Twitter for Those Left Behind

You either get Twitter or you don’t.

Those that don’t will typically post comments like this one I just caught on FriendFeed:

Do people even really use twitter? I guess I mean in the sense that you actually accomplish some goal, or connect with people you physically know or work with?

Yes, Twitter is a lot of noise and useless crap. But it can be very, very useful. Here’s my story:

We found out last Thursday afternoon that Eric had to go to Bogota, Colombia on Monday for a 2-day work assignment. Now I’m sure there are a lot of really nice people in Colombia, but until this week all I cared to know about the South American country was that Americans shouldn’t travel there.

From an active US Government travel advisory.

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade. Nevertheless, terrorist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and other criminal organizations continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips. No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors. The FARC continue to hold three U.S. government contractors, having captured them when their plane crashed in a remote region of the country in February 2003. In January 2008, the FARC kidnapped six Colombian tourists from a beach on the Pacific coast in Chocó Department. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to or strike deals with kidnappers. Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnapping victims is limited.

Gee, have a nice trip dear.

Eric was assured he’d have a driver and that he’d be in “safe” areas other times. Still, I was very nervous about this trip.

Eric started using Twitter a few weeks ago. Remembering the story of the man who was saved from an Egyptian jail thanks to Twitter, I asked Eric to be sure to tweet as often as he could. Armed with and a Twitter client on his laptop, that’s exactly what he did. Throughout the few days he was gone, in between some short phone calls, I was able to check his Twitter page and be assured he was okay. I’m sure tweets like, “Waiting in hotel lobby for colleagues before heading to office” weren’t very exciting to his other 54 followers, but it meant a whole lot to me.

In fact, he didn’t have to call and wake the kids at 5:30 am yesterday when his plane landed at JFK. I was already up and saw it on Twitter.


3 responses to “Twitter for Those Left Behind”

  1. Why wouldn’t email work for this purpose? Or text messages? And these would be private, to boot.

    You haven’t convinced me. I stil think Twitter is awfully useless.

  2. Jon, I like Twitter because it’s so accessible (when it’s working, that is). Email, SMS, API clients, website. Eric couldn’t receive his personal email on his BlackBerry, but could get to the Twitter website. When I’m working from home I often miss text messages since my phone isn’t always within reach.

  3. I agree with Judi–it also has the advantage of being a “one-stop-shopping” kind of thing–the poster only has to send in one message to one place–and all his or her followers will get the message. Obviously if you are sending private information, email, IM, or phone might be better choices, though there’s nothing really secure about any of those either. But that’s not the point of Twitter. It’s purpose is to get information out fast to a large group of people. And you can send and receive information via web or phone.