Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Email vs Twitter

Yesterday, I had the privilege to have several conversations with Auburn University President Jay Gogue. During one of these conversations, I mentioned Twitter and President Gogue asked "What's the difference between Twitter and email?"

My answer centered around several characteristics of Twitter including:

  • Receiving Tweets are more about choice, rather than be forced by the sender. (I choose who I follow and people choose to follow me). Unlike Facebook, the followers and friends do not have to be reciprocal.
  • Twitter is fast.
  • Twitter is more free-flowing.

I did not feel I did a very good job in my explanation so I did what I often do. I ask Twitter followers what they thought.

Through Twitter, I sent a message asking "What is the difference between Twitter and email? As I read messages as they evolved (in about 3 hours), I was wondering what would be a better way to get immediate discussion from a broad spectrum of people?

The first tweet came from a University of Alabama student (see 340) was someone I have never met. More than 65 % of the responses are from people outside of Auburn University. Thus, indicating the ability to hear from a broad spectrum of people.

Interesting too, I was able to "listen" in on the conversations, in particular, one between the University of Alabama student (340) and University of Alabama alum (2,057) who lives in North Alabama. Twitter offered a way for me to listen in ways I would not have a mechanism to do.

The investment (asking the question and reading the tweets) was minimal. Thus, indicating Twitter is very efficient.

Below is my summary of the responses.

  • Twitter is public.
  • Twitter is less formal.
  • Twitter is more analogous to people subscribing to e-newsletters.
  • Twitter updates are brief and succinct.
  • Twitter is faster, spreads messages  more quickly, and are more efficient.
  • Twitter is more like texting (SMS), chatrooms, and forums.
  • Twitter is more about choice. Twitter does not push messages like email.
  • Twitter creates an online community, a social network.
  • Twitter allows members to receive updates continually and more frequently.
  • Twitter users can be anyone.
  • Twitter applications make messages more automatic, like a stock ticker.
  • Twitter makes sharing and being open easy, thus creating opportunities for more open discussions.

Below, I listed the responses and conversations. Instead of using Twitter usernames with each response, I used the number of people they follow. The @ sign is indication that they are replying to a person, but the reply is public.  

  • My Tweet that started the conversation (587) aafromaa Yesterday, AU president asked what is the difference in Twitter & email. I am wondering: how would you answer in 140 char or less, of course
  • (340) @aafromaa Twitter is more like public texting with a community. Email is intimate (usually) 1-1 conversations. T is v effective for campus!
  • (76) @aafromaa 15 years.
  • (587) aafromaa @(340) Thanks & good explanation. It's interesting that 1st reply came from Univ of Ala student. 2nd reply: @(76). Anyone else?
  • (42) @aafromaa The audience is different. Most Twitter posts are publicly accessible (without the need for a FOIA request, of course
  • (32) @aafromaa A social network allowing members to receive updates from other members about events and self as they are updated all day long.
  • (32) @aafromaa Had a grammar error in the first one
  • (220) @aafromaa Twitter is analogous to people subscribing to e-newsletters, except updates are often, succinct, and the provider can be anyone.
  • (2,057) @(340) That's a good point, I always think of Twitter similar to a chatroom with controls, but for GenY, you grew up texting.
  • (220) @(340) I disagree about 1-1. See my explanation. Similarities between e-newsletters, newsgroups, and Twitter.
  • (69) @aafromaa While both are forms of electronic mail, Twitter is briefer and less formal, and it creates an online community.
  • (340) @(220) I disagree (back :p) because I see it as personal communication. I like to think there's a person behind the emails I receive.
  • (32) @(220) fancy language, but I like it.
  • (340) @(2,057) That's interesting - i've never considered it as a chat room. I usually think of texting or of a fast message board/forum
  • (340) trying to decipher an email someone sent expecting it to magically morph into a press release. not quite as magical as that, though :p
  • (74) @aafromaa concur w/(220) and (69). but use of app like twirl makes twitter like a stock ticker. don't have 2 open tweets--does it 4 u—
  • (74) @aafromaa these apps actually make it faster for me than email
  • (340) @(2,057) age is a state of mind ;)
  • (220) @(340) You just made my point even better. Your @reply is exactly like somene using "Reply all" in an email. Personal schmersonal ;-)
  • (340) @(220) nope:) directing message toward you. may be seen (like if you forward or cc/bc in the reply) but not everyone is going to read
  • (220) @(340) Not everyone is going to read your tweet either. I've had plenty "reply all" discussions via email. There are small differences.
  • (340) is wondering if there should be a UA-AU tweetup? :p
  • (340) @(220) that's MY point. its out there for people to read if they so choose. thus, the public vs. targeted 1-on-1 :p
  • (31) @aafromaa - brevity-triviality-audience. email is "1 to 1" or "1 to many" & "push info". twitter is "many to many" & "share info".
  • (68) @aafromaa email is direct closed discussion, twitter more broadcast open discussion with greater potential for 2nd hand distribution. .
  • (111) @aafromaa Brevity sets it apart. SMS fosters its spread. Otherwise differences are perception & ease of use.
  • (78) @aafromaa On Twitter, I send msgs to people who choose to hear from me. In email, I send msgs to people who I think want to hear from me
  • (47) Digging tweets to @aafromaa's question. Much better definitions than other sources.
  • A comment on my Facebook page: "I would explain it to him in a way he can relate: Usually a 30 minute meeting can accomplish just as much as a 60 minute meeting. Similarly, usually a 140 characters can send the same message as a 2-paragraph email."

How would you describe the difference in email and Twitter?

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

@(76) thinks that it was a great post. Should help me explain what until now has been the unexplainable.

Anne Adrian said...

Thanks @(76) to answering the question yesterday. I find explaining Twitter is difficult sometimes. Truth be known, I was taken a back a little with the Twitter vs Email question.

1) The question indicated he had at least heard of Twitter.

2) He wanted an answer to convince one to stop using one for another.

These new tools seldom take the old tools away. Rather I think the new tools give us better fitting tools for particular tasks. For instance, wikis are much better for collaboration than sending email attachments.

Email is still needed and useful. Twitter will not replace it. Though Twitter is better for establishing authenticity and conncetions, as well as all the things everyone mentioned.