Tweet Arrival

I had an interesting experience this week. A colleague I have never met in person shared a very special event with me using Twitter.

A bit of background first: Douglas and I live in different countries, we work in very different roles, but have discovered more about each other over the last few months through blogging (including our intranet), Twitter, Instant Messaging and a brief meet up in Secondlife, where we have discussed issues around the application of web2.0 in the workplace.

Back to this experience. Saturday morning I walked past my laptop, when a message jumped out at me from Twitter…

wow, Douglas and his wife are about to have baby!

epidural going in
and so it went, several tweets updating the status of this special moment

nearly here

I felt so impatient, I wanted to know it was all going well, I felt part of his experience. Then…


Wonderful! And Quick!

I know it’s not the only Twitter birth, but I’m a little fascinated by the the future of lifelogging (aka lifestreaming) and augmentation of technology with our lives so I asked Douglas what it was like to live tweet his birth. This is his response:

“My wife and I brought a laptop to the birth of all four of our children. For the last two we each had a computer. They are convenient for watching movies in the event that things take longer than you’d expect and for updating family with pictures once it’s all done. After three under my belt I was certain there’d be time for Twitter as well as plenty of other surfing–we still had no name and I needed to research some naming ideas.

I only tweeted real time. No backdating. So there was no interruption. The twitterverse missed out on crowning, pushing, breathing, cutting the cord, APGARing, and loads of other medical denouement. Which is a shame since I think there are plenty of folks out there–men and women alike–that have a Hollywood view of what goes on in a birthing room.

Lifelogging was my primary intention. For the previous three we used paper or nothing at all. Those scraps may not be lost, but I certainly no longer know their whereabouts. I suspect to a great degree these tweets will recede in the same manner if not more quickly and irretrievably. I’ll be able to find them when and if I need.

Truthfully, I am an incongruous mixture of ‘kinda cool’ and ambivalent. I didn’t share any of the special parts; I shared the process and the steps. The twitterverse misses out on the brilliance of her eyes and the astounding mass of fluffy brown hair. Nor will it ever know how long it took before she shared the characteristic ‘grandad pout’. I’m not likely to ever break the mood of her nested on my chest asleep and snoring lightly to hack out 140 chars for everyone and no one at the same time.

Serendipitously, I just read an interesting discussion on Privacy Line with Lifestreaming by Duncan Riley at Techcrunch (hat tip to my friend and mentor Jack Mason.) Duncan writes about his concerns around privacy when lifestreaming, Robert Scoble ‘s decision to live twittter the birth of his son and questions the boundaries of personal sharing using social media.

Robert Scoble’s reply to the post included this comment:

“We had dozens of friends who were following every tweet. Real-life friends, too. You know, the kinds that don’t blog and aren’t into technology. It saved us TONS of emails and phone calls cause everyone knew what was going on and didn’t need to call us to find out how things were going.

I’d HIGHLY recommend that other people use the public Internet to keep their families and friends involved in such life events like the birth of new kids….”

So here we find ourselves, communicating in new ways, able to share special moments of our lives and revealing more of ourselves to strangers than ever before. In Gavin Heaton’s recent response to my tagging for the “8 things about me meme” he likened blogging to a social striptease,

“here the writer reveals ever more pieces of personal and professional information until the readers have built a strong and even compelling sense of the author.

Now, my long term readers will know that I started out being quite reticent about my identity and its disclosure. But over time this changed … I began to openly write under my own name, include personal photos, audio and even video casts. Yet each time, I do so I feel like I am confessing something about myself … that in displaying, writing or “performing”, some element of my true nature is revealed. This is both frightening and liberating.”

As for my colleague Douglas, well I think his step in tweeting the arrival of his fourth child was bold, generous, special and a step for him in declarative living. Although, as he mentioned, he didn’t communicate every detail, mainly the process and steps.

And to think he wasn’t too keen on Twitter only a few months ago!

Note: I do not intend for this post to cause personal scrutiny upon Douglas or Robert’s decision to share the birth of their child using Twitter. That was their own personal decision, just as some choose to have water births and others have hospital births. I hope their experiences are examples of the layers of self we choose to reveal in social media and the ability for us to further connect with each other when we share experiences and events using technology.

7 thoughts on “Tweet Arrival

  1. Gavin Heaton

    Great post! While I spend quite a lot of time with social and other media, I am not IN social media as much as others (though I do tend to listen a lot). My blog is essentially a personal scrapbook of ideas — and the written format allows/forces me to think through concepts more fully than I otherwise would do. And while this is largely personal, it has wider implication and draws upon conversations across the Internet. Paradoxically I was more hidden when I had no readers … and now, with a larger readership, I am more open (hmm wonder how that happened).

    Having said all this, I have used social media in a way that is similar to Scoble — and it is highly effective. A member of my family was in hospital after a near fatal bike accident and I used a blog to keep family and friends in the loop. It grew very quickly and was soon generating >1000 visitors per day from all over the world. Amazing confluence of events and technology. And it made all our lives easier at a difficult point in time.

