I just found out that the last two competitors on the cable TV show "Top Chef" are Richard and Dale. Last week I seemed to be among the earliest folks to find out that Posh and Beck (David and Victoria Beckham) are sending their kid to a Jewish school in LA. Amusing... but how did I find out?
The answer is Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging service which is just a little more than a year old. This - Venture Cyclist - is a blog. Twitter is a blog insofar as you can only post text messages of up to 140 characters (yes, characters, not words). This is limit was set by thinking about using regular cell-phone text (SMS) to post messages. In fact, you can even receive other people's posts by regular text messages to your cell-phone as well. With this focus, Twitter encourages people to send updates from wherever they are at various times during the day. You can choose to follow the postings - or tweets - of as many people as you like. Although most twitterers tweet in public, a twitterer can choose to make their tweets private, only visible to people for whom they have granted permission.
You can see my twitter updates in the frame of my blog website. If you are reading this in a blog reader then click here to see. These updates are not very edifying, and I have not worked out a useful reason for me to be twittering. Some folks "broadcast" special events on their twitter-stream - like a running commentary - perhaps from a conference, a sports event, or even a family wedding. There is definitely an on-going discussion about how tweets and FaceBook status updates might seriously compete for attention.
However, reading twitter streams is intriguing. As well as the "Hi, I'm awake" tweets, many folks share "ooo, look at that" moments, as they hear or see interesting items. I have found a few seriously interesting things online, and news organizations from the BBC to CNN to JTA now tweet important breaking news stories to which you can subscribe (follow) as well. Following Twitter streams can be like the news crawl at the bottom of the TV news show, but Tweets can include links to websites for the backstory.
Is this all a passing fad? I think not. Is the usefulness of this well-established? Not by a long-shot. Will there be a killer-app for Twitter (a compelling reason to post or read)? Yes, I think there will be.
One last note ... I have set up Twitter to operate in an IM (instant message, or internet chat) window. This interface seems to allow a special capability called "tracking". I can write in "track Richard Dale" and if anyone, anywhere on Twitter, posts something with my name, it shows up. I have chosen to track my own name, and several excited fans noted the Top Chef results last night on their tweets, and so I get to see that. Similarly I have chosen to track "Jewish" just to see what people are saying on that topic, and several folks posted the "Posh and Beck to send kid to Jewish school" item.
Now I know, and you do, too!