Well. I must say, Ham Twits is on life support. Partially because I haven’t been pushing it hard enough, hoping that it would have a little bit of “if you build it, they will come” approach, and partially because of the regular downtime that Twitter has been experiencing lately.
The downtime has caused a bit of a chain reaction across the entire Twitter community, and the Hams are no exception. Some people have stopped tweeting altogether, others have severely curtailed their usage, and a couple of prominent people who have jumped ship to other services. The resultant landscape has left me scratching my head and pondering as to if there is any way to sucessfully leverage these services into Ham Radio.
The social web seems to be here to stay and it is starting cross the chasm into the mainstream. I looked at the Ham Twits list as a way of trying to get Hams onto Twitter and quickly find like-minded individuals. However, with the recent splintering of the landscape makes me wonder if trying to leverage such tools on the Ham Radio community is a foolhardy venture.
Ham Radio operators, for the most part, can be rather geeky, but are still a bit behind the curve on the computing side of things. While there are some bright people out there, just simply look at any Ham Radio club’s webpage and you’re treated to a trip back to the late 1990s/early 2000s. More often or not, the home page of your organization is your face on the web. Having it look like something straight out of the dot-com era does not help Ham Radio look “cutting edge”, which seems to be something that most Hams try to pass the hobby off as.
When I started to try to get Ham Twits off the ground, I pictured it as the first step in trying to get more Hams onto the social web. After I compiled a sizeable list, I was going to try to start talking up Twitter in various ham radio related venues. However, now that some of the more active community members have gone over to FriendFeed, Jaiku, or identica, it kind of torpedos the idea of trying to market a single service as a way to communicate with fellow hams. It’s easier to say “Hey! Twitter is easy to use! Look at some of the cool stuff we discuss!” rather then saying “There is some cool stuff on this social web thing! Sign up for Twitter. Oh, and Jaiku if you want to talk to these guys over here, oh, and FriendFeed if you want to talk to those guys over there.” It makes it less likely to sell people on the benefits.
Some people are taking a different tack and trying to make Ham Radio specific socail websites. Chris Matthieu has set up 73s.org and a group of Ham Radio operators in the UK is working on DXAnywhere. Both seem to be solid, good coded websites. However, I think the strongest plus of using existing social networks is that non-Hams use it as well. If we provide Ham Radio with good exposure, we can help shake off the stoddy image of Ham Radio being a dead technological area. I stirred up some interest when I posted my SEEDS Captures on Twitter and quite enjoyed explaining to people how simple it was. Stuff like that is great PR! We should be doing it more often!
In conclusion, I don’t know where Ham Twits is going. I also don’t know if trying to leverage non-Ham-Radio-specific social web services to Hams is a good idea at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if in six months we’ll see everyone on a new twittagsocialblogcloudweb2.0-thing anyway…