Wednesday, March 4, 2009

So what’s Everyone Twittering About?

Lately my curiosity has been grabbed by the fad of “micro blogging” or as it is known by the social network which facilitates this - twittering.  Having read an article in the Globe on the weekend about David Miller’s “MayorMiller”’s tweets, I decided to find out more about it. 

Globe Article "Twitter Talk that Packs Real Bite"

So what is it?  A micro blog is a very short snippet of personal news or text information presented sent out over the internet as a real time feed to an audience of one sort or another by an individual.  One can restrict the receipt of information to a circle of friends or make it available widely.  It is a little like text messaging to a potentially infinite number of recipients.    You can do it via your phone and msg services or via a web connection.  There is a 140 characters max this seems to be pretty standard.  

It is estimated that there are 6 million members of whom 55,000 sign in to twitter each month.  This makes it the 3rd largest social networking site in the world (following MySpace and Facebook).  It is different than either of those as it has its own niche.     

The main purpose is to “touch” people briefly and provide a short message (but often folks include a URL to a pic or other info) – so it is a new communication media entirely.  You can’t say much in 140 characters.   You can say what you are doing, throw out a brief thought or point to a place for more info.   That is about it. 

Let’s look at two aspects of this media:  firstly, who are the followers following?  I see it as three groups.  The first is a bunch of good friends or a team of associates who want to keep in close touch.  I can picture a clique of teenage girls in this category; – so they follow each other and use this basically as a group “texting” tool.   Secondly, important/famous people who want/need to stroke their “fans” and so they would issue frequent tweets as a cheap way of generating publicity.  Thirdly, as a communication media for news sources to issue short “news alerts” to announce something of importance to a defined audience.

Last night I signed up with Twitter and got ready to tweet.  My Twitter stage name is epeggyh – you can get me via the web at  .   I issued my first tweet – and then wondered - what’s next?  Having read the Globe article about David Miller’s tweets I decided to look him up and follow him – MayorMiller.  And what do you know – he published several tweets in the next hour while I was nosing around looking for other folks to follow.  I also found Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, “ObamaNews”, and 10DowningStreet before I decided I had enough political figures.  I also decided to follow a news twitter put out by the Toronto Globe “Globe Technology” and a few other news sources such as “CNN Breaking News” and NYTimes.  I also found a couple which were a bit different such as “twittercise” who tweets every hour an exercise that you can do while you are sitting in your office.   

My next thoughts were who else might be twittering?  Movie stars – do they tweet regularly?  Without much trouble, I found  Ashton Kutcher’s twitter stage name “aplusk”.   He posted about a dozen tweets and one of them contained a link to a live streaming link to a photo shoot Demi Moore was doing last night!   Wow, what one can find! 

 Today I looked through my tweet list a couple of times and it took only a couple of minutes to see that Ignatieff was glad to be on This hour has 22 minutes again; MayorMiller was meeting with the Ambassador of Finland; Martha Stewart was having lunch with Ludcris; and there were a dozen news posts from CNN and NYTimes.  Boy in just a few minutes I was all up to date with more tid bits of news than I needed! 

Am going to continue to twitter and follow those that twitter for a while as part of my research for my November novel to come (Did I mention that November is Write a Novel month?) 

Just as an added note, my son Eric  (shown left) commented on my last blog and brought up some really good additional points regarding why people blog.  You really need to read his great “mini blog” follow on comment to my topic.  (Wish I could figure out how to have comments appear inline following the blog!).  Eric lives in Phoenix AZ, and we seem to connect mostly virtually and only in person (by voice or visit) maybe once or twice a year.  One point he made I want to follow up briefly here. 

We all like to share our day – our thoughts and “what’s happening” with our friends.  That is so true – but a blog adds another element to the desire to share our thoughts – we can share these things with a large audience of far flung friends and family very easily.  I might even venture to say that this is a futuristic equivalent of what letter writing was in the previous several centuries.  When even “local” travel was difficult and there were few other ways to communicate letter writing was a very large part and perhaps the only way to keep in touch with those cherished friends and family.    People spent a lot of time writing letters in the centuries when it was the prime means of personal communication.  Just as we seem to be doing now with our internet communications media.

Decades ago I would spend hours writing friends who lived at a distance to keep in touch.   Until recently I spend a good deal of time writing individual emails providing news to people I wanted to keep in touch with.  I still do that, but am able to keep those emails to private details which I would not put in a blog.  The newsy chatty emails have been replaced with more personal ones containing specific communications for specific people.  I am assuming that anyone I know who wants to know how I am doing will read my blog or failing that call me on the phone.   My blogs have replaced in a large part the letters/emails I would have written instead in the past. 

I can see a future reality in the coming decades where we are communicating via blogs, tweets and Facebook posts and meeting in a virtual reality such as Second Life for our real time interactions! 

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