Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A word on Microblogging and Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseWho Microblogs?
When I first came across twitter (the original internet micro blogging facility) I didn't really think it was important. I was wrong. Twitter allows you post 140 characters - a micro blog. Some people, like me, use it as a daily update to let people know what I'm up to. Mostly it looks like a reply to a moblie phone text asking 'what you doin?' - personal, friendly, but essentially factual and functional. jonone100's twitter feed

Other people use twitter to 'life stream'. In other words they update many times a day and will tell you what they're doing, what they are thinking, what they are listening too, how they are feeling, etc, etc. Personally, I find these life stream tweets (a tweet is the name given to a single post on twitter) dull in the extreme. I think less can be more.

A further group of people use microblogging to market goods and services to you. While this can be annoying, it can also be useful and entertaining. I follow one guy (follow means read the posts of) who is into the Internet and goes to seminars on web 2.0 and other such things. Its not like he trys to sell you stuff; he'll post relevent links, some music, the odd book recommendation. He also lets you know about his own projects through his posts. All of this I find very useful - he strikes the right balance with the frequency of posts. He keeps it personal without boring me with mundane detail. nick levine's twitter feed

Why is it called a Feed?
Because a microblog is a small and simple bit of information its easy for the wizards of technology to do all sorts of things with it - they can feed your information into other services. You can put twitter feeds into your newsreader (if you don't know what this is don't worry), or you can have it appear in a widget on your igoogle page (or pageflakes or any other personalisation service). So for example when I boot up my computer something like this appears on my home page.

So from this widget I can read all the posts (tweets) of the people I'm following, and I can also post myself without visiting twitter at all. You can get this widget for free from 32hours.com/betwitteredinfo/ (but you'll need to know about igoogle and I haven't posted about that yet !). If you have an iphone you can get a widget for that too.

My favourite thing to do with my twitter feed though is to create a picture from it. You'll see this picture on my blog. Its this:

This simple facility is really cool. It updates from my twitter feed automatically. So although it appears to your computer as a static image, it actually updates everytime you do. The advantage is that you can stick a static image nearly anywhere - in the footer of your emails (I'll tell you how to do this is your gmail footer at a later date) or in your online profiles. No need to get complicated with burning rss feeds - just cut and paste the image URL. Once you have a twitter account, you get your own from twitsig.com. Its free, so say thank you to the nice man.

Another thing you can do with your twitter feed is use it to update your status on facebook, myspace or any similar social network. This is really handy as it provides an 'information pulse' for your friends. To integrate twitter into facebook use the twitter application. I haven't got the myspace twitter sync working yet (but my twitter feed is already displayed through my twitsig picture).

Why do I want to know what you're doing?
I use my twitter feed to primarily to keep people informed about my availability for driving work. People still call me up and ask if I'm available (you're not going to beat talking to someone directly) but the twitter feed acts as a reminder to them, and it stops them calling when I'm working. If my tweet says 'on my way to Glasgow' no-ones going to call to see if I can do a job in Brighton.

Work availability is just one thing, you can use your feed for whatever you like. Events you're attending, music you're listening to, your bowel movements - the possibilities are endless. Just don't expect me to follow you if you're going to tweet everytime you use the toilet.

I tend to follow people I know personally. Although I'm quite into following people with whom I have some shared interest. And this is the most amzing thing about microblogging - by following people's tweets you begin to feel like you get a sense of who they are. I know it might seem odd, but try it. The world is a funny place full of syncronisities and serendipities. Microblogging helps you to see more of them.

13/10/08 - I found this which might be of interest (its from a blog I follow)

What’s Twitter? 5 Things Your Business Needs to Know

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