David Pouge, who writes and blogs and video blogs for the New York Times about techology (and was the keynote at last year’s NTEN conference — it’s Clay Shirky this year — man, they can pick ’em!), wrote the following little ditty about his recent Twitter experiment, which I could not resist but share. [Note: I’ve edited out about 20% of the examples to save space – click on the title for the full original post].
Yesterday I was presenting at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and did my own little Twitter knowledge culling (a real question) and got great response which has fueled my mind the last 36 hours. More on that as I pull the wisdom together for a future coherent blog post! In the meantime, this is great entertainment, and a valuable example of the power of networks:
The Twitter Experiment
By DAVID POGUE
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my bumpy initiation into the world of Twitter http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/twittering-tips-for-beginners/ It’s sort of a complicated cross between a chat room and private e-mail. And it’s both an interrupty time drain and an incredible source of real-time connection and information.
Some of you blasted me for impugning Twitter’s greatness. Some of you hailed me as a seer of its imminent demise. (A few of you thought my assessment was right on.)
Today, I thought I’d follow up by sharing the sweet, funny, interesting results of a Twitter experiment. It’s too entertaining for me to keep to myself.
Yesterday, I spoke at a conference in Las Vegas. The topic was Web 2.0, with all of its free-speech, global-collaboration ramifications. At one point, I figured that the best way to explain Twitter was to demonstrate it, live, on the big screen at the front of the ballroom.
So I flipped out of PowerPoint and typed this to my Twitter followers: “I need a cure for hiccups… RIGHT NOW! Help?”
I hit Enter. I told the audience that we would start getting replies in 15 seconds, but it didn’t even take that long. Here are some of the replies that began scrolling up the screen:
* florian: Put a cold spoon on your back – that’s what my grandfather would do for hiccups.
* megs_pvd: Put your head between your knees and swallow hard.
* bethbellor: Packets of sugar.
* jfraga: BOOOOOOOOOOO! (How many of those did you get?)
[Answer: about 20.]
* michaeljoel: drop a lit match in a glass of water to extinguish it. take out match. drink water.
* jbelmont: Simple. Just hold your breath until Windows 7 is released.
* rgalloway: Have someone slowly & softly count backwards from 10-1 in Russian for you. Works every time!
* warcand: check your 401K. That should scare the hiccups right out of ya!
* drct: The cure for hiccups is simply to get the air out of your stomach. How is up to you.
* kashaziz: Take a glass of water, hold your breath and gulp it down. Distraction helps against hiccups.
* hornsolo: Stand on your head, drink water backwards, and gurgle, “Microsoft sucks!”
* aaaaiiiieeee: There’s gotta be something in the App Store for it by now.
* garmstrong65: Sounds crazy, but it works. Take 9 sips of water then say, “January.” Laugh now, but you’ll thank me when the hiccups are gone.
* ransomtech: On Twitter, they are Twiccups.
* erlingmork: Peanut butter on a spoon.
* squealingrat: With a popsicle stick or something clean, touch the little thing at the back of your throat. This causes the muscles to change.
* bschlenker: hello from the back of the room 😉
* amysprite: plug your ears and nose and drink seven gulps of water. Difficult, but do-able. Works like a charm EVERY time.
* SullivanHome: With right hand, reach around to behind left shoulder tightly and grab some back flesh, hold for up to a minute and no hiccups.
* DavidWms: Drink out of far side of water glass (best done over sink). Works every time.
* enrevanche: Dry-swallow a spoon of granulated sugar. The trick is to overwhelm the overstimulated vagus nerve (causing hiccups) with new input.
* Chiron1: I take large sips of bourbon. It doesn’t stop the hiccups, but I stop caring!
* chadrem: hold your breath until you pass out. Whenever you wake up, no more hiccups!
* tiffanyanderson: Rub both of your ear lobes at the same time. Hiccups will go away. :^D
* tommertron: The best way I’ve found is to just relax and try to forget about them. I find stressing out about them makes it worse.
Has there ever been a wittier, smarter bunch (or a better collection of hiccup cures)? The audience and I were marveling and laughing at the same time. This was it: harnessing the power of the Web, the collective wisdom of strangers, in real time! The Twitterers of the world did
not let us down. (And yes, I realize that this demo might not be as effective if you have, say, 20 followers instead of hundreds.)
Next, I typed into my Twitter box: “Thank you all. I don’t really have hiccups, but was demo’ing Twitter in front 1000 people. You did great!”
This time, only some of the responses were upbeat. Some people said, either with good humor or with irritation, that they felt used:
* jhatton1980: Keep it up, and you’ll be the Pogue that twittered wolf!
* sjaustin: What are we, puppets for your amusement? 🙂
* kitson: Not sure I appreciate being your guinea pig.
* coachkiki: Ok – you got me. Smiling at the computer. I think. Hey crowd – how’d we all do? And who are all of you? Feel free to say hi!
* MichaelS: Seems like abuse of Twitter influence.
* thevideodog: That’s like the boy who hiccuped wolf…pretty soon when you really need a cure for something, like diarrhea, no one’s gonna answer!
* AMassofHumanity: I thought that was an odd post for you…thx for explaining.
* awillett: Did the demo mention that you’ll continue getting hiccup cures for the next four days?
* douglasa: Speaking in front of 1,000 people would cure my hiccups right quick.
* briand: might want to add “(demo)” to tweets like that. I was suspicious of the original. Don’t play the community; they’ll turn on you.
* ELROSS: Wow. People will freak out about any little thing, right? I LIKE it when people show twitter off. You gained one follower today.
(To those who really did feel used, I’m sorry. I didn’t know about the convention of saying “demo,” and I’ll certainly use that next time.)
Finally, as the day wore down, a number of people posted tweets like this:
* tomburka: I think it’s wrong that I can’t see the replies to your hiccup-cure tweet. You should blog about your twitter demo for everyone.
* DyingSun: That is an amazing example of the power of Twitter! I wonder what was the crowd’s reaction to that.
Good questions, dear Twitterers. And now you have the answers.
I loved that in the feedback after he revealed it was a demo, the community taught him the social norms of this community. Understanding these norms (like it’s not cool for a Hillel Director to friend a college student, but it is OK for that Director to make it known he/she is on Facebook and open to being friended by students — it’s a power dynamic thing) is key to feeling comfortable using these tools and having success as you use them.
Have you used Twitter (or any other social network) to ask questions or solicit information or knowledge from your network? If so, do tell! Post your story in the comments. I’ll tell mine in an upcoming post.
Tweet on! We’re @DarimOnline . Come follow us. We’ll follow you. You can add your two cents to our knowledge culling when the next question arises!