A quick Twitter with friends and family

Alison Young
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May 02, 2008
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There are so many online social networks in existence - too many to count on my fingers. With my three jobs (plus writing a book), I barely have time to participate in just one of them. I probably have an account with most, but I rarely make posts, much less log on. After attending the Hawaii Geek Meet a couple weeks ago, I was convinced to join Twitter by all the Twitter-ees. Mahalo, guys - yes, you changed my mind.

I heard about Twitter when it first came out in 2006, but never really had a desire to join it because of my demanding schedule, and I didn’t want to add another thing to my plate. After the meet, I decided to take another quick look at Twitter to see if it’s worth it, with the thought of, “Is this another time-waster?” Maybe not, since its micro-blogging style actually works out perfectly for me. I just punch in a one- or two-liner of what’s going on/what I’m up to and I’m done. That’s pretty much all I have time for anyway.

Simplicity has played an important role in Twitter’s success. Since people are always eager to connect with each other, Twitter simplifies the whole process. Your simple 140-character (or fewer) answer can be sent via the website, texting from your cell phone or as an instant message. Again, perfect for my crunch schedule, as I’m sure it is for others out there with my type of routine. You can stay connected, but it’s not so time-consuming that it takes a huge chunk out of your day.

Information overload is avoided with Twitter by asking one simple question: “What Are You Doing?” You don’t necessarily expect a response when sending a Twitter message, and the updates float to your phone or to you via the web, and you can decide to ignore them or follow avidly. I primarily use the web interface, and it shows you how many people you are following, your followers, who notes you as a favorite, how many direct messages you’ve sent (to an individual Twitter user) and how many updates you’ve posted. You can choose an icon for your user picture and customize your background. At the moment, I’ve chosen a picture of my bird for the user and a nice character shot from my Super Smash Bros. Brawl Wii game.

The Twitter result equals staying connected to everyone so they have a sense of what you’re up to, but they are not expected to respond with updates unless they feel up to it. You are in complete control of whom you follow, and who follows you. You don’t necessarily have to follow each other, and you can even block someone if you don’t want them following you. You make it what you want it to be.

Twitter’s core technology is based on a device agnostic message routing system with rudimentary social networking features. Basically that means by accepting messages from the different platforms - SMS (short message service), the web, mobile web or from third party API (application programming interface) projects - it’s easy to stay connected in some way or another. Twitter also is built upon a web application called Ruby on Rails, and all the work is done on Macs. The website and user interface were designed using Omnigraffle and Photoshop. According to Twitter, Ruby on Rails was used because it allows the staff to work quickly and easily to deploy features and changes multiple times a day. It also provides skeleton code frameworks so things don’t become repetitive, such as in the sign-in form or a picture upload features.

Twitter is probably the most popular micro-blogging site. Its biggest competitor, however, is probably Pownce (http://pownce.com). I’ve heard Pownce described as “Twitter on steroids,” and is probably better to use in a business environment. You also can do forms of micro-blogging from within your Facebook or MySpace accounts, but I’m not even going to attempt that.

As a side note, earlier this month Twitter actually helped a student escape from an Egyptian jail. James Karl Buck used his mobile phone to tweet the word “Arrested” to his contacts on Twitter, and started a chain of events that eventually assisted in his freedom. Interesting ... See Truemors for more details on this story: http://truemors.com/?p=28550

Start Twitter-ing today at http://twitter.com, and you can follow me at http://twitter.com/clickchick


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