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Twitter Explained

Nov112009

Twitter is a service that lets people answer the question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less. But within that framework there are lots of different ways that Twitter is used, and that is really what defines it. So I thought I’d explain how I use Twitter, and why I find it useful. I enjoy reading what other have to say, and also attempt to contribute what I can.

Why I Write

There are a number of different reasons I share my thoughts on Twitter. I try to tweet things that are interesting or funny to me, in hopes that those who know me or follow me might enjoy them. I try to share information that might be useful to others. I sometimes post quick questions that I have, and try to answer questions others have asked.

I also enjoy the challenge of writing in very small bursts on a regular basis, and crafting my thoughts concisely enough to fit in a tweet. It is a disciple that gets me writing, and I think it has encouraged more regular blogging.

Who and Why I Follow

The accounts that I follow basically fall into the categories below.

Web Design/Development
  • Keeping up with local web designers
  • Learning from web designers who are at a similar place in their career
  • Keeping in touch with the latest technologies on the web
  • Learning from some of my web design heros
  • Finding useful articles and services
Keeping in touch
  • Following news about my favourite basketball teams
  • Keeping up with news about my favourite TV shows (Dollhouse, Castle)
  • Getting to know the stars of those shows
  • Getting the latest updates about applications I use
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family (would be easier if more would use Twitter :)
Entertainment & Insight
  • Some of the people I follow are just funny, end of story.
  • Others (like my wife) offer nuggets of wisdom.

Why not Facebook?

I’ve heard Twitter compared to Facebook’s status updates. There are similarities, but one of the differences between Twitter and Facebook is that when you follow someone on Twitter, they get notified of that fact, but there is no obligation to follow back. And if I decide that I’m really not interested anymore, and unfollow, there is no rejection message sent. So I can fill up my Twitter timeline with what is interesting and useful to me, without worrying about who I might offend.

Conclusion

As someone who likes to avoid anything that might resemble a fad or bandwagon, I resisted Twitter in the beginning. I signed up when I realized that I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it, and as someone who makes a living on the web it is important to be able to advise clients on areas like this. Now that I’m using it, I find the bite-sized chunks of information enjoyable. I suspect I might suffer from Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder

Anyway, at the end of the day, Twitter is just a tool for you to use in the way that best suits your needs. Three years from now it may still be here, or may not; but it does seem to be impacting culture, if only on a small scale. What really matters though is if you can gain in some way from using it. If my examples gave you an idea of how it might, then join us. If not, feel free to keep living the way you did before Twitter arrived, because fundamentally, the world hasn’t changed. At least not yet…

Les Reynolds

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