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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

November 15, 2008

they’re all atwitter (we’re not)

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:41 am

.. .. .. ..  [Note: You are entering a Curmudgeon Zone]

Everywhere you look, well-known members of the blawgisphere (lawyers who have weblogs) are all atwitter, chirping excitedly about Twitter — the free web-based application that let’s you answer, in 140 characters or less, the ultimate question of the new millennium “What are you doing?“, and to monitor the answers of lots of “followers” or “followees” with common interests. [E.g., Monica Bay, Bob Ambrogi, Nicole Black, Kevin O’Keefe, Walter Olson; and see “Lawyers Flocking to Twitter for Marketing,” Lawyers USA (Nov. 7, 2008, where the distracted Justin Rebello says you get “140 words.”]

At risk of being called a twit (or a thwowback), the f/k/a Gang is pre-emptively opting out.  This shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a Proud Podcaste Pariah. We can’t help but think that the traditional definition of twitter nails it (American Heritage Dictionary):

twitter: n. The light chirping sound made by certain birds. b. A similar sound, especially light, tremulous speech or laughter. 2. Agitation or excitement; flutter.

Things might have improved a bit (or at least gotten a patina of adult and professional participation) since Time Magazine told us last year that “more often than not” Twitter’s members “are simply killing time.”  But, we’ve seen how often fellow blawgers jump on new technologies and crazes that end up creating an unmanageable and unjustifiable torrent of information and distraction.  So, I’m going to keep in mind Time‘s admonition:

“We cyberjunkies need a new thrill, and what better than a service that combines social networking, blogging and texting?

“. . . I know, it’s totally silly and shallow, but that’s precisely why Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app.”

If you think that constant marketing or attracting blawg visitors is at the core of your law practice (or your cyber-business), joining the Twitter revolution might make sense, as you follow dozens, scores, or maybe hundreds of other Tweeters throughout the day or hope they follow you.  But, I sure hope you’re not my lawyer (or my employee), adding yet another wave of cyber-distractions to your workday, instead of focusing on efficiently providing quality services.  For us, maintaining multiple levels of unessential multitasking is not a virtue.

Granted, the f/k/a Gang is not part of the gotta-be-constantly-in-touch generation, nor among the first-wavers clamoring to jump on every new techno- or cybercraze. That might be because the Editor is only 13 months from his 60th birthday.  That needn’t be a bad thing.  When it comes to prioritizing one’s time or activities, getting older might actually mean getting wiser. It has hopefully meant acquiring enough self-awareness to know a time-sink when I see one.

Of course, it also means that I can only speak for myself.  Please don’t let this grumpy apologia stop you from Twittering to your heart’s content.  Just don’t expect Prof. Yabut or myself to be waiting for your next Tweet.

update (Nov. 16, 2008): In our comment section, you will find some rather defensive reactions to this little piece of fluff, especially by Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog.  Click to see his similar weblog response to this post. If you don’t want Kevin to hurl his poison pixels at you, don’t gore his pet oxen or cash cows — not even with rubber spears. [Kevin says he’s “sorry” in a new Comment left Monday morning, Nov. 17, thanks in great part to Scott Greenfield’s efforts to keep the issues in perspective; see the next paragraph. However, Kevin has refused to amend his post, telling me in a comment at Simple Justice to “grow up” and stop worrying about “ruffled feathers.”]   For a more balanced response from a Twitter fan, see blawger Susan Cartier Liebel’s comment below.

As often happens, Scott Greenfield sees through all the Twitter glitter, with wry, balanced insights about his experience using the Killer App. as a lawyer.  See “The Great Twitter Wars Begin,” Simple Justice, Nov. 16, 2008).  Go read every word of the post (including many Comments from lawyers telling their experiences with Twitter), which concludes, “But I don’t begrudge those who are clearly enjoying it, finding it useful and beneficial and chose to spend their day tweeting away.  Tweet on, Garth.” As for himself, Scott says:

“I expect to tweet again, but only when I have absolutely nothing better to do and too much time on my hands.  No matter how sweet the marketing pitch is made, whether by Kevin or any of the other fans of twitter, it’s just not that useful, and to establish one’s twitter bones requires that one spend an awful lot of time tweeting, even if you have nothing to tweet about or no one cares to tweet you back.”

afterwords (Jan. 4, 2008): Well, now I know why Kevin O’Keefe was so upset with me for failing to bow at the Twitter Altar.  I sure hope lawyers don’t discount their hourly billing for time spent on LexTweet.

Bob Ambrogi [who writes a summary of the controversy started by this posting, here] says “The difference between Twitter and a blog is akin to the difference between a haiku and a ballad.”  That’s a good enough excuse to get off our Twitter Tirade and move to the haiku portion of this posting.  For us, of course, haiku is an extracurricular activity, meant to be taken in small quantities of high quality, at our own pace and on our own schedule.

