An Introduction to Twitter: TMO Announces New Twitter Feeds
by , 1:20 PM EST, January 25th, 2008
Most Web surfers are familiar with the concept of blogging. For some, the idea of taking the time to compose an entry with substance is enticing, for others, however, that just takes too much time. Sharing thoughts and ideas on the Web can be more appealing if you do it quickly and with spontaneity, and that's the whole idea behind Twitter.
Twitter is a free online service where people write short messages that are published in the user's personal timeline. Anyone that cares to follow your timeline gets to see the messages, or tweets, that you post.
The system is simple. The Twitter Web interface includes a field that asks "What are you doing?" What you enter is exactly what your followers will see -- up to 140 characters. Twitter forces you to keep your tweets short which adds to the spontaneity.
Your updates could range from "Out of milk" (for your sweetie reading your updates at work), to announcements such as "CD release party tonight at the coffee house", or just a reply to the age old "Nuts in Brownies debate" that your buddy started in a bored tweet. Since Twitter tends to foster little online communities, you can also reply to the tweets you read.
You can send tweets to a specific person by starting the text with the @ symbol followed by the person's twitter account. If your Twitter account name was stevejobs, for example, other Twitter users could send tweets to you by starting an entry with @stevejobs.Some people have these personalized tweets sent to their phone so they can receive the message immediately. We've set up a special twitter account called TMOtalk. Here, our editors will tweet live at the newsdesk and you can respond by tweeting a reply to @TMOtalk.
Even if you don't have a Twitter account, you can still tweet us if you are a registered TMO forum member. Just use the @TMOTalk tweet field on the TMO on Twitter page. As we experiment with TMOtalk, we hope you as a reader will help shape what this account will be.
Tweet us even if you don't have a Twitter account.
Twittering has been compared to blogging-light, or public instant messaging. While Twitter shares similarities with these other online communication tools, it's very flexible in allowing each person to find their own uses for it.
Some Twitter fans use the service to keep up on news from their favorite Web sites. TMO, for example, maintains a twitter feed that tweets all of our headlines complete with links back to the articles. Other sites, like TidBITS, Boing Boing, and CNN do the same.
There are a few third party desktop applications to keep track of your twitter feeds along with web scripts to integrate twitter into your weblog. You can find many of these listed on the Twitter fan wiki. One of my favorites is Twitterrific from Iconfactory. It can show my friends' tweets in a floating window or through Growl notifications, lets me post my own tweets, and reply to my friends' tweets. You can also have tweets delivered via AIM or GTalk. I prefer not to receive IMs, but I like being able to post tweets from AIM.
If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, Hahlo, Thincloud, and PocketTweets all offer Web-based Twitter interfaces designed specifically for mobile Safari. All are great options when you want to tweet on the go.
Because I work out of my home office, I appreciate the additional contact with other folks during my workday. Sometimes Twitter has less conversational merit than a water cooler conversation. I make it a point not to try to catch up on missed tweets and only follow people in a small social circle. In this way, I find it adds a pleasant variety without becoming much of a distraction.
Even if you aren't interested in tweeting, your friends probably are. Take a look and see what they are tweeting about... you might be surprised at what you learn.