In Twain’s classic proto-steampunk mashup of sci-fi time travel with Arthurian legend, the Connecticut Yankee of the title wakes up in Camelot after being whacked in the head with a crowbar by a hooligan. His Yankee ingenuity and late 19th-century technical know-how, plus fortuitous timing in a certain situation involving a stake and a solar eclipse, soon result in  the rapid industrialization of Camelot society. Satirical hijinks ensue, and we’re all given a little something to ponder about the power of technology to transform societies for good or ill.

My own Twitter awakening came after a gentler invitation than a crowbar to the head. No bar fights or heavyweights involved; just this comment from Carolyn Foote:

I want to be the first to invite you to join Twitter if you haven’t.

It’s developed into a really fun and amazing little place.

I wrote about Twitter when it first emerged, but, like many others, wasn’t sure what to make of it, or whether it would evolve to tip the scales as more compelling than frivolous. Carolyn’s comment prompted me to go back for another look.

I set up my username, sent some practice tweets, got a few welcomes and helpful hints in return:

you need to link your blog in your twitter account, n00b.

Duly noted and linked. And with that, I tramped boldly out into the Twitterverse. Here, without further ado and in no particular order, are field notes, observations, and learning from a few days of rambling around in Twitter.

  • Different people manage their Twitter lives in different ways. Installing Twitbin made me instantly a happier Twitterer, letting me keep a peripheral eye on the Twitter stream. And it provided a rational explanation for the near-superhuman ability of people I was following to stay on top of so many conversations AND do whatever else they’re doing.
  • You can learn about new apps. Clay Burell loves the CommentLuv plugin for WP.
  • The Twitter stream runs infinitely deep. Following more conversationalists means more fully capturing the context and nuances of a conversation. Like depth-of-field in photography, but an opposite effect. In photography, the range of sharpness deepens as the aperture gets smaller. In Twitter, the range of conversation deepens as the networked lens gets larger. Follow ten people and the effect is disjointed, fragmented. Follow thirty and themes emerge, threads are rolled out.
  • But the stream is not infinitely long. Personal page timelines only go back ten pages or so.
  • You can find out where to buy your EduCon t-shirt.
  • There’s a Twitter Ten Commandments. Really? Ten Commandments? Keep your laws off my tweets, man. Not everyone agrees, especially with Commandments III through V. As Clay tweets, "i do ideas, bud. not a "frying eggs now" kind of tweeter. "watching tv." ‘brushing teeth." "breathing."
  • Quicksilver happens, e.g. moments of poetry like this.
  • Oblique strategies can shake us out of our routine trees.
  • Twitterers can find each other in Second Life.
  • New poetic forms are invented, analyzed, and elaborated.
  • Metaphors emerge, 140 characters at a time .
  • Twitter streams are personal learning networks in action. Clay again: "there’s too much creative energy here. i just realized i’m living the PLN life." Your Twitter stream scrolling by is like an EKG strip showing the heartbeat of your PLN.

Good enough for me. I’m sold.