18 September 2009

Module 2 - Topic 1


WARNING! You may become addicted! Proceed with caution. Evidence:

Have you wondered what all the fuss is about Twitter? Twitter has now become part of breaking news stories as reported in the wikipedia article on twitter.

What is Twitter?

Twitter describes itself in its FAQ as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages". It asks the question: “What are you doing?” Twitter members write short posts /updates, often called "tweets”, of not more than140 characters (which is why Twitter is classed as microblogging).

These messages are posted to your profile (your Twitter page) and sent to your followers- people subscribing to your Twitter account. The messages can be published/sent through different platforms such as the Twitter website, cell phones, instant messaging (IM) and various web applications. Twitter accounts can be private or public and you can subscribe to the RSS feeds to keep up to date.

It has built-in social networking so that people can follow others’ updates in much the same way as with other social networking sites. Not only do people share what they do/think/plan, they also become part of a conversation with replying to tweets. As such it has become a huge information resource and communication tool. Businesses have already begun incorporating Twitter as part of their marketing and customer services strategies.

Twitter terms and conventions

When you first look at Twitter it can be very confusing. Nancy Friedman says that Twitter's Language Problem contributes to this confusion. Twitter's use of terms are different from what we usually apply to those terms. So, to help you make sense of the tweets here is a short list of terms and conventions used in Twitter:

tweet - a twitter message up to a 140 characters long - also called an update. It can be about anything and everything. Messages are public unless a profile is protected (or have a private setting).

timeline - this is your homepage on Twitter. It shows all the messages you send and messages that people you are following send. If you aren’t signed in you will only see the tweets sent by the tweeter. It also applies to any collection of tweets.

following - people you follow (similar to ‘friend’ in social networking) whose tweets will show up in your timeline. A selection in pictures of people/organisations you follow shows up on the twitterer’s page.

followers - people who are following your tweets.

@username - a reply to a twitter message, i.e. @jaycie622.

RT or retweet - a message that is repeated because someone thinks it particularly good, i.e. RT @RachelleGardner: If you think publishing is slow, be glad you're not in major motion pictures.

# - hash tags are used to tag tweets with a theme or event, i.e. Great Read About the Role of Music in Life #music

Note that url shortening services, such as bit.ly, tinyURL and Tr.im are used in Twitter because of the character restriction - e.g http://bit.ly/fb9Fg.

Why use Twitter?

Twitter is many things to many people. Anne Hadley asked this question in her blog MarketingProfs Daily Fix - here is a reflection of some of the comments given (check the link to the blogpost under Further Reading):

  • It's a great way to keep in touch with your friends.
  • It taps me into the shared knowledge of people I admire online
  • I also use Twitter as a discovery engine … it flows new interesting things past me that I wouldn't have thought to search out on my own.
  • I like the 140 character limit on what you can say and do with Twitter.
  • I use twitter primarily for entertainment purposes and to find cool stuff.
Of course, not everyone is enamoured with Twitter, as reflected in these comments:
  • I do worry though about return on time invested. I fear twittering can become a variation on voyeurism, an excuse to be not doing other more useful things. And yet, here I am, watching tweets in the early morning, and it was your tweet that led me to this post. Paradox makes the world go round.

  • I personally find it rather unsettling to follow people I don’t actually know: there’s a voyeuristic quality to it, the sense of being a peeping Tom into someone else’s private life.
Other examples of Twitter use:
  • Get advice and feedback on ideas, problems, etc.

  • Taking notes: Twitter can be an ideal place to store your thoughts. You can send an update from any mobile device.

  • Create and manage your ToDo list through Some ToDo services such as Remember the Milk which accept updates from Twitter. Tweeting via your cell phone makes this a convenient option.

  • Send out notices about updates of your blog and website.

Interesting Twitters

Although there are a lot of trivial twittering going on in the twitterverse, there are some very interesting twitters to follow. Here is a small sample.

Authors on Twitter:
Note: It looks like some authors twitter themselves, while other authors’ representatives do the twittering for them.
Jodi Picoult
Clive Cussler
Elizabeth Strout
Margaret Atwood
Jennifer Weiner
Elizabeth Buchan
Dr. Maya Angelou
Meg Cabot
Laurell K. Hamilton
James Rollins
Nicky Pellegrino

Politicians & Governments on Twitter:
10 Downing Street
The White House
NZ Parliament
John Key
Barack Obama

Science and environmental topics:
NASA is one of the many organisations on Twitter.
An ecologically conscious Twitter

New Zealand Twitters of interest:
All Blacks
List of New Zealand musicians / music groups
New Zealand media people on Twitter
Auckland City Council
New Zealand museums
Te Karere Ipurangi Maori News Online
NZHistory Online

Media on Twitter:Time magazine
National Graphic
The Guardian

A few other interesting Twitters:
Grammar girl started as a podcasts, became famous and published a book.
Cookbook via Twitter. Recipes every day in Twitter speak.
Cooking tips and food facts for the foodies.
American Red Cross - alerts to disasters. The Australian Red Cross did the same during the wild fires earlier this year.
Frugal Living
Fitness motivation

If you know of any other interesting Twitterers please share with us through the comments section of this blogpost.

If the Comments section below is not open .... click on the link to find participants' comments which could be helpful for this topic.



*** FURTHER READING - optional



  1. For those of you who have seen Sirocco, DOC's kapapo, in the news lately:
    Check out Sirocco's Twitter page.

  2. Sorry, the link to Sirocco's Twitter page didn't come through in comment above. Here is the URL - you'll need to copy and paste yourself.


  3. Twitter has recently added a list feature to make it easy to find interesting Twitteres to follow. Check out this article about the list feature: ( http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/10/29/twitter-starts-rolling-out-lists-to-everybody-have-you-gotten-yours ). The comments section is also interesting with referrals to similar 3rd party applications.

  4. Listorious (http://listorious.com/) is another Twitter list 3rd party application. It has a directory. I had a look at the 'book' tag and there are a few good lists.

  5. For the best on Twitter check out the Shorty Awards ( http://shortyawards.com/ ). Shorty Awards "honor the best producers of short content on Twitter" - from their website.

  6. For Harry Potter fans, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) has a Twitter account: http://twitter.com/tomFelton

    So does Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom):

  7. This YouTube clip demonstrates the Twouble with Twitters - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2HAroA12w

  8. The 10 Downing Street link has moved to