Twitter: The Conversational Mosaic

 “Red and White Flower – Fractal Mosaic, v.2” by qthomasbower

This morning on Twitter Liz Strauss asked her followers to:

Write a metaphor to explain twitter that doesn’t use the word network.

Everybody has a metaphor for Twitter. Some people refer to it as a cocktail party, others liken it to a school cafeteria or a business networking (gasp) event. While these are all fine descriptions that lend a good visual aid to those trying to grasp the concept of twitter, I think it’s the aural (related to hearing; don’t be gross) experience you have in any of those settings that gives a much clearer explanation of what Twitter is. It’s a conversationl mosaic.

Imagine walking into any one of those settings. It’s most likey a din at first, right? Shouting and talking and laughing. It’s nearly impossible to get a handle on any of it because it’s all coming at you at once. What you’re hearing is one giant conversation made up of smaller conversations. They could be talking about different topics. They might all be about the same topic. Some people in the corner are talking about world affairs while a different group talks about sports while yet another group is sharing pictures of their kids with one another. These are all things happening on Twitter, and unlike those physical scenarios, it’s much easier to discern what’s being discussed (hashtags) or get someone’s attention from across the room (@ replies). It’s even easier to speak with them in private (direct messages).

The reason why the cafeteria, mixer and cocktail party analogies work is because each of them holds true for someone. Twitter is alot of things to alot of people, and while the use may change, the initial experience is often the same – that confusing, disorienting din. When you look at it as a mosaic – small parts that make up a larger picture, you can understand not only the ways in which Twitter works, but how it can enhance conversations.

What’s YOUR Twitter analogy?