Perfect Status

It comes as no surprise that I like Twitter for lots of reasons … the primary reason for me is that it seems to solidify connections in close to real time. Facebook has surprised me in its ability to do something similar in the recent months. Both seem to be really interesting steps forward in the online conversation space. The one thing that both of them have going for them is a very powerful, “what are you doing right now” approach to status updates. This simple question pushes people to participate and to me it is the most powerful piece to coalescing community.

With that in mind I read a really good piece at the NY Times the yesterday called Being There, about the art of the status update. My favorite line from the whole thing was a simple statement about what a status update really is …

Spontaneous bursts of being

I really enjoyed the article and decided to conduct my own status update InstaPoll on my network to see what I got back. What I found was that people want to be drawn into a conversations via a status updates. Most are interested in the notion of engaging with those “around” them. That is really interesting to me … some people view the status update as shouting into an empty room, but what it looks like from my very informal and unscientific data gathering is that people crave engagement … they want to respond to where others are in the moment.

Seems to only make sense given our intense interest in not only providing constant updates, but our incessant need to know what people think in 140 characters or less. Some of the better responses to my question, “What makes a great Twitter/Facebook status update?” are below … if there is anything you might want to add to this conversation leave as a comment.

  • @colecamplese re: your survey. I think good status updates offer a chance to continue a conversation. personal/professional items are good.
  • @colecamplese asking a question everyone has wondered but never asked?
  • @colecamplese I think they are (should be) different… Tweets for more frequent (often mundane)…Facebook for daily/weekly “bigger stuff”?
  • @colecamplese Small, mundane little things that when taken out of context seem oddly amusing….and lots of punctuation.
  • @colecamplese whatever you feel in the moment.
  • @colecamplese NOT where I am or what I’m cooking. New blog post, new idea or concept, looking for discussion – yes
  • @colecamplese totally depends on the reader IMO. Interesting stuff to ME makes it a great post. (news, games, VW stuff, etc)
  • @colecamplese I totally agree with Bart. I love opinions, what peeps are doing, where they’re headed, etc.
  • @colecamplese something that makes me laugh
  • @colecamplese re instapoll Posts that helps me learn/think. Links to interesting stuff, plus reasons why I should click. News, questions
  • @colecamplese layers.
  • @colecamplese witty comment about common activity.
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11 thoughts on “Perfect Status

  1. If “what I am cooking” is not a good status update, I got nothin’… ; )

    However, I think most of your responses are insulated to your audience (education and ed tech primarily) … But I think it depends on who your social network is/what your goal of connecting is. I am connected with a lot of mothers and parenting bloggers who update with the things they are doing for their kids or how they are annoyed with their kids. (probably pretty boring for many of you…). And I am also connected with a lot of people in the food world, so for us “what we are cooking” is actually a valid and interesting topic.

    They are as individual as the people making them, so I don’t think there is an “ideal” one.

  2. @Kristin Agreed. As with any network, those who make it up say what they do/don’t like. I personally get a kick out of the statuses I see on FB b/c they aren’t all in my field. I see some really funny, touching, and just plain strange updates. It is somehow really intriguing to watch the twitter stream or FB statuses roll by on a daily basis.

  3. I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago with a colleague about twitter. At the end, we both agreed on a few things:

    1. My twitter feed is ~10-15% useful information, the rest is just sort of…there. I glaze over it quickly, looking for something to jump out at me.

    2. Most of the other 85-90% are posts that basically say “HEY! LOOK at ME!!! Look what I’M doing!”. Personally, those posts are rather dry. I had a friend with an IM name “bobinthecan” (protecting his name so no embarrassment comes out of this). Whenever I see posts like “I’m drinking coffee” or “On the way to work”…i always remember “bobinthecan” and get a laugh.

    Those posts, for me at least, lack quality and are fairly worthless.

  4. Interestingly enough, Alan’s presentation at Faculty Academy almost two years ago was titled Being There, and it actually dealt precisely with this question of online being and presence. It was masterful, and I think the idea of presence and fragmented identities are in many ways the most fascinating philosophical element of what is happening online these days. I wonder when the philosophers are going to real delve into this world nd start theorizing it beyond education, per se. It would also make for a fascianting faculty Academy talk, given our focus will be on and around the question of digital identity and the uncomon university.

    BTW, how are you? It’s been a while. Hope all is well.

  5. @ Jim I’m doing well. Was missing the wisdom of the Rev however. Thanks for stopping by.

    This whole line of thinking is really interesting to me for a few reasons. When I step back and look at all the content we all produce I wonder how it all adds up? My status updates are real — they are part of how I represent myself online, so they have to be taken as part of my meta-identity I would think. Are they more or less important than my delicious links, videos, or blog posts? I don’t know, but they are part of that eco-system.

    My thought is that it isn’t that we are fragmenting our identities as much as we are creating a greater number options to construct perceived meanings about each other. Before we met, I was able to know quite a bit about who you are through your many exploits online — if all I could read was the blog I’d have a very different take than I do today having access to you on Twiter and youtube. Just some interesting thoughts rolling around on this one.

  6. It’s all good, and the NYT did steal my presentation title from

    but fair enough as I stole it from Peter Sellers.

    Pitching the realm of things form tagging to blogging to status-ing as an eco-system is a nice phrase. If I were to make more of a food metaphor, statusing is like candy or snacks- you can fill yourself up, but after some gorging you really dont have much except a belly ache.

    The blog, as sometimes it feels like the Rev and I are the last lonely dudes on the hill holding up the flag, ought to be the nutritious meal, the kitchen where things are stored, created and where people always gather; without a personal space that you own, what you have are little candy wrappers strewn about the net.

    And you! over there FBing this; I caught you double-dipping that chip in the chocolate sauce.

  7. @ Alan Levine I tend to walk around with the idea that my blog should be at the center of the personal web for me … it just doesn’t work that well yet. Sure I can Twitter from my WP dashboard with the right plugin, but it would be nice if that was tracked in something that belonged to me long term. I might like to be able to upload my photos into my blog and have them also appear in Flickr and FB, but if those spaces shut down I still have my stuff right here at my personal domain (with all the tags and comments still in place).

    I think until we figure out how to do that we have to make the effort to create some sort of meta level meaning from all of it. Status updates, when done right, seem to add up to something more than a snack. In the case of combining them with hashtags for a class you may have a really rich dialogue that wouldn’t ever happen in a blog. I’m just not sure about it all yet, but I am eager to learn more.

  8. Cole,

    I’m not sure a met-level meaning is needed, in other works, I think the fragmentation creates a kind of chaotic series of connections that open up a whole different layer of what the web will help us rethink, i.e. narrative linearity. I like the blog because it is a daily chronicle of my thinking, but it is a very linear tool in some regards, but also with google and twitter and flickr and youtube, it because a fractured space that people can get to and experience any part of the story, or joke :), whenever they need to. It is always in medias res, it is a a stream of consciousness that doesn’t need to be read from left to right. And with this I wonder if identity, like narrative, is itself changing itself to a more schizophrenic space–which might immediately sound negative, but on some deeper level may not. I mean think about all the discussion about my personal versus professional versus social, versus family identities that have come to the fore through how we frame them. Maybe identity was never so unified and whole, and these tools further frame the deterioration of that logic. Or maybe identity was “more whole” once, but the idea of the way in which we publish and consume is changing that reality. i don’t know for sure, but I think the idea of capturing a trace of an identity is one thing, ascribing a meta-meaning is something else all together, and I’m not sure it is even possible, no less desirable.

  9. @ Bart
    Bart, re: #2, but isn’t that the point? Both Twitter and FB ask “what are you doing (right now)?” That’s the prompt…

    Clearly the tools have great uses for starting conversations, keeping them going, and disseminating information. But the point of the whole exercise (for many people, I think) is to simply say what they are doing and communicate that info to people who might care. And you only find it interesting if what they are doing interests you — or if you are their Mom.

    It’s safe to say that you probably hate my updates… ; )

  10. @ Kristin

    Hah, I can’t really say I ‘hate’ anyone’s updates. If someone posts a continuous stream of “making breakfast”, “taking a nap”, “driving home”, etc…I tend to drop them pretty fast.

    Now when someone like CM posts to twitter “making breakfast…” and goes on to list ingredients and links to a photo, I do find that interesting because I’m cooking more and more and like taking a look at what he’s doing to see if I want to re-create it someday. The added dimension of an image alone tends to make me look at that specific update more closely (and I usually find myself clicking on most images from friends’ updates).

    I’m finding britekite to be better than Twitter, but it just doesn’t have the userbase yet. Twitter + inline pics + GPS updates offers a HUGE potential…but it really starts to blur the line between ‘cool and creepy’.

  11. @ Bart I tried to get some folks to jump to Brightkite but got the smack down. This is off the topic here, but I’m still looking for a way to make my network portable across these services … the whole notion that I work hard to build a trusted friend network that is locked into someone else’s environment is getting harder for me to take.

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