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Twittering or Tweeting, It’s Not for Everyone

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
June 2009 Issue
May 3, 2009

Twittering or Tweeting, It’s Not for Everyone

I don’t tweet. Apparently, I’m not as cool as Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, or the dozens of media personalities begging us the follow them via Twitter.

Twitter (http://twitter.com/ without the “www”) is a “microblogging” service that allows anyone to post short messages via the Internet or cell phone. The concept is deceptively simple: instead of sending a text message to one person from your phone or computer, why not send the same message instantly to a large group?

When you post a message to Twitter, you “tweet.” Some people are tweeting constantly, letting their followers know their every move and thought. Other people and organizations use Twitter for major events and announcements.

The recipients of messages are known as “followers” on Twitter. If I wanted people to receive my tweets, I would ask them to follow my twitter feed. There is definitely a unique Twitter slang, and learning that slang is like joining a club.

To receive messages, you use the Twitter home page to create an account. Once you have a free account, you can add a “device profile” for any cell phones or other devices on which you want to read messages.

Do not forget that most cell phone plans charge to send and receive text messages. Thankfully, Twitter lets you set up a “send only” device. This allows you to tweet from a cell phone without having to receive hundreds of messages.

Many Twitter users, known as “twits” for some reason, read messages via the Web or special software known as “tweet clients” or “Twitter readers.” Who knew that being a “twit” would be good thing someday?

Because cell phone “short message service” (SMS) is limited to 140 characters, Twitter messages have the same restriction. That’s why Twitter messages are known as “microblogs.” With a Web log (blog) on Blogger or Wordpress, you can write an almost unlimited amount on your public diary, but Twitter is short and spontaneous.

There are definitely great uses for Twitter.

If there is a natural disaster, satellite phones often remain functional. These phones do not require cell phone towers or an Internet wireless signal. Satellite phone users can tweet to let the rest of the world know what is happening.

If I were to join Twitter, I could follow CNN Headlines (http://twitter.com/cnnhln) and have news updates sent to my cell phone, Blackberry, iPod, or computer. Among the most popular feeds are the BBC World Service, CNN, CNBC, and the New York Times.

Because receiving messages can be expensive, some of the news services have a “Breaking News” option. This means you receive only the biggest headlines on your cell phone, while you can read all the headlines on your computer.

While a complete story cannot be told in 140 characters, alerts and headlines can let followers know they should turn on a computer, radio, or television because something important has happened.

You can follow sporting events or teams using Twitter. I know members of fantasy baseball and football leagues who get every tiny announcement from teams via Twitter. If there’s an injury, a trade, or any other news affecting their rooster, they want to know.

The most popular use of Twitter has become following celebrities. Ashton Kutcher famously raced to a million followers, trying to be more popular than CNN’s Twitter feed. With Oprah Winfrey proclaiming an enthusiasm for Twitter, it is definitely reaching the mainstream.

With the interest in following celebrities, it wasn’t long before public relations companies took over tweeting for stars. The odds are the feeds from your favorite personality were tweeted by a paid staffer. There are exceptions, of course.

Another new trend is the fake feed. Some fakes are fans trying to promote celebrities with the best of intentions. Other fakes are spiteful hoaxes, meant to mock or even damage reputations. Even the award-wining poet and novelist Maya Angelou has been the victim of Twitter impersonators.

I doubt my friends and family care to know what I am doing or thinking throughout the day. More importantly, I don’t want to leave an “electronic trail” on Twitter. Sometimes, privacy is more valuable than being connected.



The Language of Twitter

Client: Software used to read Twitter feeds on a computer. Good clients can sort and search tweet feeds for specific topics.

Feed: The messages from a Twitter account are known as its feed, a term borrowed from broadcasting.

Follower: A reader of a Twitter feed. The more followers you have, the more popular you are.

OH: Overheard. This is a message that might not be reliable. Gossip is OH.

RT: Re-Tweet, meaning to repeat or forward a message on Twitter.

SMS: Short Message Service, the text messaging popular via cell phones.

Tweet: To send a message via Twitter.

Twit: A Twitter user, especially an active user.


Using Twitter
1. Create a user account at Twitter.com
2. Add a device profile for any cell phone or similar gadgets you want to use with Twitter.
3. Search for friends, groups, or even strangers to follow.
4. Send SMS texts from your device to Twitter, which your followers can read.
5. Receive message feeds from the people you follow.
6. Be prepared for a huge cell phone bill, unless you have an unlimited plan!


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