Sometimes, those of us who follow tech trends succumb to self-doubt. "Is this start-up really important?" we wonder. "Is this product too 'out there', too advanced, too counterintuitive to resonate with mainstream consumers?" Sure, QR code readers are nifty, and geolocation apps open up some interesting possibilities, but will they ever have broad appeal?
We used to have those doubts about Facebook, but it crossed over a couple of years ago, around the time our Aunt Sylvia signed up. Now she's got a bigger list of friends than we do -- and they're real friends, not siblings of forgotten high school classmates. Facebook isn't just for the cool kids anymore; Facebook is for everyone.
Then we furrowed our brows over Twitter. After all, it seemed kind of silly: microblogging? Do people really want to know about our oatmeal preferences? But if we still held any such doubts, they've been removed, because Lincoln, Nebraska has drafted Twitter into public service.
According to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star, the city will send out notices on Twitter this winter, alerting residents about traffic and parking restrictions: "Many Lincoln residents will get the next snow-related parking ban announcement on their telephones, a personal message from the city to move cars and trucks.... The city plans to use Twitter for cell phones and the countywide emergency call system for landline telephones to tell more people about residential parking bans." If that's not a crossover for Twitter, we don't know what is.
Obviously, we're not implying that Lincoln is a backwater. It's a capitol city, and home to some very smart people -- not to mention a few good friends. However, we'd consider Lincoln (as well as Omaha, which is also adopting Twitter for citywide alerts) a fairly good barometer of "mainstreet acceptance". This bodes very well for Twitter's future.
In a nutshell, the news from Lincoln tells us that (a) enough residents use Twitter to make it a viable means for citywide communication, and more importantly, (b) the city itself has adopted it. Regular folks using Twitter is awesome. Government officials using Twitter is somewhere between strange and magnificent. It is, as that Aladdin lady once said, a whole new world.