Since starting to tweet earlier in the year, I’ve been driving many of my friends on FaceBook nearly nuts as I’ve explored one or another use of Twitter, while once in a while providing explanations with varying degrees of coherence, yet ever-growing enthusiasm. [Quick learning: It’s NOT generally helpful to automatically have Twitter update your FaceBook status–there are options for selective updates–but FaceBook status updates and Tweets are from two very different worlds with very different expectations–entirely different! Like trying to stuff a stream of consciousness into a post-office box. FaceBook friends aren’t looking for that.]

Oh, in fact, that’s part of what I’ve discovered about Twitter–it’s a stream of collective consciousness, flowing and eddying at various rates, swirling rapidly at some points, slowing more leisurely at others. And you are in the midst of it, whenever, wherever, and for as long as you decide. Part of the wonder of it all is that once you learn how to “see,” you don’t really worry about “information overload.” Only patterns of thought, trends of insight and reflection, unexpected discoveries that simply present themselves. Surprising connections, in terms of both people and ideas, all in an environment of open exchange–the original starting point of an idea is not as important as passing it on, mixing it into other ideas, shaking it all up and see what emerges.

And the wonder upon the wonder is that you ultimately control your engagement in the flow–it’s the profound responsibility aspect of a newly awakening freedom of expression. You choose who to  follow, when to participate, what to contribute, and there are tools for taking part in the midst of the day’s routine–with no more intrusiveness than the casual comments you might otherwise be sharing with a colleague on the other side of an office cubicle.

So, yes, I am increasingly enthusiastic about Twitter; I’ve been referring to it as a “tipping point” tool of social media as well as the ultimate social network weaver.

The thing is that this deceptively simple tool has such incredible practical uses, at various levels of effort. I’m working with a variety of colleagues and clients, and each has a specific framework in which Twitter just makes sense.

One close colleague who is journeying through the advanced stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) rarely tweets in a direct sense, and his network is modest by any standard. But Twitter provides the announcement and connection channel for entries on his blog (Facilitating the Design and Creation of Sacred Space). Every Monday morning, a new entry is posted, and within an hour, a tweet is automatically released, in turn updating his FaceBook page (ok, it works here). Of the 30 to 40 folks who go to his blog over the next several hours, half to one-third come directly from the Tweet , another third or so from his FaceBook page, and the rest through RSS feed. Twitter activates the network and maintains the presence of his voice in conversations he cares about.

Between the various profiles I’m monitoring, there also appears to be thresholds of energy/engagement at different levels of followers. When your network is essentially people you personally know and fewer than a hundred or so, exchanges are relatively few, focused, and “manageable.” RTs and replies happen every now and then, but tend not to reach very far, very fast. At around 500, things begin to become a little more complex at a larger scale. You don’t–and can’t–read every tweet; it becomes all right to let the stream flow when you’re not there without feeling like you have to catch up later. You realize there are specific things you are looking for, and you become more intentional about your exploration. Lists become increasingly useful for network expansion. At around 1000, things start popping a little more–RTs and replies increase, with more frequent, multiple cycles. I’m thinking that this is about the level where genuine appreciation of collective wisdom really begins to kick in.

Coming from a community development background, I’ve found that Twitter dramatically amplifies what I used to experience in neighborhood walks. Meandering through the international grid of my Twitter network carries me past the porches, entryways and common gathering places of colleagues and neighbors across the globe. And I return from those “walks” with the same refreshed sense of confidence in the creativity, insight, and personal commitments of people I have known well and others I am just becoming acquainted with.

(this is part of the #MonTwit experiment, where several people are talking about the same idea on the same day. @VenessaMiemis came up with the idea, and @ekolsky is compiling links to the posts here.)