You’ve probably heard about it. I have. I’ve even seen people use it. I recognized the logo and had a basic understanding of how it works, but I hadn’t lived the twitter experience until recently.
So, what is this twitter thing, anyway?
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service. It enables its users to send and read other users’ updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.
Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can send and receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS, RSS (receive only), or through applications such as Tweetie, Twitterrific, and Feedalizr. The service is free to use over the web, but using SMS may incur phone services provider fees.
I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. So I started slowly – I created a custom background, wrote my twitter profile, chose a photo and started searching and following a few people who I actually knew. In no time I had a twitter profile, 69 followers and I was following 102. That was last Monday. Today, one short week later, I’m following 234 fellow twitterers and being followed by 222. I’ve published 54 tweets.
My twitter rank is still only 24.52 (unlike Chris’ whose is 158.65) so it can only grow! Admittedly, my understanding of the value of this type of personal learning network is still at the cursory level, but, like my numbers, it grows daily. I’ve learned a lot so far – twitter is used to network, to make friends, to share information (including breaking news), to gather and provide feedback, to promote learning, to brainstorm, to share ideas, concepts, details, photos and events, to sell and market generate PR, to research, to fundraise, to job search and to inspire an entertain.
There are applications like twhirl and TweetDeck that help to better organize and break down information received through twitter. There is a mind-boggling amount of information being exchanged here, so it’s important to have a clear objective in mind when you start. Otherwise you may find yourself in need of “over-tweeters anonymous”
As with any tool driven by John & Jane Q. Public, you do have to sift through a lot useless crap that no one save the author cares about – newsflash — most of us don’t want to hear your bitching, we don’t care when you’re going to bed, what you had for breakfast, that you hate your job or how drunk you are. But there are some who continue their self-serving personal ad campaigns stuffed full of banal updates of their pedestrian pursuits. To those of you who embrace this tweeting style, you may want to bookmark this to keep track of those who quit you.
Twitter’s co-founder Evan Williams stresses that the sheer desire to connect is what makes social networks so successful. He says the added benefit is that living more publicly and transparently can create positive effects.I think the latter is yet to be proven, especially if you’ve been forced to endure the throng of trivial tweets referred to above.
Lately, Twitter seems to be getting a lot more mainstream attention from two of the most topical and funniest men on TV – Jon Stewart on The Daily Show recently shook his fist at Twitter and it was discussed recently by a non-twittering Rove McManus on his show.
Twitter has spawned marketing campaigns. It has launched and promoted fund raising events called Twestivals and Tweetups in various cities around the globe, proving it’s networking power transcends the keyboard and steps out into real life.
How high twitter will eventually soar is still anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that it has taken flight. I’m just happy to be along for the ride!