  2. mage ringlerun

    Hello WW,

    A very good post full of insight. I cannot help but think that such use of technology is a double edge sword.

    Firstly, i just want to clarify that i believe based on your post, Douglas used the medium in quite a sensible way – as he mentions, he tweeted the process, and not necessarily the intimate moments – he took the time to “have them, rather than share them”!

    Perl is a language that is built for the gods, and programmed in by us two legged beasts :-) It really is a brilliant language… one of the paradigm’s of perl is – “there is more than one way to do it!”. I have yet to come across another major language so flexible in its semantics – the coder can really many times, “go with the flow and code on the fly” without having to prepare too much of the architecture, as the flexibility of the language, lends itself to altering programs mid way without necessarily having to change the structure.

    Therein lies its greatest strength and its most formidable weakness. I claim that “it’s easy to be a bad programmer in perl” – its possible to be a very good one, but easy to be a bad one. Good programs do take “thinking time” and architectural decisions at the right moments, bad programs improvise with global variables and “mixed bag programming”.

    If a “quick and dirty” script is what you really require, the code won’t matter at the end of the day as you will have used it and thrown it away, but for anything more meaningful, time for reflection is needed (some masters can code beautifully on the fly, but they are the exceptions and not the rule!).

    Let me now take this analogy for tweeting everything… there are moments you want light hearted tweets and fun or just updates about various bits, but for most of us, are we doing that at the cost of the ability to be with “ourselves” or “with the moment at the moment in the moment”.

    Is not the “communication channel” (be it one way) not fulfilling a mental dependence on our part on the need to be connected. Are we loosing the ability to be “at peace with ourselves” and always needing to be “in touch”.

    Is all we are doing “quick and dirty coding” and not “good reflective architectural decisions”?

    I don’t know about everyone else, but being male probably puts me in the category of “can only focus on one thing at a time” :-), perhaps others can give a 100% attention to more than one thing at the same time… i know i can’t though, and i dare say, most people probably can’t… so i think we need to adapt to technology, but not without and understanding of how it might be impeding on the current way, so that we can take time out to ensure we don’t loose our current strengths and abilities, and yet gain the amazing ability new abilities that new technology surely brings.

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  4. wonderwebby

    Gavin, thanks! And great example about using technology in a personal situation.

    Hi there Mage! I’m no codemonkey but I would imagine that coding on the fly using Perl could also have other benefits around innovation and creativity not found in a more methodical approach. So while you might not work that way all the time, it could be something good to practice, perhaps even on a weekly basis? And something that should be a constant, invisible thinking process happening while a coding guru creates a structured, stable, well thought out plan.

    I liked the questions you ask:
    “are we doing that at the cost of the ability to be with “ourselves” or “with the moment at the moment in the moment”.
    It’s a question I asked when people starting carrying mobile phones everywhere. Everybody has different priorities and sensibilities.

    A bit of hope for you…Last year I was speaking to some students from Melbourne Uni’s Organisational Change course and asked how many use Instant Messaging. The response was…”nah, that is just so..high school. We would rather catch up face to face.”

  5. Allison Miller

    Wow – I really enjoyed this blog post.

    I’m very much into Twittering myself – but now I’m wonder if I’d ever consider ‘micro-life-logging’ some of the special milestones of my life?

    Has anyone Twittered their wedding ceremony or child’s bar mitzvah?

    The web really does allow people to connect in amazing ways.

    Thanks, Allison Miller
    Adelaide, South Australia

  6. mage ringlerun

    ”nah, that is just so..high school. We would rather catch up face to face.” ahh… hope for me yet indeed :) i really enjoyed that quote from you :)

    as for creating on the fly… well, it certainly does have its benefits… speed of result (for very short programs) is definitely one of the benefits… but coding on the fly becoming a “default position” is a position we should question with intense measure!

    i wonder if communications is going to become like “IT hacking” currently is… with the “script kiddies” and the “real hackers”… “script kiddies” do get into a lot of places, but the “real hackers” know how the basics work and have a depth of understanding – but can still use the scripts (and in most cases write the scripts/software that the script kiddies use). looks to me like “communication” is going in very much the same direction… there is the “real communicators” that use technology without hesitation, but know that its not a substitute for “face to face” but a very good addition, and then there is those that think being able to communicate online “is the complete experience in itself”!

  7. Jen Okimoto

    I blogged within minutes of my sister’s big moment two weeks ago. I hadn’t even thought about Twittering! I did take photos and post them on my blog. I felt it was hot off the press and out of the oven. Does that translate in Oz??!? Jen

    P.S. In retrospect, I wish I’d asked someone in the room to take a photo of me cutting the cord. Of course sis, the nurses and doc all hand their hands full! : )

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