It began as an experiment. When New York times technology columnist David Pogue was giving a talk in Las Vegas, he thought of giving a little demonstration of how Twitter works to his audience. So he sent out a tweet: “Give me a cure for hiccups…right now!” Within seconds, the answers came pouring in. Later that night, Pogue was mulling about the limitation of Twitter, i.e. he gets all these amazing responses but he’s the only one who can see them unless he retweets them. When he mentioned this to his wife, she suggested that he ask a question every night and then publish the best answers in a book. And that is how “The World According To Twitter” was born.

The World According To Twitter

Henceforth, the collaborative ‘writing’ process began. Everyday, Pogue would ask his followers a question. Simple things like “What’s your strangest habit?” “What was your greatest achievement (besides your kids)?” “Describe your Most. Embarrassing. Moment. Ever.” Occasionally, he’d ask people to caption some photographs. Sometimes he’d ask people to make up puns or think of sequels to famous movies or summarise a book in 140 characters (the Tweet limit).

Pogue would be online around 11pm his time so that he could catch “the night-owls on the East Coast, after-dinner tweets on the West Coast, and maybe even some early risers in Europe.” The schedule worked out just fine for me because that’s right about lunch time in Malaysia.

It was amazing how fast the answers would come in. Pogue re-tweets 5, sometimes 10, of the best answers and they’d come in at lightning speed. I was dumbstruck with the quality of the responses — clever, witty, funny. Of course, it was also frustrating not seeing any of my tweets being re-tweeted.

Towards the end, Pogue provided a link to the complete list of all the questions so that people could still tweet their responses to any of those questions.

From this you can deduce that “The World According to Twitter” is not a book about Twitter nor is it about the world. Basically, it’s just a compilation of all the best answers — 2,524 from the original 25,000+ responses — to the 95 questions that Pogue threw out to his followers. Now don’t get me wrong here. When I say “just a compilation”, I mean it literally. I’m not putting down the book in any way. As a matter of fact, the book is a lot of fun to read. The responses are hilarious, ingenious, out of the box. Just take a look at these examples:-

Add 1 letter to famous person’s name; explain.

– Elvish Presley: Middle Earth’s latest rock sensation @alitheiapsis
– Hands Christian Andersen: Touchy-feely children’s writer @eboychik
– Malcolm XY: Civil-rights activist, definitely male @pixelshot

Take a common abbreviation and tell us what it *really* stands for.

– NATO: Newly Antiquated Tsk-Tsk Organization @danblondell
– DELTA: Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive @tatopuig
– NASA: Nerds Are So Awesome @pumpkinshirt

Make up a greeting card for a modern situation.

– Saw the video of you on YouTube. I still love you. @MyCatIsOnFire
– To my Tweetheart on our anniversary. After all these years, you still make me say OMG. @mattboom
– I realized what happened when I heard that fateful moan.
I’m really, really sorry that the toilet claimed your phone. @scotthartman

There are also heartfelt answers, poignant regrets, sound advice, sad stories.

Who’s got the worst romantic-dumping story?

– Me, posed in lingerie, sexy music, candlelight, come-hither look…husband walks in, rolls eyes, says “Not again!” and walks out. @shelleyryan
– My girlfriend was showing me an appointment book she got for Xmas. Scheduled in for that day was, “Break up with Jay.” Guess my name. @jadawa
– Facebook Newsfeed: My girlfriend’s status was now listed as single. @JHKramerica

What’s your greatest regret?

– Hurting my dad during my rebellious teenage years. He didn’t deserve the hell I put him through. @fanfrkntastic
– Thinking I’d have a second chance to give my big brother a real goodbye hug. @MrsRoadshow
– I regret all the time I wasted regretting. Wise advice: You made the best decision you could with the information you had at the time. @susanchamplin

What’s the best advice your parents ever gave you?

– Life is not a dress rehearsal. Live it as if it’s your only take. @jcordeira
– Always shine the back of your shoes. It’s the last thing they’ll see as you walk away. @PeterWeisz
– Nothing is free in this world. Everything will be paid for at some point. @coolcatplayer

The book is entertaining and is an easy read. It’s perfect for people with short attention spans or those who dislike reading because the ‘chapters’ are short and the responses are all limited to 140 characters. You can open the book at any page and start reading. (I do, however, recommend that you read Pogue’s introduction on page 9, just to understand Twitter and the background story better.) You’d be surprised at how difficult it can be to put the book down once you start reading it. And I’m sure you will find yourself laughing out loud several times.

My only grouse is that many of the items are too US-centric. You’d have to be American, familiar with American culture and/or up-to-date with American news and history in order to understand them. This makes the book title kinda inappropriate for its content.

Disclosure:

I’ve written the above review as objectively as I could. Whether or not one of my tweets got printed in that book, I still would have written the above review.

However, I feel obliged to disclose to you that one of my tweets did make it to the book even though none of my contributions ever got re-tweeted. One fine day, I just received a DM (direct message) from Pogue that my tweet on my greatest regret in life got shortlisted for the book. In exchange for my permission to have it included in the book, I was promised a free copy, personally autographed by Pogue, whether or not my tweet got included in the final edit. I clicked on ‘Agree’ and a few months later, I got my free copy  by mail, duly autographed: “For Mimi – Thanks co-author! – David Pogue

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