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Twitter is the evolution of how you find information on the Internet

Two time entrepreneur and former VP of Salesforce, Mark Suster, had an excellent post this last week on the power of Twitter for information discovery.

Like Suster I’m surprised by how many really smart people, lawyers especially, still doubt the power of Twitter. Many lawyers wear their doubt as a badge of honor. “I’m too busy. It’s too much for me to manage. I already get too much information.”

I suggest you read Suster’s post. His point that Twitter’s significance as an information sharing tool ought not be lost on you as a lawyer.

The Internet, per Suster, has always been about finding the information we wanted. In the beginning it was directories.

[Yahoo], originally called “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web” (true story) – it was basically a way for newbies to find information that had been curated by experts. We went through portals to find information and thus those that ran the portals determined what we saw and were incredible valuable. They had a lock on “distribution” and were named AOL, Yahoo!, Excite, Netscape & MSN.

Then came the personal bookmarking of mass websites we called “portals” so we could come back to the website later.

We visited portals or the handful of websites that we could remember. Then came RSS (Really Simple Syndication) widely credited to Dave Winer for driving the spec & adoption. The idea was that websites (think news, blogs) could push out a regular “feed” in an open, XML format that could be read by an RSS Reader otherwise known as a feed aggregator.

We then had the social bookmarking site called delicious. We could see what each other had bookmarked. Commonly bookmarked things rose to the top. Digg served much the same purpose.

How’s Twitter work for information discovery? Per Suster:

  • Twitter as Curated RSS. Even if you don’t share your status, Twitter is valuable if you’re just a “consumer” of information. In the old days it was Jerry & David who curated our links – now it’s anybody who YOU choose to curate your links. You’re also apt to discover information on both sides of the debate.
  • Twitter as a Generator of Back-Catalog Information. In the old publish & subscribe days of blogging people read your content when you wrote it and then it lay dormant until discovered by somebody performing a Google search. If they found it and read it things pretty much ended there. Twitter resurfaces things and can drive old content viral. Simply adding a Twitter share button on your blog or website can make your back catalog go viral.
  • Twitter & Real-Time Information. Twitter serves up real-time information that is an order of magnitude quicker than traditional media.
  • Twitter as a Discussion Board. While not always easy to see the entire thread of a conversation – I do often click to follow the whole Twitter conversation back-and-forth between two people. I get a sense for who are friends with each other. I find out when people disagree on a topic. I get a sense for what is being whispered around the water cooler. I dip in and out.

LIke Suster, I don’t care if I catch every last bit of information on Twitter. I don’t fret it anymore than I would fret missing information in today’s Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, or CNN broadcast.

But I wouldn’t go without Twitter to discover information anymore than I would have gone without Yahoo or Excite as a directory for information on the Internet 15 years ago.

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