Monday, 29 June 2009

Twittering away

I’m sitting on an early morning train to London for a RUGIT meeting, and I’m thinking about Twitter. Sad you might think (but it is early!). But no, I don’t think it’s sad – it’s the social networking/web2.0/whateveryouwanttocallit tool that I use the most at the moment. I was trying to think why. Well, it’s easy to use; I can use it wherever I am as it works just as well from a mobile phone using a client or just plain old SMS; I can use if for all sorts of useful things including:
  • finding out about world events – coming home in the car the other night wondering why Michael Jackson was a trending topic and then following the is he?/ isn’t he? debate was fascinating
  • getting updates from the met office about local weather
  • discussing TV programmes (especially the Apprentice!) while it’s on with colleagues
  • taking part in the back channel discussion during a conference I couldn’t attend whilst watching the streaming video of the proceedings
  • following events during the Iranian protest when Twitter seemed to be the only way the protesters could get information out
  • looking at Stephen Fry’s exquisite photographs of endangered species
  • hearing about technology launches (that’s how I first heard of Google wave)
  • keeping in touch with friends and colleagues
  • generally just being nosey
There's lots more but they're the first ones that came into my head. I find Twitter very difficult to explain to people who just don’t get it. My advice is to use it, then decide whether or not it’s for you (and it isn’t for everyone). But if you are going to use it, then I suggest you use it properly. Of course, properly means the way I use it and according to my rules, which are:
  • Use your real name - not necessarily as your user name but it should be there
  • Don’t block your updates – if you do, I won’t follow you (there’s a couple of exceptions – that’s what rules are for!)
  • Don’t lurk. If you want to know what I’m doing, have the decency to register and follow me.
  • Post updates yourself – it’s all about sharing information. If I look at your profile and find you’re following me but don’t actually post anything yourself, then I’ll block you.
  • Mix business with pleasure – you can tweet about work, your social life, send interesting links, tell jokes – anything.
  • Use hashtags – especially if you’re at a conference or an event.
I’ve heard it described as an internet fad, the latest bandwagon, something ephemeral. It might be, but does it matter? If something better comes along – great. Does that mean we shouldn’t be using technologies that are around now but might not be in the future? Of course not. One of the most exciting things about being involved with technology is experimenting with stuff, seeing how it works, seeing what uses there might be for it. Well, that's what I think. Course, I could be wrong....


Tony Ruscoe said...

I think there's one more very important rule people should follow:

Try to respond to questions directed at you - i.e. check your Mentions and maybe even do search for your username occasionally.

I've seen companies use it purely as a one-way press tool and that's not really in the spirit of things. If someone asks you a question, it can be rude to ignore it. (Of course, there are always exceptions...)

Torgwen said...

Through Twitter I look at many more interesting websites and blogs than I would have. This weekend I watched a documentary that I would have missed but for a tweet from the maker and could follow his comments live while it was broadcast. I also followed replies to him on Tweetdeck, it's a great way of being involved. Today I've just informed my daughter Matthew Horne is DJing at a club her and friends go to, now they can get there early!

Anonymous said...

Agree about the "using it properly" comment. Get fed up of people who don't use their real names, and don't follow and don't post. Why bother?

Brennig said...

It's interesting that Twitter (or the Twitter community) is quickly developing a set of protocols.

There are a dreadful number of people using the various Twitter-APIs as sources of spam-material though; but the value still outweighs 'risk'.

And I *love* the post-modern irony of an anonymous commenter above advising Twitter users to get a real name or not to bother. :-)

Anonymous said...

Don't bother with Twitter, it is old hat! Facebook has taken over its functionality and soon there will be another fad to follow.

Hardly any adults use twitter, and the students certainly don't!