New Uses for Twitter: Tweeting History vs. MTV Show

TwitterBack when I originally reviewed Twitter (over a year ago), I asked the question: Is it a waste of time or extremely valuable? At the time, I had no idea it would take off like it has today. But now that it has, it seems to moving more toward “extremely valuable” and further away from “waste of time” (though I still think it’s kind of both).

Case in point, a couple new creative ways (among many others) I’ll point out today. The first is TwHistory.com, a site that has created Twitter profiles for key participants in the Battle of Gettysburg that took place during the U.S. Civil War back in the 1860′s. Using the real words of historical figures (from those that kept detailed journals), a fluid conversation is happening that shows the Civil War through a new light.

The site About page explains the concept further:

There were more casualties in the Battle of Gettysburg than any other battle in the American Civil War; the battle is often described as the war’s turning point. We are currently following eleven characters leading up to the bloody conflict in early July… This is more than a ‘what happened on this day’ service. We are interested in telling stories.

The Battle of Gettysburg, or the Cuban Missile Crisis were more than a couple of random events over a few days. There are exciting backstories of many characters who witnessed these events. We feel these stories can be told in 140 characters or less, over the course of many months.

TwHistory is maintained by volunteers. If you would like to help out by tweeting historical characters, or finding out how you can start your own project, please visit our volunteer page.

Interesting concept, to be sure. Right now, the Twitter site itself might not be the best method for following the Civil War since these tweets are likely to get lost among the noise of the other hundreds (or thousands) of friends you likely are following. But leveraging third party applications (such as TweetDeck), you can group friends and create a separate stream of tweets. All of a sudden, this historical conversation comes to life.

I mentioned a “couple” creative uses of Twitter. The second has to do with MTV hoping that integrating Twitter and Facebook into a new show can bring back viewership and fan interaction. It’s still likely be a TV channel less about music and more about celebrities, but at least now viewers can interact with the show as it airs (and even when it’s off the air). Details are sketchy but I think the concept has merit.

So let’s revisit my original question: Is Twitter extremely valuable or a waste of time? Well, for me at least, the more I use it and find others creating new uses for it, the more I think “extremely valuable” and “waste of time” aren’t that far apart.

Speaking of which, if you found this valuable or a waste of time, feel free to follow me on Twitter @bobcaswell.

*Update* In a related story, research out of Nielsen suggest that less than 40 percent of Twitter users stick with the site after one month.

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  • http://tomcaswell.com tom4cam

    I realize this is an older blog post, but the Twitter lists feature now makes following a historical reenactment via Twitter much easier. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of just that group. Still, the real value in something like @TwHistory is the participation. Instead of students listening to history being told as a story, they can now participate. Discovering history no longer needs to be a spectator's sport.