More on Twitter

Frivolous and a waste of time, but kind of cool, too.

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is

a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website, or an application such as Twitterrific.

Some More Details

Here’s how it works.

You join Twitter by signing up for a free membership.

You can then use the Twitter Web site, an application such as Twitterific (Mac OS only; there must be something out there for Windows users), a Dashboard Widget such as Twitterlex or Twidget (Mac OS only), SMS, or instant messaging to compose a 140-character-or-less mini blog post — referred to as a tweet — and post it to the Twitter service.

Your tweet goes into the Twitter public timeline (shown below), a constantly updated listing of recent tweets that changes so frequently, you probably won’t see your tweet appear because by the time you refresh the page, 20 or 30 other Twitter users have posted their tweets, thus pushing yours off the page. Much of what does appear is pretty boring. Some of it is clearly promotional or self-promotional. Some of it is in languages other than English.) And, of course, there’s the usual low-level chat mentality of posting nonsense apparently in an effort to fill bandwidth with inane chatter.

The Twitter Public Timeline

So, in short, Twitter enables you to broadcast, to the world, what you’re doing at that very moment or, if you’re not doing anything worth talking about, whatever message you want to broadcast. But very few people are likely to see it, so it’s a lot like shouting out of a helicopter window while flying over the Pacific Ocean — pretty much a waste of communication effort.

Follow the Tweets of your Friends

TwitterificFortunately, there is a way to weed out the stuff you don’t want to see and to concentrate on the stuff you do want to see. Just create a network of “friends” and people you “follow.” As you find other Twitter members you’re interested in, you add them as friends. Then, when you view your Twitter home page or use an application like Twitterific (shown here) to keep up to date, you only see the tweets from the people you care about.

My only problem is, either the people I care about don’t use Twitter or, if they do, I don’t know their Twitter User IDs so I can’t add them as friends. This is probably because I’m not hip — a situation I’m quite used to, since I’ve been dealing with it my entire life.

Put Your Tweets on Your Blog or Site

Twitter BadgeA cool feature of Twitter is the ability to add a Twitter badge to your Web site or blog. You can see my Twitter badge (if it’s still online when you read this) in the navigation bar on the Home page of my Web site. Here’s a screen shot of it, just in case I removed it. (I’m so fickle about features on my site.)

You can modify the color of the badge, but not much else. I think the badge is too big for the 140 characters allowed, given the microscopic font size. I was unable to tweak it for the appearance I wanted. What’s nice is that it includes a link to my Twitter page for people who care about me to follow me. I don’t think anyone has yet. That doesn’t surprise me, given that I’m not hip.

By the way, adding the badge to your site is pretty easy. Follow the link to Badges, set options as desired, then copy the resulting code and paste it into your site or blog where you want it to appear. It automatically shows your most recent tweet when the page is loaded.

Similar Services

I first heard about Twitter on the TWiT (no relation) podcast. (TWiT is short for This Week in Tech and it’s hosted by Leo Laporte. Since raving about it on a show, Leo has since switched to rival service Jaiku. I don’t know anything about Jaiku (yet) and am too busy today to explore it. But you can expect an article about it in the future.

Who knows? It might be a better solution for folks with hipness deficiencies.

Looking for other Twitters

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and maintain a Twit account, I welcome you to promote it in the comments for this site. I’ll check out your tweets and may add you to my list of “friends.” (Whoo-hoo!)

Would also be interested in reading your impressions of the Twitter service or competing services. Use the Comments link.

What do you think?