'One of my big "A-ha!" moments was this guy on the TV, over a decade ago, talking about Lego, the famous Danish children's toy. Some journalist asks him, "What does Lego actually do that makes it so interesting?" With a wee sparkle in his eye, the guy answers, "It's not what Lego does that is interesting. It's what THE CHILD does with the Lego that is interesting…"'
I mentioned this story recently on a comment I made in relation to a couple of posts that referred to the poor content of twitter and the "yelling Twitter-style Babel of the crowd". The point I was making was a Shirky-esque one that, as with all new platforms, it's not the tool itself that is so interesting, but how people are using it.
People who are involved in the same industries, or have similar interests naturally tend to follow each other, and share useful information and opinion acting as a kind of natural and self-selection. The 'follow' is it's own form of quality control. Sure, there's a lot of rubbish on twitter. Just like there's a lot of rubbish on TV. And on the radio. And heaps of it on the internet. But as one fellow commenter said:
"Criticising twitter for the banal content posted by some users is like damning all journalism as trash based on a handful of articles that have appeared in your least favourite newspaper."
Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism at NYU, draws the distinction between 'lifecasting' on twitter, and 'mindcasting' – productive, real-time sharing and connecting amongst like-minded people. In truth, it's good to have a bit of both. But the fundamental truth with all these things is also a fundamental truth of life – you get out what you put in.