Twitter had some scheduled downtime tonight which led to the inevitable confused and plaintive tweets as it limped back up, and some twitter soul-searching.
When this thing - this endless, up to the minute newsfeed, this lifeline to like-minded geeks - goes away, you definitely notice it's absence. Your behavior changes. In some ways it's like the power going out. When you can't turn on the TV and you have to light some candles and read a book, it can be an incredibly different and rewarding experience, and observations about twitter abounded tonight amid the downtime.
Pete Cashmore summed up his thoughts simply, saying "when twitter goes down, productivity goes up" and I was inclined to agree. It makes sense that since we're putting time into reading each other's tweets and writing our own, that when we can't spend time there, we get more done.
As I thought about my twitter-less evening I realized that although it seems logical that less twitter equals more work, the opposite was proving true for me.
Here's why: I tend to dive deep into whatever I'm looking at, but if there's time I have to wait, I have an extremely hard time sitting idle. Whether that's a software compile, audio export, or video render, there are many mini-waits during my day. Normally, I turn to twitter to fill those little gaps while staying mentally active. Tonight, without twitter to fall back on, I found myself lost in the web itself, reading about dense topics like predicting elections using futures markets, and completely losing track of what I was waiting for.
During a normal day if there's something holding me up I can leave whatever I'm waiting on right front-and-center on my screen, and flip through the last few hours of tweets while I'm waiting. It's a nice brain-break and I can plow through the new tweets quickly. Since I'm still alert and haven't mentally gone down another path, I can check back in with the app I'm waiting for and easily slip back into my flow.
My idle-time is definitely spent reading and writing tweets, and there's no question that I spend a good amount of time there, but (in large part thanks to twitterrific) the time I save by staying in close vicinity mentally and visually to the task at hand more than makes up for the time spent.