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Twitter Gets a Conference All Its Own

When Jeff Pulver makes a conference out of something, you know it's too important to ignore

3 min read

Is there any better sign of the times than the fact that Jeff Pulver’s got a Twitter conference next week?

 Pulver is probably best known for his Voice on the Net (VON) conferences. He rode the voice-over-IP wagon long and hard, making a bundle along the way by playing a key role in the early days of Vonage, but he’s had other cool conferences as well, such as one in November 2005 he called “Peripheral Visionaries,” an “IP-Based Communications Summit” that brought together “technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, analysts, academics and visionaries.”

At the time, Susan Crawford blogged about it under the heading “Very timely Pulver conference.” Crawford herself is a shining star and something of a zeitgeist figure—she’s the University of Michigan law professor who recently became Obama’s Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy. She was an ICANN director for four years, and I notice on Wikipedia that she’s also on the National Economic Council.

Pulver’s “140 Characters Conference,” as he calls it, is right here in Nework City, 16-17 June. I haven’t heard of most of the speakers, but that was true of the early VON conferences as well. One of those resulted in one of my favorite articles, Edholm's Law of Bandwidth, according to which telecommunications data rates are as predictable as Moore's Law.

Anyway, there are plenty of other signs of the Twitter Era. One of the more undercover—or should I say under-the-covers?—indications is the news that Twitter is all the rage in the adult entertainment community. In an article (“Life is Tweet”) that doesn’t seem to be online, Gia Jordan reports in the trade magazine AVN that “the porn industry is twittering—networking and marketing on the popular social networking site,” 

Over 1000 are porn stars and adult industry professionals. They chat and network up to 50 times a day—not really to fans, but with each other. The popularity of Twitter among the industry has exceeded MySpace and Facebook due to its easy interface and instant gratification. “You have just a few lines. The simplicity lends itself to really seeing who someone is. There’s no time to embellish your identity with page designing, music, and glittery gifs,” explains adult performer/directot Kimberly Kane, who made her first tweet—meaning Twitter post—after her Live In My Secrets premiere party. A few weeks later, she tweeted a second time and discovered that she had gathered 100 followers.

Not surprisingly, the article title “Life Is Tweet” shows up several times on Google, the absent AVN article notwithstanding. The Guardian’s ho-hum take Life is tweet: How the Twitter family infiltrated our cultural world is typical—the lead concerns Twitter marriage proposals (yawn). The subhead is “The hottest microblogging service, Twitter, is changing the way TV, literature and media operate,” yet somehow it missed the way Twitter is changing the way the porn industry operates.

Is Twitter really changing the way anything operates? Maybe a little, but it’s not Napster, Flickr, or Facebook, three social networks that really have changed people’s daily lives. It’s not as significant as social recommendations, a phenomenon of lasting value that we’ve written about twice so far, in the abstract (<a People Who Read This Article Also Read...) and specifically about Netflix’s The Million Dollar Programming Prize).

Don’t get me wrong—microblogging is here to stay, and the ability to microblog on the go is a big deal too. But combining the Web and text messaging seems more kludgy than visionary. As the Internet cloud gets more robust, and phones become ever-more capable, we’ll be able to do this far more straightforwardly. I hope, though, we don’t lose the 140-character limitation along the way. Like many programming and artistic constraints, Twitter has turned an obstacle into a virtue. When it comes to “What are you doing right now?” less is definitely more.

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