By Lukas courtesy of Open Clip Art Library 150x150 Twitters 4 Degrees of Separation

Through tweet and retweet, information can spread across the Twitter platform at an astounding pace. A recent post on TechnologyReview.com highlighted this phenomenon and claimed — I believe rightly — that Twitter (or some tool like it) is the future of news.

Why?  Because it is so connected that news spreads exceptionally fast.  Read the article.  It’s short, and it’s provocative. Twitter is becoming a basic tool of interpersonal communication and connection, at least within certain influential strata of society.  That makes it a powerful tool for influencing others.

For me, the article makes me note two closing observations:

(1) The data studied were compiled from July 2009.  If I am reading one of the charts in this post correctly, at that time there were approximately 15 million tweets per day.  By January 2010, that had grown to more than 40 million.  How, if at all, has that changed the online dynamics?

(2) Anyone who uses Twitter recognizes that there are buffers in the platform’s apparent “connectivity.”  Just because a Twitter account is named for someone famous does not mean that interacting with that account is interacting with that person.  The accounts of celebrities must have handlers:  intermediaries who post for (and, to a lesser extent, respond for) the celebrities.  Thus, Twitter is not the ultimate communication leveler that permits the janitor to interact with the President.   It does, however, allow the President — or at least his people — to interact with the janitor. And sometimes, the tool does in fact permit intimate connection with people who would appear unreachable by phone or email, simply because they saw something interesting you posted online, or because your tweet caught them at a receptive moment.

The tool leaves me searching for appropriate metaphors.  Any really good metaphors out there for Twitter communication?