This is yet another follow up to my own post: Is Twitter an Approximation of Team Room Osmotic Chatter?. It seems that there is a related phenomenon with the name “ambient awareness”, background knowledge of what is going on with people in your greater sphere at any one time. Here is a description: If you don’t “get” Facebook and Twitter, read this NY Times article.
I have not used FaceBook but I am envious of my kids’ use of it to keep track of their friends. At that age I knew what was up with people I hung out with or went to school with or wrote me letters from far away (like Viet Nam). But the news was not always up to date and didn’t have the same width of connectedness. And when I was on the road, well everyone was out of touch. (Not always a bad thing).
In the Days of Usenet, we had something simlar – those of us who were regular users. It was more formal and tended toward larger text chunks. I am not all that hanny with our “talking points”, “sound bytes” society but I am getting better at being able to scan Twitter quickly and still finding nuggets.
I recently noticed the absence of someone I enjoyed from my twitter-sphere. I get a probably false sense of technical confidence from following and chasing links from people whose technical prowess I respect. Since I am not coding much right now, that helps fill in a techno-emotional gap. So this person went dark on the channel and I am feeling a loss. I went dark recently to tend to important, fun family matters. Likely no one missed me. But I continued to read the twitter stream so I still felt connected.
So, right now, thanks to Twitter, I have ambient awareness of the people that I have chosen to follow, some of who follow me back, some of who I feel like I know a little and some I don’t really know at all – except what they reveal of themselves in 140 character chunks.
This is my first post since signing up for TwitterFeed. Sort of a unit test with people watching. If it works, a link to the post will show up as a tweet.
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Ambient Awareness
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2 thoughts on “Ambient Awareness

  • January 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm


    I think Twitter could be an interesting substitute for osmotic chatter within a team room. But one aspect (I’m sure there are several) that Twitter is missing is that, in a team room, no one can hide away and do their work separately, they are always brought back into the communication sphere, kind of willingly or unwillingly. I could see, with Twitter, that someone could more easily hide off by themselves and be able to get work done independently, missing the benefits of the high-bandwidth communication. Just a thought. I think I’d still be willing to try Twitter or Yammer as a substitute if I was stuck with a distributed team.

  • January 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm


    Sorry to take so long to approve your comment. I am just completing a 3000 mile move. My new office is finally functional.

    Your point is a good one. When I work at home, I can tweet when I want to and choose to read the stream when I want to. But I can also ignore the stream when I want to. I suppose the real world analogy is the guy who wears headphones in the team room.

    For me, I actually have quite a bit of collaboration going on via IM, email and Skype. Twitter helps fill in the gaps between more intentional exchanges. If I need a break, I can just tune out. Also, the osmotic input requires that I read. Maybe if I had a text to speech program that can murmur in the background using different voices for different tweeters…


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