All Atwitter

If you have not thought much about Twitter, it is time to start thinking. If you think Twitter is just for meaningless chatter, or twenty-something time-wasters, then think again.

Did you hear that the first report, and photo, of the "Miracle on the Hudson" was on Twitter (an example of "crowd powered media")? Did you know CNN (and other news sources) publish important breaking news on twitter, and they really do reserve it for important stories?

What is Twitter anyway?

Twitter is a micro-blogging service for sending out updates of up to 140 characters (exercise to reader: why 140 characters?). Yes, it started as a way to tell your friends that you were awake, brushing teeth, drinking coffee, reading paper ... . But, like the telephone, email, blogs - all equally attractive time-wasters for socialites - new and important utility is emerging.

You can "follow" other people's tweets; I follow CNN, Jeff Pulver, and others; I don't follow the GOP, John Cleese, the UK Prime Minister, Darth Vader (brilliant), or, ... well you get the picture.
You can look at what's hot right now, or how the twittersphere treated a topic recently. You can track specific keywords on twitter (using either twitter search or, even better, TweetGrid or TweetDeck), to see what people are saying about you, your town, your employer, your competitor, your favorite charity. Did you know that someone unauthorized might be misrepresenting you, your company or your favorite charity (check out this Exxon-Mobil story)?

Some folks conjecture that all this may even be a threat to Google's predominance - and from that viewpoint, twitter really is a superior human powered search engine. However, I think there is both more and less to twitter than that. Twitter is less in that it is not about search, and it has a weak position to become a search leader (too easy to spam). Twitter is more in that it is as powerful as email has been, certainly more powerful than blogs, to change how we find and publish information and how we interact with our friends and the world around us.

Get going on Twitter.

Get an account. Go slow. Follow some folks. Don't believe me ... look at what David Pogue (NYT) has to say, and, in a similar vein, see 8 Useful Tips To Become Successful With Twitter.

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