Twitter-reviewing – some reflections

Last Friday I tried a little experiment with Twitter: I used it to live-review the Clay Shirky book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (Amazon US).

Why did I do it?

It wasn’t a preview copy, so there was no ‘scoop’ here.

It wasn’t a live event, either. As Dave Lee pointed out, “A book is a book. It’s not changing. Read it all and then tell me whether it’s any good or not.”

I did it, well, because I could. Because I wanted to give myself a reason to read the book without distraction. Because I wanted to see how viral it would go. Because I wanted to see how social you could make that most anti-social of activities: reading a book.

The thing is, Dave was mistaking Twitter for a pure publishing platform. What I discovered was this: it was about a conversation, not a publication:

Now you might suggest the same things could be achieved with a blog and comments, but Twitter is a more conversational platform. And more instantaneous: you are quickly notified of tweets @you (indeed, you can text ‘track @yourname’ to Twitter to get text messages whenever someone uses that phrase).

It is also more iterative: a blog post is more ‘finished’ than a series of Twitter tweets. I didn’t have to worry as much about structure or what to leave in or out – if I felt I was reading an important point, I twittered it. If it sparked off a thought or example of my own, I twittered it. If I wanted a link for more information… well, you get the idea.

As has been so often the case with Twitter, what I discovered was: it is what you make it.

If you followed the twitter-review, please let me know what your experience was of it, good or bad.

Meanwhile, here’s the transcript – read from the bottom upwards.

PS: If you follow me on Twitter apologies if you were cursing my existence last Friday. Normal service has been resumed.

@foodiesarah No continuation tomorrow. Will see what the reaction is like before deciding whether to do any more twittering on the book.
@egrommet you may be able to tell me how many tweets I did in total then?
@mattwardman I mean sponsorship as in charity – as in a sponsored fucking marathon!
end of Chap9. I’m going to stop there. But please add your thoughts @paulbradshaw or #herecomeseverybody
Creativity as an import-export business
I wonder if our journo blogs are actually about bonding capital rather than bridging capital. We’re the Howard Deans of online journalism.
Social capital – difference between bonding capital (within homogeonous groups) and bridging capital (across heterogenous groups)
I should have gotten fucking sponsorship for doing this
chap9: Six degrees of separation
small world networks –
@azeem_a has just popped in to say “Take a break, man!”

end chap8 – 3 more chaps + epilogue. Come on.
3) negative effects, e.g. Pro-Anorexic groups, newly robust criminal “networks”
2) current social bargains, e.g. rules over media coverage of an election
3 kinds of loss: people whose jobs relied on solving a formerly hard problem, e.g. the media
@Reynolds why do you need to spell trebuchet?
Pro-anorexia groups on mag message boards – it’s not just groups “we approve of”
That’s why I did #jeecamp. Offline is the new online.
Talking about Meetup – its success was in enabling online communities to meet offline. People want to meet.
#herecomeseverybody chap8: it’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma! 10 points to @petelewis
Talking about something called Twitter. Never heard of it.
O/T: Wishing I was in Texas. Wishing someone would pay for me to go to places like Texas.
another story: how radios helped the Germans (poorer kit, smaller army) beat the French in #WWII
“open source guerillas”
@tomguarriello it’s an old model, yes, which is probably why I stop reading after 6 chapters normally…
#herecomeseverybody chap7 – more stories. Protests. Berlin Wall. Flash Mobs.
yes I’mstill reading the same book. end chap6
Classic model for spread of disease: likelihood of infection, of contact between any two people, and overall population size
At this point #HCE is reading like another of those ‘illustrate the same point with 8 different stories’ books – e.g. Long Tail
chap6 – looking at the church it seems.
end Chap5. Don’t think I’ll finish this today.
p139 “Wikipedia… replaces guarantees offered by institutions with probabilities supported by process”
@petelewis always interested…
p137 “in the absence of a functioning community, a wiki will suffer from the Tragedy of the Commons, as the Wikitorial did.”
‘a wiki is a hybrid of tool and community’ I like that. And flickr. Facebook. Twitter…
it’s about context – AOL sued by its volunteers when its stock soared. Billy Bragg has a point about Bebo…
Ultimatum game –
the Kilroy was here pleasure of changing something in the world (editing #Wikipedia)
@stevebridger show off.
So my blog is a wedding reception? (p130) I’m just being polite with those emails and tweets. I only invited you because you owe me money…
power law distributions tend to describe systems of interacting elements, rather than just collections of variable elements
here comes the long tail…
power law distribution curves – the imbalance drives large social systems. Makes sense, but where’s the evidence?
Ch4 so far: wikipedia, the first wiki, and the importance of the rhetoric of ‘pedia’ in wikipedia’s success
@stevebridger any comments to make so far?
OK, back again. I cheated – read some of the book over a sandwich.
Are you following the Twitter-review of #herecomeseverybody? If so tweet @paulbradshaw
New blog post: SFTW#5
End of chapt 4 – I’m off to write a blog post then dinner break (you might call it lunch).
p107 first mention of the word ‘revolution’… not bad.
He says telephones were designed for conversation – that’s not strictly true: people tried to broadcast with them.
p104 we now have media that supports making and sharing as well as consuming.
@bounder about to take a break too…
communities of practice –
great Cory Doctorow quote: “onversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.”
@bounder has leapt ahead of me. I should stop and just read his tweets 😉
p95 “difference between conversational tools and broadcast tools was arbitrary, but difference between conversing and broadcasting is real”
Human limits on attention… this is why I’m going to make OJB a group blog… as soon as I have the time 😀
Must stop feeling guilty about unanswered emails…
This is why Cory Doctorow spends half of every day checking his emails, and has set up filters.
@bounder is reading too…
“even when a medium is two-way, its most popular practitioners will be forced into a one-way pattern.”
p92 very good exploration of ‘cognitive’ limits of interactivity…
@mattwardman pw? explain?
@podnosh …but also terrifying: we don’t realise the power we have, and the importance, and the responsibility.
@podnosh I think that’s what makes this time so exciting – people have the opportunity to define the shape of the new.
in public but not for the public – e.g. livejournal and, I think, Twitter.
Difference between ‘I love you’ on a letter and TV – didn’t Marshal McLuhan do that? (only with billboards) No attribution in notes at end.
Ooh, broadcast media are ‘conceptually shaped’ like a megaphone; communications media ‘like a tube’
Chapter 4: more media, UGC
@pinman very good idea. If this thing works I may try it with we think…

