in social & community

If it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t be here…

People ask me what I think of Twitter and whether it’s really important or useful. I’ve already said a bit about it, but here’s a funny story.

A few days back I was flying out of London to come to SXSW. I left home a little early because I quite like hanging out in the duty free stores and wanted to give myself a little time.

After lugging my heavy bag through the tube I settled myself down into a comfy seat on the Heathrow Express to wait a few minutes before we set off when my mobile did the buzzy thing… a twitter message had arrived.

It was a message from Jeremy Keith saying that he was waiting on a taxi to take him to Gatwick. Interesting, I thought. What were the chances of two planes setting off from London from two different airports to Dallas at roughly the same time.

I thought it might be worth just double checking that I was heading for the correct airport.

Of course, I was not.

Much frantic rushing through London peak hour ensued with rapidly beating heart as I tried to get to Gatwick in time to board my flight to SXSW. As it turns out, they’re not so strict with the 2 hour check in thing afterall… thank goodness.

But, here’s the thing. If it wasn’t for Twitter, I’d have stayed on the Heathrow Express and by the time I worked out I was in the wrong place it would have been far, far too late. 

Thanks to Twitter, and Jeremy (I still owe you beers!) I made it.

Flash forward to this afternoon and a Twitter from PeterMe lets me know there’s a UX meetup this evening. Again, something I would have totally missed without Twitter.

So yes. I think it matters. And then some.

11 Comments

  1. That’s a great story Leisa. Like many great applications, I think you have underscored the fact that Twitter’s success is deeply tied to meeting our very human needs.

    My family is notorious for forgetting daylight savings time and missing the right church service every year. This year we didn’t. Thanks to a Twitter which reminded me to set the clocks forward. I’m sure we all have little stories like this.

  2. I observed and had many similar experiences at SXSW, where a technology was the make-or-break difference between finding oneself at a party or having lunch with a group or finding oneself by oneself — or latching on to other people and wondering if you were missing something somewhere.

    I just blogged about this, calling the people who embody this phenomenon “social cyborgs“.

    Finally, it was excellent to meet you finally. See you in two weeks in Vegas!

  3. If anyone ever knocks Twitter again, I’m pointing them to this.

    Glad I could be of service. Raise a glass to Twitter on Paddy’s Day in New York for me.

  4. Very interesting.

    I’m not ‘into’ Twitter as yet, but hadn’t realised this was part of the service. Perhaps the twitter team need to look into that, broadcast their message a little better?

    Not that they seem to be having any trouble getting the word out mind you!

  5. I think this more of a byproduct of Twittering and having a Twitter network who are doing similar things than an actual Twitter service… although you could easily imagine getting airline updates via Twitter rather than email I guess. Still, whatever it is, it saved me! :)

  6. Leisa

    Trying not to be funny here, but?

    When you booked your flight, where did the email/tickets/booking confirmation tell you were flying from?

    Twitter didn’t save you, coincidence did. You overlooked a basic, the coincidence of the message from Jeremy reminded you of something important that you had put to the back of your mind, something that you should have really had at the front of your mind.

    Most people aren’t saved by technology, they are assisted by it. The basics are the basics, you missed them, coincidence saved you, not Twitter.

    When we work in the world of technology we tend to think of it as being responsible for everything, it isn’t. It is the by product of our own shortcomings.

    Adam

  7. This story really interested me.

    I came across Twitter for the first time only a few days ago. My initial thought was, what a load of rubbish. Yet another worthless piece of social networking junk to satisfy the masses.

    Then your story made me start to think about it. And the comments that followed helped to reinforce the concept that maybe, once again, I was wrong and needed to think about this a little more.

    But alas, Adam raised a very valid point. This was a coincidence and technology was a mere actor in this play of events.

    So where does that leave me and Twitter? Well, that is a question that I am obviously going to have spend some more time on.

    Thanks for provoking some thought with your little tale.

  8. hey Adam,

    yes, of course everything the airline sent me told me to go to the correct airport, but I’m human and make stupid mistakes all the time.

    The thing is, that Twitter facilitates these kinds of coincidences in a way that no other technology that I’ve encountered so far does – and that for me brings a hell of a lot of value.

    I didn’t really know Jeremy all that well at the time I received his Twitter, so there is no way that he would have texted that to me individually.

    Twitter allows loose ties between people who have some things in common (or no things, if you want to use it that way… that doesn’t work so well for me). Those loose ties then faciliate serendipitous moments like the one I’ve described here with a much greater frequency. That’s a big part of the reason I think it’s so great.

    I’ve also been having the experience of ‘chatting’ to people on Twitter who I would never have emailed and then subsequently meeting them at conferences (it’s happening right now at the IA Summit I’m attending) – this is really cool. It faciliates meeting in ‘real life’ in a really great way…. getting you into the interesting part of the conversation much faster. I like that too.

    So… in summary. Yes, it was a mistake I shouldn’t have made (and probably won’t make again now!), and yes, it was coincidence that I received that message from Jeremy, BUT it’s the nature of Twitter that faciliated that coincidence, and many others like it that I’ve experienced and heard many others speak of (and Twitter about!)

    So, I’m still thanking Twitter, and not chance, that I got my flight :)

  9. Hey Leisa!

    Interesting, and thanks for giving me some more feedback. I’m wasn’t trying to knock you or the service, I just thought the role it had played had been ‘romanticised’ a little.

    And the fact that you are holding onto it makes me smile, perhaps one day it will be responsible for reducing the six degrees of separation that has been keeping us all apart for so long?

    Best wishes,

    Adam

    P.S. Jeremy’s a good guy, I’m glad his good dead permeated. And he does a perfect ‘blue steel’ as I’m sure you know. See here

  10. ah yes, I’ve seen that look before :)

    I completely understand why people are skeptical of Twitter. Before I started using it properly (which really means adding friends, I think), I thought it was a complete waste of time and had no idea why people were so enthralled with it.

    And, even still, it serves a purpose that for many people is completely annoying… and then there’s the rest of us who think it’s amazing.

    Although… I do wish that it was easier to switch people on and off in Twitter… I’m using it mostly via txt at the moment as I’m in conference mode, and I’m getting way too much noise!

    I hope that the Twitter people are working on improving ‘friend management’ tools! :)

  11. Totally different meaning of “if it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t be here…” but I saw your, uh – Tweets(?) – on being stuck in either Ikea or hell, and it made me laugh and think of the below. OTOH, I’m pretty tired, so this might not be at all funny. Anyway – this seemed like the most appropriate place to post it for you, so fwiw: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/lyrics/ikea

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