Twitter Books

ThinkTweet

Rajesh Setty is a good guy who is genuinely providing valuable advice to help people be more successful. This radiates from all his writing and I have recommended his book “Beyond Code” to several people (He also has several other worthwhile books). I recently read his book ThinkTweet which consists of 140 tweet length statements and my initial reaction was that it was gimmicky way to ride on the popularity of Twitter.

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It is not that the tweets are without wisdom and are not well written – they do stimulate thinking as well as demonstrate some interesting ways to look at positive thinking. For me however the format seemed arbitrarily constricted even though I am a fan of thought provoking quotes. Perhaps it is that I felt that we are catering too much to attention deficit issues when people also need encouragement to make an effort to see how different ideas fit together in a larger theme. My reaction was that I wanted more – some more pictures or even photographs would have been nice as well as some elaboration on the concepts without regard to a 140 character limit. Many real world tweets also contain links to longer blog posts with the tweets themselves merely an introduction or headline pointing to additional content. I was also left wondering at the lack of attribution since the impression I got from the intro was that there was a lot of collaborators and contributors. Personally I would have found it interesting to know who provided what.

Twitter Art Form?

Some people have proposed that tweets should be considered a new art form like Haiku or other poetry. They laud the arbitrary limitations which force people to be concise. Getting to the point quickly does have its merits as long as the point is made clearly enough.

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Twitter has also been used by others like David Pogue to collect content for a book (The World According to Twitter) from a person’s network. Gina Trapani has used it to do specific sample set surveys on various topics which she has developed a tool called ThinkTank. Clearly we are in the early days of this new medium and we need pioneers to explore its possibilities.

What is it Good For?

Much as I personally dislike the role for myself, critics are also needed to keep asking what is this form of expression really good for? I see a lot of industry pundits whose tweets consist of updates of their flight itineraries and mundane details of their lives that seem best reserved for their friends and family. Nobody is forcing people to follow them and one could argue that it seems that many people are interested in vicariously knowing details of celebrity or semi-celebrity lives. It is good to provide choices for the market to decide but I can’t help but thinking that some of these choices are just a big waste of time for both producers and consumers.

Twitter Books?

Now of course opinions about Twitter’s advantages and disadvantages aren’t necessarily Rajesh’s problem. After all he was merely trying an experiment with something new. Personally it seems to me that the opposite trend to Twitter books is what will be more appealing for many people – compiling new types of eBooks by weaving together threads from blog posts, videos, photo collections, and comments. This has the potential for creating a bigger and richer story that is more than the sum of its parts not less. It will be interesting how static books compiled in the 140 character Twitter format do in the marketplace. Maybe I will be proved wrong but I am not alone in questioning the Twitter book format. Twitter’s strength for me is its currency for real time dynamic updates but this is lost when it is compiled in a book (even an eBook) which potentially could be a reference for the ages (quaint concept).

The Future of eBooks?

As you can surmise from my comments (hopefully), I didn’t really have a problem with the content of Rajesh’s book as I did with what attributes (e.g. 140 characters) of Twitter he chose to focus on. To me the future of books might look more like Google Wave or Buzz once they gain some better structure, filtering, and maturity (maybe like wikipedia). In this model the author is more an editor who may provide the main content which is then supplemented by comments or article submissions by other prosumers. Much better structure and formatting would be needed but the audience would be able to participate as the work evolved in various versions lead by a main editor with the accountability for the unity of the document as a whole. Why limit digital documents to 140 character segments when you could have a living multimedia document that gets the points across with whatever media best expresses it? I am hoping that the larger screen and multitouch interactivity of the iPad will stimulate creativity with these new type of eBooks. Could it be possible to have the best of both worlds combining the design of a creative leader supplemented by the wisdom of crowds? You never know, maybe Rajesh, myself and his friends could write one together some day.