Monday, September 6, 2010

When Twitter Should Take a Back Seat

As Twitter allows us to do more things--segment follower lists, add bling to profile pages and categorize topic-related tweets via hashtags--it's easy to come worship at the altar of Twitter. What can't it do? Twitter is a great communications tool!

Except when it's not.

In honor of Ethics Month, the Public Relations Society of America held a Twitter chat about ethics on September 2 and posted the transcript on their website.

In a recent tweet, I complained how difficult it was to make sense of the transcript as it recorded every retweet announcing the chat beforehand. And the hashtags are all in blue which, when set against the black font of the actual conversation, makes for difficult reading. I guess this is what a transcript, literally defined, is supposed to be. But I didn't read it.

I'm a proud member of PRSA and am less than two months from sitting for my Accreditation in Public Relations exam. As a result, I was eager to read what people had to say about ethics--but then was quickly turned off when I saw how difficult it was to read.

@joederupo replied with a tweet reminding me that an edited transcript (which, I suppose, I was indirectly requesting) might somehow and somewhere intersect with the PRSA Code of Ethics as it pertains to accuracy and transparency.

I think that's a little ridiculous. I'm not here to serve Twitter; Twitter is here to serve me. And if Twitter is supposed to be a communications tool, it should facilitate not inhibit communications.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, if you wanted to be a web designer, you needed to know HTML. Nowadays, WYSIWYG content management software can help get past that problem (even though it's still good to know HTML!).

Similarly, there has to be some way of documenting Twitter chats that doesn't make the reading experience a painful turn-off.

In Hamlet, there was a yammering old man named Polonius who kept talking and talking; he had some memorable lines but most of what he spouted was hot air. Finally, the irritated queen who was forced to listen to Polonius told him: "More matter with less art."

When I'm using Twitter, hashtags and retweet symbols (RT) are useful tools. In a transcript though, especially if you're presenting it for public consumption, less art would be much appreciated.

No comments: