Twitter Beats Second Brain For Brainstorming

Twitter is not just for the birds.

Decisions. Decisions. How to stay in touch with the exponential growth of the technical information being developed by our exponentially growing network of contacts. The Internet is a fertile field for all this growth but how do we poor humans stay on top of it.

The simplicity of Twitter has been very seductive. With only a maximum of 140 characters and spaces, you can only deliver the meat. To an extent its overwhelming attraction has been its undoing. So often in recent days quite frequently all the Twitter site is showing is the following:

Twitter Off

Twitter has now come clean on its technical problems. Roland Hachmann is surprised that we complain about Twitter’s failures when it’s free. However it might appear that powerful competitors offering free services will benefit from Twitter’s problems. FriendFeed seems to be picking up momentum as it offers the ability via RSS news feeds to be aware of what your friends find interesting. You can also comment and converse easily about these in an almost Twitter-like way. I can understand why some say they are migrating from Twitter to FriendFeed given the current problems. Another elegant solution with some similarities is SecondBrain. Here you can store all the online properties that are important to you and your contacts can check them out too. That name SecondBrain suggests all sorts of possibilities in terms of improved thinking.

However when it comes to brainstorming, I think Twitter in all its simplicity beats the complexities of SecondBrain. A little reflection on this will show why.

Why does Twitter work?

JD Rucker has an interesting post on all the things you can do with Twitter, based on a survey he did on Twitter.

In a recent inquiry to dozens of online friends, I discovered one truth about Twitter. People either love it and use it daily (even hourly) or they absolutely hate it. Few people fit into the ‘moderate feelings’…

Mark Evans has also come to the defense of Twitter in suggesting that Lorne Feldman Is Wrong About Twitter. In a video included in the post, the only point that Feldman seems to make is that if you appreciate the instant feedback from Twitter, it probably means you’re a loser. Without realizing it, I believe that Feldman has focused on the one most important strength of Twitter – instant feedback.

Your TwitterSphere Can Be Your Extended Brain

Perhaps Twitter can act as your central nervous system on the Internet. If you have a few hundred people following you on Twitter, then it can act almost like your subconscious. You may only check it a few times a day. Perhaps those few hundred people also check it only a few times a day. But at any moment you may be able to contact randomly a handful of people from your network. So if you’re trying to think of new solutions, check with your subconscious. If it’s important, you could ask the same question half a dozen times at fifteen minute intervals.

A Small Example Of Twitter Brainstorming

A small example yesterday confirmed the efficacy of this approach. I was doing research for a blog post on Free Website Reviews and wanted to be sure I was covering all the angles on this. The item was at the same time announcing a new SMM service for Website Mini-Reviews. My question on Twitter produced a most useful response from David Mihm in Portland, Oregon, who is someone you may find it useful to follow on Twitter. He suggested a new line of thought that I had completely overlooked. This new thought triggered in my TwitterSphere seems so analogous to the way a new thought may be fired in your brain’s synaptic circuits. That is why the notion of Twitter as an extended (and subconscious) brain seems a very useful concept.

Whither Twitter?

Presumably Twitter will put behind it this horrendous period of inferior service and emerge strengthened. Its competitors have been given a real opportunity for a period. We also now have Jaiku, recently acquired by Google, slowly building up its membership on an invitation-only basis. It has some similarities with Twitter but will inevitably edge out and add on other gadgets.

Twitter is the supreme example of a KISS-based tool. It really is just Instant Messaging to the nth degree. I for one hope that it continues to keep that focus.

8 thoughts on “Twitter Beats Second Brain For Brainstorming”

  1. Barry, I totally agree. Twitter can be an amazing tool to solicit feedback and new ideas from your community. In one that is so friendly as the SEO industry, that is especially true.

  2. I certainly pray, David, that it gets through its current troubles and retains its followers. I’m still not sure how it can best monetize its activities while retaining the minimalist approach, but let’s hope it finds the trick.

  3. Twitter has an impressive KISS approach and is winning over new user groups everyday. We obviously support Twitter because we believe that it is becoming a platform for public conversations. The added benefit of SecondBrain will be our ability to mix those conversations with useful tools for content collaboration and sharing, among other things:)

    But I like the way you think, Barry. SecondBrain should definitely accommodate more thinking-/brain-tools. That’s part of our DNA and where we ultimately want to be. We want to help people work smarter with their online content.

    Please let me know if you have any suggestions to how we can improve this aspect of S|B. We’re still very early stage – and everything is possible:)


  4. I really appreciate you stopping by to comment, Lars. I like Second Brain very much. Thinking can be tough, particularly if you’re trying to be creative. This brainstorming use of Twitter works well but is very rudimentary.

    I’ve been impressed by the Open Space Technology approach for groups seeking to explore fuzzy problems. I’ve always thought that it is akin to Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London. The more interesting topics attract the bigger crowds. I notice that FriendFeed now has Rooms, so that you can see the inputs of people with similar interests.

    Perhaps if Second Brain had the functionality of being able to set up even temporary rooms for such discussions, that might be something that would work. The problem is of course that people have busy lives and are often working from different parts of the globe so are at different times of the day.

  5. Twitter is great if your work allows you access to the internet. Let’s not forget that the majority of workers are in factories, shops, construction, transport, teachers, in busy offices. They can’t twitter. What they can do is talk to their collegues. Remember as well that only 7% of communcation is the actual words. 38% is the way we speak and 55% is non-verbal (body language). So by relying on instant messaging (by whatever means) reduces the effectiveness of the conversation. In any case, it’s much nicer to talk to someone face to face.

  6. Reading some of Twitter’s blog posts about their scaling issues, what struck me was that there’s an awful lot going on in the background for such a simple service – maybe more than there needs to be?

    I wonder if in future Twitter will have to cut back slightly on the flexibility it gives to users, in order to scale more easily. It’s great to throw lots of options into the mix when your user base is small, but that multitude of options can often add up to problems as you scale. Better to start too simple and build from there, than start complicated and later cut features.

    Still, they’re doing a fairly good job of it, considering the phenomenal rate of growth!

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