The term “scribe” disappeared as it no longer denoted a professional class. Methinks: will “journalist”?
Scott Bradner: “The internet means you don’t have to convince anyone else that something is a good idea before trying it”
covering journalistic privilege and who is a professional photographer. Nice line on whistleblowing without whistleblowing.
social lag between technology and society. Old systems get broken long before new ones become stable
“from news as an institutional prerogative to news as part of a communications ecosystem” – it’s not news because news orgs say it is now
It’s the Trent Lott story again…
p60 “the web didn’t introduce a new competitor into the old ecosystem, as USA Today had done. The web created a new ecosystem”
@professorkim kinda – but he moved on from that example quite quickly.
hence, suing mp3 downloaders.
“…so preservation of the original problems became an economic imperative.”
p59 I love this line: “The commercial viability of most media business involves providing [solutions to problems of moving content]…
But let’s not get into an argument over semantics.
Chapter 3: media stuff. He seems to think journalists are “professionals”. Not sure everyone would agree, esp. NUJ.
Readl examples of collective action online are still relatively rare. End of Chap 2.
aka problem of freeloaders.
Collective action creates shared responsibility. “Tragedy of the commons”:
Unlike sharing, cooperating “creates group identity”
Video at…
The rungs on the ladder: sharing, cooperation and collective action – I thought the video of him had him talking about four?
@egrommet ah I see. Definitely.
The Coasean floor. Not easily twitterable, so: http://www.techliberation.c…
@egrommet not media as educator, media as platform. While we’re still all on their sites…
The org chart story. Haven’t I read this before? In Everything is Miscellaneous perhaps?
Thinks: finding missing persons is “outside the purview” of traditional media – but they should start providing the *tools* to do so…
Am hoping he’s going to say something about Flickr clusters… nope. Shame.
From “Gather, then share” to “Share, then gather”
Now talking about Flickr, Mermaid Parade, Jul7 bombings
Do we have a free market discourse going on here?
@marshallmanson – want to chip in and be added to the aggregator?
@markmayhew – sorry, translation: the group is more than the sum of its parts.
“Self preservation of the organisation becomes job no.1” – very much my experiences of charities…
@marshallmanson I’ll twitter as much of the book as I can! This is my way of forcing myself to read it now.
I forgot just how full of soundbites the Cluetrain Manifesto was…
p28: “Sociology is not just psychology applied to groups.”
Here Comes Everybody: Chapter 2: starts with The Birthday Paradox. I like this.
@adbar has found two sample chapters on Amazon. Glad you can join us. @bounder has started reviewing.
End of Chaper 1. @cshirky hope you’re watching.
(technological determinism disclaimer)
p23 “None of the absolute advantages of institutions … have disappeared. Instead… most of the *relative* advatages… have.”
p20 “Tools that provide simple ways of creating groups lead to new groups, lots of new groups, and … more kinds of groups.”

Costs of creating a new group of joining one have collapsed.
@adbar does amazon not even have a sample chapter?
Eric Raymond’s plausible promise:
Can anyone find a sample chapter from Here COmes EVerybody for @adbar?
p17 …thinking of Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie…
p14: “That’s the world we’ve already got. The real question is, What happens next?”
OK, he’s tackling the inequality thing. Now I see why he’s picked this story – it’s complicated, y’see.
But it’s also about who can tell a story – the media literate
What worried me is the people who have leverage? The connected. It used to be an old boys network; now it’s a new boys network.
It seems to me it’s about leveraging your network and their networks
Starts with a great story about phone theft – more here:…
Resisting temptation to skip straight to chapters on media, on the grounds that they’ll actually probably be the least illuminating for me
I hate hardback books. They’re not designed to be read – they’re designed to be *kept*. And displayed. Paperbacks are so much more usable.
Here beginneth the Twittered review of Here Comes Everybody…

4 thoughts on “Twitter-reviewing – some reflections

  1. Chris Lang

    Thanks for the apology – following you on Friday really was no fun! I’ll read the book at some point, but probably won’t bother twittering about this or any other book in the near future. I can see that it could be useful to get feedback as you’re reading though. But what if it really took off? What if hundreds of people joined in? You’d spend all your time reading the tweets instead of the book.

  2. Pingback: How journalists can master Twitter (blogger’s cut) « Online Journalism Blog

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