I’ve been loving Twitter lately. Many months ago, my brother (my arbiter of all things geeky-cool) got me to sign up, but I went a long time without understanding why he liked it. Then, when the number of people I was “following” reached critical mass, it clicked. Twitter became a fun part of my day online, but not in an obtrusive or time-consuming way.
What is Twitter? It’s another darn Web 2.0 social networking thingy. Basically, it’s “micro-blogging.” People write up to 140 characters about what’s happening or what they’re thinking right now. So, it’s current, it doesn’t take planning or effort, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t have anything to say. A post on Twitter is called a “tweet.” Also, you can respond to something someone else has said, creating a micro-conversation.
Who sees your tweets? Unless you specify that you want them to be private, tweets are like a blog. If you go to my Twitter page, you see not only my status, but the status of anyone I’m “following.” If you’re following someone that you’ve subscribed to, you’re alerted when they’ve posted a new tweet. Here’s where things start to get interesting. Within a social circle, you’ll find that many people are all following each other, so when someone tweets, others tweet back, and you can observe the interaction. It’s almost like a chat room. If people’s profiles are public, you see not only what they are tweeting, you also see whom they are following. The twitter API or engine is available for developers to play with, and they’ve come up with some fun applications. You can use TwitterTroll to see whom your friends are following and get suggestions on new people to follow. You can use TweetWheel to see a visual graphic of how your friends are connected.
So, you still might be wondering, why is this cool? What’s in it for me? I like it because it’s simple and quick. There are no pictures, and no big time investment. You can do it from your phone, your Blackberry or your computer browser. You can tweet when your kid says something funny or when you see something particularly aggravating in an online article. As my brother says, “Of all the forms of publication that have been invented, Twitter takes the least time and effort.” It’s amazing, because unlike this blog post, which is taking me over an hour to compose, a tweet takes seconds.