I was chatting IRL with a valued colleague whose catholic spread of knowledge I enjoy greatly, and he told me he was finding his way round twitter. I said something dismissive like “Well, I only know bits and pieces…” and I thought that as I have to write a presentation on aspects of social networking I might start things about twitter

Twitter is :

  • a way of telling the world (and/or your friends)what you are doing now
  • a way of building links to colleagues and strangers
  • a microblogging phenomenon
  • Twitter says “Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

Basically, you can share 140 character snippets from your mobile, your messaging client, the web… with anyone who is interested. They can see these snippets on their mobile, their messaging client, the web or any one of them if they choose.

What will twitter do for you?

@pistachio asked the question “Twitter make you …what” folk answered

  • more socially aware
  • less alone
  • more knowledgeable
  • more informed
  • more inspired

amongst many other things.

I’ve learnt a great deal from it – including how to make Sicilian Spaghetti – and built links with a range of people in a wide range of countries, with a vast range of jobs and hobbies and interests.

How do you use it?
Fitting what you need to say in 140 characters can be quite challenging. Most folk use some of a range of Microformats

@ replies
Beginning a tweet with, say, @steveellwood alerts folk that this is in reply to something I’ve said or tweeted. This lets them choose whether to follow me or to track back what I’ve said. More than two or three of these in a row makes me feel it should have been done by a direct message (which is done by beginning a tweet with “d steveellwood “, and would only be visible to me, not the world and their spouse)

l: location details where you are – so folk can find you. This can be down to country, town, road, or house. Look at Twittermap and search for steveellwood, and it should show whereabouts I am.

++ or using plusplusbot you can show your pleasure or displeasure with a service, a product or an individual – for example, http://plusplusbot.com/targets/steveellwood shows what I have done that is noteworthy or notorious… you do need to “follow” plusplusbot on twitter for this to work.

#hashtag by adding a #(hash) to the front of a word, you can tag the word to make it easy to search for mentions of the word by other folk. e.g. Discussions at BlogTalk 2008 – again you have to “follow” hashtags for this to see you.

What do you use with Twitter?

Terraminds for free search of the Twitter information stream: you can search for topics or individuals – and the search can be saved as RSS.

RSS (Really simple syndication) – is a web format used to publish frequently updated content. You can take RSS feeds from all over the place – including this blog – but it is very useful for twitter.

Some people publish large volumes of “tweets”; they can drown out the less frequent posters in the webclient. One example is Hugh Macleod (@GapingVoid). For his posts, I take an RSS Feed (http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/50193.atom) and look at it in my RSS Reader.

You won’t always see every tweet that mentions you; some you’ll miss, some will be folk you don’t follow… so using Terraminds referred to earlier you can do a search for yourself (n my case, http://terraminds.com/twitter/update-rss?query=steveellwood&) and then get an RSS feed of the search.

Twittermap to see where folk are

Twitterkarma to see who follows me and I follow back

YouTwit a mashup to watch those who *I* follow

Gridjit – a grid view of who people twitter with – see mine

Tweeterboard – conversation analytics for some twitter users….

Snitter, twhirl, twitbin – all clients for twitter. You can also use most standard messaging clients.

Are there rules on how to use it?

Yes; No; Maybe.

Twitter works by consent; people will only see what you publish … if they choose to. Be boring, rude, irrelevant… and people won’t follow you. Be offensive, and they’ll block you from following them.

My colleague Phil Whitehouse(@Casablanca) wrote the 10 Commandments of Twitter

Robert Scoble, a very well known blogger (@scobleizer) writes how he breaks the 10 rules of Twitter

Paul Downey, another colleague, (@psd) divides folk into twits and twerps (Twits good, twerps bad).

Follow your own rules, and enjoy it.

Caroline Middlebrook wrote a fairly nice guide.

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

4 thoughts on “Twitter – what it is, and how I use it.

  1. Great entry on the nuts and bolts of Twitter. I am looking forward to how Twitter will develop and what new applications are being developed for it. Just wish they could keep the bots in check.

  2. Twitter – beginners guide

    Twitter is ideal for microblogging. This post describes Twitter and the ways to use it. It gives details of common useful microformats.

  3. Nice post on Twitter! I use Twitter for research – I want to see when people tweet certain search terms. I was using Terraminds for this. But Terraminds isn’t working these days! So I switched to Tweetscan.

    I use FriendFeed for research as well. You can catch tweets, Jaikus, pownces, blog posts and comments.


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