Saturday, February 05, 2011

Quick Thought

I follow several very popular people on Twitter... well popular in my world. I like economists. I was quite thrilled recently when I got to have a conversation with @asymmetricinfo. I've also previously got to chat (via Twitter) with @EconTalker, @willwilkinson, @russnelson and @tylercowen.

But I'm also a Packer fan. So getting to tweet with @jasonjwilde, @mitchnelles, @TomSilverstein, and @TomOatesWSJ was pretty thrilling, too. At the same time, I follow @AaronRodgers12, @GregJennings, @ClayMatthews52 and @NickBarnett - Packers players. It's really quite cool to be able to read what they're thinking and occasionally get to chat with them.

Prior to about 2005 or so, the ability of popular, or powerful, people to communicate with almost everyone was limited by expensive resources. Specifically, newspapers, radio & television. A couple of things came about because those resources were scarce:
  1. Someone behind the scenes had to ensure that the best, most clear possible message got out. Hence editors.
  2. It was too difficult to have a conversation. Responses and clarifications were expensive. Hence you spent a lot of time avoiding conversation with the media unless and until you were certain you knew what you were going to say.
With the advent of twitter, it's become dramatically cheaper for those same people to communicate with everyone. And moreover to engage in conversation, despite the 140 character restriction. And I suspect that no matter who you are, those conversations are enjoyable. Those conversations make both parties better off. They fulfill a basic human need to connect with other humans. But until twitter, that connection was limited for stars in the world by the technology we had available.

It will likely take a while for all of us in society to get used to how to understand tweets. If you're popular you're likely to end up crossing what was a line using previous technology. Take photogate for example. But this line is less useful given today's technology. If you want more context of what was meant, just keep reading the twitter stream. More will come. And if you don't see it, you can ask. You don't have to rely on a reporter to ask the question on your behalf. You can ask yourself. You won't always get an answer, but you can still ask. And if enough people ask, you'll probably get that answer.

My quick thought is this: twitter really changes communication between the popular and the not. We have less need for 3rd party intermediaries like TV, radio & newspapers.

But this is only a guess.