I can’t keep quiet any longer! After having a dormant Twitter account for many years (@lyddiebird), I was inspired to activate it by something I read that implied that Twitter could be used for bookmarking. My developing years with the Internet involved accumulating a massive collection of links, primarily for use by my students. I toyed with Google Bookmarks, Diigo, and others which worked well enough when I was stationary. As I became more and more itinerant and moved from computer to computer, downloading the various toolbars became a hassle.
My original understanding of Twitter (and one which many people still have) is that it is a way of letting all your friends know in 14o characters or less about your mundane activities. “Got a haircut this morning.” “Hot and muggy in Doha today.” etc., etc. Now my friends are not the least bit interested in my mundane activities although they might appreciate the brevity of Twitter.
I opened up my Twitter account and tried to figure it out. It was clear that my Web sites would be saved by typing them into the “What’s Happening?” box at the top of the page. Adding some information about the URL would also be handy. With the 140 character limit it became clear that an URL shortener like TinyURL would be essential. I also noticed that the hardcore Twitter crowd seemed to favor Bitly although I haven’t switched over to it yet.
Next I decided to explore the “Who to Follow” tab. At that moment in time, photography was foremost on my mind so I typed in the keyword photographer. I played around with other keywords reflecting some of my interests (Web 2.o, technology, Doha, etc.) and managed to find some people to “follow.” Now, as far as my Twitter use is concerned, Twitter for me is like a reading club with a professional networking tool built in. The people I follow post many links that lead me to sources I didn’t know existed. I try to post from my own favorite sources such as the Chronicle for Higher Education’s Wired Campus and Academe Today. Then a miraculously thing started happening. I began to get a regular flurry of notices that people were following me. Upon hearing this, the proper etiquette is to look them up on Twitter to see if they might be someone you are also interested in following. This has been the case for many. For others, it is clear to me that Twitter is also a selling platform, and so entities with commercial interests are also trying to get publicity. Occassionally I will get followed by someone who is even newer to Twitter than myself and has not bothered to set up any kind of profile.
I am taking Twitter at my own pace. I know I should be using hashtags (# followed by a keyword), but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’m sure there are many other conventions that I am missing. I remain dazzled by Twitter and have sung its praises to anyone who will listen. It is a hard concept to explain. I hope I have managed to give non-Twitterers a reason to tweet and perhaps I have encouraged some Twitter aficionados to step forth and explain some other intricacies of the Twitter kingdom.
What has Twitter done for you lately?