I have a Twitter metaphor!  It’s like 1980′s college music stations!

One of my friends, Dave, responded on Facebook to my recent Twitter post by stating that he thought Twitter was a flash in the pan. In the middle of responding, I realized Twitter functions the same way college music stations did when I was a college music station manager in the 1980′s. Twitter is chaotic, there’s a lot of childish behavior, but it identifies trends and interesting data points, often long before the mainstream.

Twitter, as Dave pointed out, has more than its share of the mundane: what a celebrity’s handlers say the celebrity had for dinner, and so on. But I use Twitter not for that junk (which can be avoided or filtered using a platform like Tweetdeck), but instead as a cadre of experts in fields of potential interest. Just as back in the day, I turned to my peer experts in Punk, New Wave, Ska, and so forth, to develop programs that highlighted their favorites, I now seek out experts in the fields I’m interested in — brain function, or interpersonal communication (connection) — and follow them to find out what they think is interesting. I won’t like everything they identify, but they predictably find things that I would not, and which the mainstream picks up only later.

I often say that although I stopped being a college radio station manager (and sometimes DJ) upon graduating from college in 1986, my musical taste was current all the way through law school, because the music on the College Music Journal (CMJ) charts from the year I graduated became popular in the mainstream after a predictable lag.

In the same way, Twitter functions like the old college music scene. Let me put a qualification on the “predictive” power of both college music stations and Twitter. Like economists, who have predicted nine of the last five recessions, one’s chosen Twitter “experts” may generate an abundance of false positives.  We also spun a lot of very bad tunes back in the 1980′s (along with some future greats). I revel in information, so I don’t mind  Twitter’s over-inclusiveness.

Let me know your best metaphors for Twitter.  This is still a work in progress.