Friday, 30 May 2008

Joining the twiterverse

Although i have had twitter for a while now, i never really used it, until last week that is, when i went to the Codeworks Thinking Digital conference and discovered full potential of tweeting.

The conference was a technical one, so maybe there were a slightly higher than average percentage of geeks attending , but around a third of the delegates were tweeting (using twitter) on their laptops, smart phones and pda’s. This connected the delegates in a very unusual way, they were able to discuss what the speakers were saying while they were saying it and trade examples of how this worked for them. They were also able to swap reference websites and arrange meeting up after the conference.

I went to the conference knowing a handful of other delegates, and got to know another handful in the networking portions of the conference, but l ended up connecting to several dozen via twitter, and even after the conference finished i’m still following many of those users and sharing knowledge with them.

For those of you not familiar with twitter it works a bit like the status up dates in facebook. You are limited to 140 characters, that are broadcast to the internet. If your friends are connected, it works a bit like instant messaging or SMS, but instead of a the private conversation between 2 individuals, it’s more like a group discussion, where many people can take part.

Because the status updates are broadcast there are many additional bits of software or web services that can manipulate the date in all sorts of ways. Some of the main ones are search services like summize, but there are also some really fun ones like twistori.

Another use of twitter is something called microblogging, as the name suggests this involves feeding the status updates straight to your blog, so your blog is frequently updated with small bits of information, especially useful if for example your are attending a conference or even a sports event.

Like texting twitter has a language and a culture of its own, with users adding @ symbols to talk to each other and #hashtags reference particular events so that they can collate there post with other tweets on the same subject.

My advice to first time twitter users would be to download a twitter client like twirl or twitterific and to begin by following tweets like the bbc news or technology tweets, to start tying your tweets into your facebook status updates, then to persuade a few friends to join you once you have the hang of it, after that start looking at friends of friends within in your areas of interest.