I don’t get the point of telling the world that you’re eating a peanut butter sandwich!?
People don’t talk to me!

I’ve heard the two statements already a dozen times but it frustrates me the most when I hear it from an “old media” journalist that created an account and just tried it to see what this Twitter fuzz is all about. You don’t “get” Twitter by trying it a couple of days and telling the world that you are eating a sandwich or are queuing in the local supermarket. I even dare to say that you don’t get Twitter if you have used it already for a couple of months…
You only start to “get” Twitter when you have attended a conference or event where a lot of fellow Twitter users are. Surprisingly, when you are attending such an event, you won’t see many people tweeting. Why? The real deal is when you are meeting all those Twitter folks in real life on events. The first time that became clear to me was during SAP’s TechEd event last year in Berlin and last Thursday during the Amsterdam Twestival 2009 that Capgemini sponsored.
You’d expect to see everyone tweeting on his or her mobile during a Twitter festival, wouldn’t you? Guess again, barely people tweeting… Most of them too much engaged in lively discussions with a couple of beers.
No matter how great you can make the virtual experience, no matter what great social network sites and tools you use, they are kind of worthless without the real life contact. Seriously, what’s the value of a dating website if you never plan to meet any of them in real life? A lot of people think it’s cool to add as many people as possible to their Facebook or LinkedIn profile, but what’s the point?
That’s why I don’t believe in virtual conferences to be honest. Yes we have to limit our carbon footprint, yes we have to reduce costs (travel and conference tickets), but the SAP, Microsoft, IBM, Apple and other conferences are not about the presentations, but about meeting in real life gurus from vendors, like-minded peers, network and most of all… have fun! If it were only for the presentation or knowledge, then you could also just throw everything online and follow a webinar.
For me, the true value of Twitter is getting to know great people that interest me (both personally or professionally) and to meet them on events or other meet-ups. The nice extra it has over just following RSS feeds or using LinkedIn is that you change from a one-way transaction to a bi-directional interaction and THAT is what makes Twitter so great.

Lee Provoost is an emerging technologist with a focus on cloud computing strategy and ERP+ lead at Capgemini. You can follow his ongoing stream of thoughts on Twitter http://twitter.com/leeprovoost.