THE SQL Server Blog Spot on the Web

Welcome to - The SQL Server blog spot on the web Sign in | |
in Search

Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

My Thoughts On Twitter

This is a repost from my old blog. It kept showing up in search results when I looked for articles about Twitter and social networking, so I thought I'd share it here. :{> 


There's been lots of speculation about Twitter and what it means to the modern technologist. I've found some of it pretty insightful and some of it misinformed. I use Twitter. A bunch. Not as much as some, but more than average. I like it.

The Best Defense...

I don't intend to defend Twitter because I do not believe it the needs defending.

This post is not intended to change your mind about Twitter. I'm not trying to convince you that you should or shouldn't use it - I'm not telling you "you're missing out" if you're not out there building your Follower Count each and every day. Honestly, I don't know if you're missing out or not. So I'm also not telling you that you aren't missing out.

You may, in fact, be missing out.

All that follows is my opinion; an opinion formed in the context of my experiences with the industry as a hobbyist and then professional since 1975.

What Twitter Isn't...

Twitter isn't micro-blogging.

Twitter isn't slow IM.

Then What Is It?

That, I think, is an excellent question! I'm not going to try and answer it all at once. If you simply cannot bear to wade through my attempts at logic, you can skip to the "Andy's Answer" section to read my answer.

First, A Bit Of History:

In the beginning, there was ENIAC. By today's standards, ENIAC was large and clunky. Other systems followed ENIAC, most of them very large machines that filled rooms and entire buildings with less computing power than almost any modern computing device.

One problem with these machines was time. Scientists, engineers, and normal people had to schedule time on these machines. They had to physically travel to the computer to load and then execute programs. There was usually a single terminal, and it was in the room (or one of the rooms) with the computer.

So terminals were added.

Now this may seem like a small change, but it was huge at the time. One of the effects of the terminal was it created an external architecture. This architecture evolved as terminals became smarter; and then the workstation came to be. Eventually, workstations became connected to larger computers and the architecture evolved again.


In my wee mind, I imagine this as a tectonic process. New (emerging) architectures grow similar to divergent plate boundaries shown here. Magma is the medium and engine of tectonics; ideas are the medium and engine of architectures. As the pressure of new ideas spread existing architectures, new layers are formed.

Returning to my (spotty) history of architecture: demands for more time drove parallel architectures (terminals), and then more intelligent terminals while growing another layer of smaller personal computers - which were then merged into architectures where individual personal computers replaced terminals in client-server architectures.

Architectures continued to evolve into n-tier, which eventually evolved into the modern cloud. It hasn't been clean or easy, but it's here - if only in its infancy.

Whenever architectures evolve, they do so organically and naturally. That's one reason I like to look for natural and organic processes for analogies. In the real world, nothing grows like smooth linear or gently increasing curves. In real life, things crack and expand and bifurcate, and there's entropy and cycles and fractals all over the place.

Andy's Answer

Twitter is something completely new.

It is a new layer in the architecture. Developers are finding all sorts of small, niche-filling, cool things to do with it. It's simple. It's elegant. It's one of the new things to pop out of the idea magma to build the latest part of the zeitgeist continent.

Classify it otherwise if you will, but (in my opinion) you do so at your own risk.


The preceding words are merely my opinion. I welcome your thoughts.

:{> Andy

Published Friday, May 14, 2010 8:00 AM by andyleonard

Comment Notification

If you would like to receive an email when updates are made to this post, please register here

Subscribe to this post's comments using RSS



Michael J Swart said:

I would have written that twitter isn't *just* micro-blogging and that Twitter isn't just slow IM. Because it can be those things if that's how one uses it.

You're absolutely right that it's a new medium. Twitter isn't just a communication tool for ______. Twitter is a communication tool. And like you said, people are finding many ways to fill in the blank.

I thought that a large part of this article could have been written 100 years ago, after replacing "Twitter" with "Telephone Lines".

(I do realize that this comment is at odds with the idea that the <a href="">Medium is the Message</a>)

May 14, 2010 8:54 AM

alen said:

when i was in the Army in the 1990's we had a process that if you wanted to complain you had to follow the chain of command. even though all commanders had an open door policy, you were expected to first take it up the chain first.

the military had email for a long time, but then came hotmail. you could go to the library and send an email to your chain of command anonymously. after a year or two, they made up a name for this. flattening the chain of command or something like that. a private could complain to a colonel without going through the chain.

Twitter is on a larger scale. in the old days you had to read a magazine to read up on your favorite musician or actor or actress. now you can follow them on twitter and ask them stuff directly. Same with questions on SQL or anything else. you don't need a big media company to get information when you can go straight to the source

May 14, 2010 9:25 AM

Chris Randall said:

I agree with Michael in saying Twitter isn't *just* microblogging - microblogging was in fact Twitter's initial announced purpose. That some people use it for other purposes doesn't remove that usage.

I've been around long enough to have seen and used everything from "talk" between old IBM VM systems, IRC, chat rooms and IM and now Twitter, and other than APIs, I'm not seeing anything in Twitter that hasn't been done before. It's just easier to get at by the masses. it's not anything completely new. Then again, is anything? :)

For a fun read, check out "The Victorian Internet", a book about the changes to communication brought about by the adoption of the telegraph:

May 14, 2010 11:04 AM

Steve Jones said:

I have come to see Twitter as this Graffiti wall in a long hallway where people wander through during the day. Some are there a long time, some a few minutes, and what you wrote can get overwritten quickly, but not necessarily so.

May 14, 2010 11:53 AM

Leave a Comment


This Blog



My Latest Book:

Community Awards

Friend of Red Gate

Contact Me


Privacy Statement