Sunday, August 7, 2016

I Agree with James Gleick: Let Twitter Be Twitter

This week I finished James Gleick's impressive volume The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. Impressively researched, at times tedious, repeatedly stimulating, remarkably rich, the book covers everything from the bits and bytes of information that make up this page to the bits that make us who we are (the information contained in our genetic code.) Isn't that interesting? Yesterday when I checked in on the Duluth Quantum Computing Project a good portion of our discussion had to do with writing code... as in computer code. When did the word "code" get used to describe our genetic make-up? Code is just another word for information. Our entire being is comprised of bits of information that define us in a multitude of ways.

Gleick has compiled a narrative that is strikingly unexpected in the various storylines he weaves, from the talking drums of Africa to Turing's code-breaking and the development of communication technologies from Morse code to telephones, the ENIAC and email.

So it was fun to discover that James Gleick the writer is also a blogger and has a residence on Twitter. The title of his blog embodies the essence of his work: Bits in the Ether. What immediately caught my eye was a post he'd shared that was originally an article in New York Magazine titled Let Twitter Be Twitter.

The piece caught my eye because I've been seeing too many articles lately disparaging Twitter for not being bigger or more profitable or whatever. As a result these meddlers, I mean pundits, keep recommending fixes when there is nothing broken. The people who use it and love it like it just the way it is, thank you.  The article by Mr. Gleick does an excellent job of detailing his own arguments for leaving well enough alone.

I had been planning to write a response to these Twitter hecklers, but found Mr. Gleick's piece completely sufficient, so I decided instead to point you there.

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As for his book Information, it was selected by Amazon as the book of the month when it came out in 2011. Ira Laefsky, one of the reviewers at the site, wrote this about it:

James Gleick, a prominent journalist, biographer of scientists and explainer of physics has usefully turned his attention to the single most important phenomena of the twenty-first century, the study and quantification of information. This book explains, provides a historical context and gives biographies of the most important explorers of information phenomena throughout the centuries. Gleick provides biographical sketches of lesser known figures in the history of information such as Robert Caudrey compiler of the first known English dictionary and John F. Carrington chronicler of "The Talking Drums of Africa"; he (Gleick) gives fuller personal histories of Samuel F. Morse, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace; Gleick reserves the most extensive biographical treatment for those who "mathematized" the phenomena of information: Claude Shannon and Alan Turing.

In short, for an educational entertaining read, I recommend it.

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As for Twitter: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

People should try to figure out why a thing works before they try to make it "better." Look what happened to Nascar when their marketing wizards decided to go after the City cats.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. And when the mood strikes, tweet about it. 

1 comment:

LEWagner said...

I think so too. :)