Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Twitter Me This


What is the world’s most popular micro-blogging service and why is it important to you?



According to website ranking company Compete.com, Twitter had more than 3 million unique visitors in September 2008, making the free social networking and micro-blogging service the most popular service in its class. With so many people visiting the website, one naturally wonders, what’s all the fuss about?

What is Twitter
“To be or not to be,” wrote William Shakespeare in his tragedy Hamlet. Now if the Bard had penned his classic in our Internet-age, he would have surely adapted his famous soliloquy with a Twitter twist: “To Twitter or not to Twitter.” And indeed for millions of people, from teens to professionals to celebrities, to companies big and small, that is the question.

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to post to the Web short (140 characters or less) status updates, affectionately known as "Tweets" in Twitter parlance, and to read and reply to status updates posted by friends. Developed by San Francisco-based Obvious Corp. and launched in 2006, Twitter asks users to post answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?”


Compete.com Graph: Twitter dominates the micro-blogging space, which includes Plurk.com and Identi.ca.

After you open a free Twitter account and create a profile, which includes a screen name, a picture or avatar of your choice, and a short biography, you can start posting tweets, setting in motion what Montreal Gazette reporter and online marketing expert Mitch Joel calls “permission-based stalking.” Status updates, or tweets, can range from the mundane (“Drinking a latte in Starbucks”) to the thought-provoking (“Are tax cuts the only solution to the economic crisis?”)

Social Networking Tool
Community and conversations are the engines behind Web 2.0, and Twitter ably demonstrates these qualities. The stream of tweets appearing on screen gives you a glimpse at what other Twitter users are talking about. If what they are talking about interests you, you can befriend them (follow); likewise, if others find what you tweet about of interest, they will follow you (followers). A small virtual community inside the Twitter universe is born and conversations may begin, with users replying to each other’s tweets.

But be forewarned: A torrent of uncontrollable tweets is likely if you follow too many people, and an interface shortcoming makes friends' replies to your tweets difficult to track since they are not threaded as they are in forums. Best advice: Like all social networks, you should make time to maintain Twitter to keep it effective.

Micro-blogging Platform
If blogging is the big, pensive, older brother of online publishing, then micro-blogging is the small, nimble, younger brother, who, in spite of its lesser stature, still emerges as a fast and mobile publishing platform.

This nimble form of publishing is clearly Twitter’s innovative strength, something which, when harnessed properly, can be an effective tool to communicate and disseminate bursts of information.

Verdict
Twitter is a fun, sometimes addictive conversation-enabling, community-building service as well as a serious platform permitting users to market their services or promote their blogs, wikis, etc. But experimentation, cautious first steps, and the willingness to maintain the service are essential.

Several prolific bloggers, including tech blogger Robert Scoble and child star Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, regularly post tweets about their work and activities. Even CNN news anchor Rick Sanchez uses Twitter live on the air. Breaking news often breaks first on Twitter.

And, yes, if Shakespeare were alive, he’d be posting tweets, too.




This review originally appeared on the Technology Next Now wiki. You can follow the author at twitter.com/dkemper.

4 comments:

Russell James, CA said...

David,

Twitter is really neat, but archivists like me who have no life really have no need for it. I wish there were some way for archives and archivists to use it. I have been unable to figure out how we could do that. Anyone have any ideas?

dkemper said...

Russell,

No life? Nonsense.

But archivists who have lots of thoughtful stuff to say, like yourself, could use Twitter to alert others on Twitter that, hey, I just published a new blog post, click here to read it.

After making some 2800+ updates, or Tweets, on Twitter, I must admit, I haven't had any sudden revelations as to how best to use Twitter. The verdict is still out, as I like to say.

But Twitter, like other Web 2.0 tools and services, really shines within a community setting.

The best thing is to experiment. If Twitter adds value, great. If not, well, at least, you gave it a shot.

I'd be happy to hear more from others about how Twitter could be used in an archival setting. Anyone?

andrea said...

I have been looking for a good place to read about this for a while, I know a few others that are interested as will I will make sure I send them your way. Thanks for the great content as usual.

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Blogger said...

Sprinter - DarKz (170BPM)

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.