Here, for example, are a few haiku moments from a haijin we love to follow, Hilary Tann:

spring afternoon
two chickadees . . .
sol-fa, mi-re

playing hooky —
twice around
the village square

dessert menu —
falling for

late afternoon
watching the carp school
before rehearsal

spring jacket —
a haiku fragment

between flights
I summarize my life
for a stranger

waiting for you
the restaurant noren
parts in the breeze

her garden blooms
with flowers whose names
she no longer recalls

…. by Hilary TannUpstate Dim Sum (2008/II)

… photo haiga: by dagosan


  1. Very strange. About 15 minutes ago, I was wondering whether you were on twitter, because I wanted to share this story with you:

    Then Anne Reed tweeted about this post.

    Comment by Gideon — November 15, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  2. I just Tweeted a link to this post! So you ARE on Twitter, sort of.

    Comment by Anne Reed — November 15, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  3. On, not of, Anne. Thanks for the pointer.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 15, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  4. Gideon, I’ve spent the whole morning working on this silly post (definitely should have categorized it as Procrastination Punditry), so I haven’t even opened up my Gazette yet or had a meal. The article you mentioned is vaguely familiar from two days ago, but I only scanned the headline. What interests you about the story?

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 15, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  5. Nothing. Saw the word Schenectady and thought of you.

    Comment by Gideon — November 15, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  6. Lawyers are becoming better lawyers through their growing networks on Twitter. A lawyer can gain immediate expertise from a thought leader across the country. Clients get better served by immediately connecting the client’s lawyer with a needed lawyer in another country within a 1/2 hour (happened yesterday on Twitter). Lawyers meeting business associates and prospective clients who are in higher demographic group and more innovative than general business population. Lawyers enjoying the practice of law more.

    All happening via Twitter. Every single day.

    But hey, hang to your prejudices, ignorance, and a year old article in TIme Magazine as reasons to tell lawyers that Twitter is not worthwhile.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but Twitter is adding a lot to many lawyer’s lives. Twitter is not something to be dismissed by someone who has not given it a try.

    Comment by Kevin OKeefe — November 15, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  7. Luddite griping loud
    Others finding useful things
    earth is still spinning

    Comment by Ron Phillips — November 15, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  8. […] A contrarian view from David Giacalone, mocked but not really rebutted by Kevin O’Keefe… on […]

    Pingback by LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® » Blog Archive » All a-Twitter — November 15, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  9. ah, twitter. :) i did rather like the fact that i could follow some of the obama campaign’s events on twitter. :)

    Comment by kouji — November 16, 2008 @ 12:17 am

  10. Ah, Kevin, I knew I could count on you for an ugly tone. You apparently have never quite forgiven me for taking you on in 2004 over ghost-written blogs and excessive claims of marketing success and instant reputation enhancement for your clients (see, e.g., “selling the appearance of expertise“).

    I think I made it very clear in this posting that I was offering only a personal perspective and that others may find good reasons for using Twitter. I also made it clear (i.e., using self-mocking words like “curmudgeon” and “tirade” and “twit” and “grumpy apologia”) that my attitude was meant to be light.

    I’m willing to bet, however, that for every lawyer whose life and practice is enhanced significantly by Twitter there will be ten who find it to be either one very big distraction or a trifle not worth the effort.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 16, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  11. David,

    You have a perspective shared by many. But it is one many shared about blogs just a couple of years ago. We are just beginning to see the extensive value of a micro-blogging application like Twitter for our practices.

    Like anything else, it is but one more tool in our marketing efforts that brings more to our practices then expected. And like anything else, it has to be disciplined use in order to be effective and not a ‘time-sink.’

    Thanks for the great post. And, I agree that showcasing a perspective is not an opening for others to claim ‘ignorance’…certainly not of you.

    Comment by Susan Cartier Liebel — November 16, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  12. Thank, you, Susan, for your customary generous response.

    The comparison with lawyer blogs is apt and perhaps instructive. What percentage of lawyer blogs are actually worth tracking regularly by other lawyers (much less by the public)?

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 16, 2008 @ 10:06 am

  13. With respect, that’s exactly the (well, actually, a) wrong question. If twitter suffers from Sturgeon’s Law, that’s to be expected. A good question is “are there any lawyer blogs/twitter accounts worth reading by other lawyers and/or the general public, and, if there are, how does one find them?”

    I’m not claiming to know the answer — except about some lawyer blogs, and the share of the general public that consists of me — but I think that is the key question.

    I’m not, by the way, a twitter fan; the only tweets I followed were of the anarchists during the RNC; they were using Twitter to organize and communicate. But maybe I’m missing some twits that I’d find of interest.

    Comment by Joel Rosenberg — November 16, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  14. I think when we talk about “what is useful to lawyers?” we make the mistake of thinking that by “lawyers” we all mean the same thing.

    Many of the biggest Twitterers are solos or in very small practices. They not only have a reasonable expectation of developing client referrals from whatever online activity they can generate, but also lack the built-in network that people in larger firms have.

