather than truly test it, but here are my conclusions:
- The more the merrier – it’s the crowd that makes it what it is, the more people who take part the richer the experience. While you might not want to follow hundreds of people, you still want a large pool to select from. If you follow well-connected Twitterers you benefit from their re-tweets also.
- It’s not the MSM – some people are craving the old “command and control” structures where we are told what is news, what we should believe, and who we should listen to. I think we are seeing even the best single source can’t possibly serve all your needs and there is room for more than just the select few.
- Fear of freedom – central news control is doomed, and that is spooking the old guard who crave this power and control. What good are these credentials and the blessing of officialdom when nobody listens? More and more you get the audience you deserve, not the audience you demand or feel entitled to.
- Goodbye Broadcast – you have to listen not just broadcast. We want two-way conversation and to have a voice. The most popular Twitterers, of course, interact, but increasingly the more mainstream media that embrace two-way conversation will be those who survive. Some people believe this is bringing everything down to a base level mediocrity, but I actually see it as moving control from the gatekeepers to the people who the media is created for.
- The editor role – Rather than doing away with editors, I see them being even more important but in a fresh way. Rather than being gatekeepers and controllers, they become filters and connectors. I am looking to the Chris Brogans, Scobles, Probloggers. Instead of being the official line, you follow who provides the mix that suits you, and rather than being told what to believe, they offer you the blend that allows you to work out your opinion for yourself.
Now, obviously, Twitter is all about peer-to-peer communication BUT we could, if we wanted to, purely follow the mainstream media sources. There are feeds for all the popular news channels like BBC, and such. Or we could only follow people with “credentials”. But we don’t. We like a mix. The same with the web, I view BBC news then surf right over to Digg, BoingBoing, and so on. The days of us uncritically and passively soaking up, say, Fox News are long gone, or at least going.
What do you think? Am I off-base? Does this work? Or am I wrong and this road really does lead to anarchy and lowest common denominator? Please share your thoughts in the comments (or mainstream media channel of your choice, heh) 🙂