    There are other ways of going about this, but you can hardly blame them for believing that, once mastered, those of them with something to say (ahh!) will enhance their practices by virtue of being on people’s radar and by having access to fast and “plugged in” expertise. And, David, to be perfectly frank, they aren’t necessarily overwhelmed with billable work just this minute — I say that with all due respect and including myself in this category — unlike lawyers in more established or institutional settings or who have firm alumni (academic or law firm) networks at their disposal.

    As for me, I am a Twitter skeptic, but I am finding ways to use Twitter to maximize the bang for the buck I already get from my law blogging (which I believe is considerable) and my use of the much broader multimedia platform of Facebook.

    Comment by Ron Coleman — November 16, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  15. Thanks for your perspective, Joel. Efficiently finding the blogs or tweets worth your time is indeed the problem. Each time we are distracted by incoming messages, tweets, etc., we lose important focus on our actual job tasks. The occasional gems to be discovered don’t seem likely to make up for all those little lumps of coal.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 16, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  16. Hi, Ron, I’ve been forced to multi-task this morning and did not have the chance to respond quickly to your Comment. You make some good points about the differences between various types of lawyers and their relationship to Twitter. And, that’s exactly why I am pretty sure that many types of lawyers have no particular need for a career-oriented use of Twitter. (I’ve made similar observations over the years about the demographics of lawyers who have time for consistently substantive weblogging — academics, criminal defense lawyers, p/i lawyers, and the retired, with a few solos thrown in.)

    And, thanks for the pointed pointer at your weblog last night.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 16, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  17. I like Twitter a lot right now, but I bet the most common post I see there is some variation on “I have to stop Twittering and get back to work!” We’ll let you know if you miss anything really important.

    Comment by Anne Reed — November 16, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  18. Thanks, Anne. I’ll take you up on your offer. Let me know if I really need a heads-up.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 16, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  19. I don’t find Twitter nearly as productivity-threatening as Facebook. But that’s because I’m a complete multimedia threat… to myself!

    Comment by Ron Coleman — November 16, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  20. […] For a run down and the new technology and reasons why some attorneys are not embracing it, check out David Giacalone’s post about Twitter at f/k/a. In response to Mr. Giacalone’s post, Kevin O’Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs […]

    Pingback by Blawg Review # 186 | Res Ipsa Blog — November 17, 2008 @ 6:03 am

  21. Well, David…had you been on Twitter this morning (LOL)you would have seen your post by a second degree of separation made the WSJ online. Of course, I had to put in my two cents!

    Comment by Susan Cartier Liebel — November 17, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  22. Thank you again, Susan, for trying to bring a little moderation to this topic. Of course, I’m not too sure I wanted to know the first thing this morning that my purported naivety and ignorance are being given more attention. Knowing you’re on the case does give me considerable peace of mind.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 17, 2008 @ 7:41 am

  23. Sorry that I jumped on you with 2 feet here. Took post as advising lawyers to pass on Twitter, as opposed to what you described it as, the view of ‘curmudgeon.’

    In any case, the resulting discussion has been very healthy.

    Comment by Kevin OKeefe — November 17, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  24. Kevin, I don’t mind someone jumping with “two feet” on something I write. I do mind someone with a large pulpit doing so despite what was actually written, and in such a nasty tone. Your very similar weblog post, which has been linked to by many popular sites, has not yet been edited to reflect your changed attitude and realization. When that happens, I’ll fully accept this apology. Until then, I appreciate this gesture.

    update (Nov. 18, 2008): In a comment left this afternoon at Simple Justice, Kevin O’Keefe has refused to edit his original post, telling me to “grow up,” and stop worrying about “ruffled feathers.” That significantly diminishes the value of his so-called apology. As the “rufflee” in the perpetual-cache Google world described in Daniel Solove’s book, The Future of Reputation, I do not think it’s too much to ask Kevin to correct the distorted impression he created of me at his website, which he strives so hard to keep “search engine optimized.”

    update (Jan. 4, 2009): As I mention in an “afterwords” above, the unveiling of Lextweet by his LexBlog company explains why Kevin got so apoplectic when I refused to be tempted into the Twitter Cage. See Legal Blog Watch.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 17, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  25. I blogged about this Twitter phenom, and even signed up to see if I judged them too harshly:

    The verdict? Still much ado about nothing.

    Comment by Chris Crawford — November 24, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  26. Hello, Chris. Thank you for sharing your experience. If you do keep trying Twitter, let us know your reactions.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 24, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

  27. Twitter is an amazing tool, for allowing you to connect with others

    Comment by Paul Rasmussen — February 3, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  28. Thanks for commenting, Paul. Social tool, maybe. That does not mean that it is worth the time and distraction during a working lawyer’s workday.

    Comment by David Giacalone — February 3, 2009 @ 10:01 am

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