What’s the big deal?

Lately, Twitter is all over the news. Last week, Aschton Kutcher faced off with CNN to be the first user to have 1 million followers. Oprah just joined, bringing hundred of thousands of new users with her. So what the heck is this?

In short, Twitter is another social networking tool. Users can post messages that their followers can see via the internet, a text message, or Iphone/Blackberry applications. The catch is, though, the message is limited to 140 characters (a little less than the limit of a standard text message). To an experienced Facebook user, Twitter seems at first glance to be like Facebook status or going farther back into online history, an AOL Instant Messanger away message. USers can “tweet” (post) about what they are currently doing, allowing people all over the world to find out probably more than they really want to, e.g. when tweeting from a bathroom. 

Besides reading the mudane facts of someones life, Twitter can be much more useful. When some one posts a tweet about a certain subject, they can use a # in front of the subject (#bloginization). This will allow the tweet to be indexed by the subject. Other users than can search by the subject bloginization and find whatever posts pretain to the topic. Ok, so what? Well, this is means one can find out instant information faster than the fastest news station. For example, during the terrorist attacks of Mumbai, people were tweeting about what was going on from the ground. According to the Telegraph,

“Mere moments after the first shots were fired, Twitter users in India, and especially in Mumbai, were providing instant eyewitness accounts of the unfolding drama.Messages, known as “tweets”, were being posted to the site at a rate of around 70 tweets every five seconds when the news of the tragedy first broke, according to some estimates. “Hospital update. Shots still being fired. Also, Metro cinema next door,” twittered Mumbaiattack.

One can track general trends of tweets on Twitter and another website called Twitterfall. On Twitterfall, you can select a trend that it finds, such as on a Monday night people may be watching 24. You click on #24 and youc  can watch live tweets that come in with the subject of 24. If Jack Baur does some thing crazy, you will know instantly. If you like real time infromation, this is the way to go. Following trends can give you a good sense of what is going on right now all around the world as well as how people feel about it.

I am also a large fan of the Dave Matthews Band, and I am following them on Twitter (DaveJMatthews). I can also follow another website that gives me real time info of each show’s setlist. The band just released a new single for free online and instead of sending out an email or a press releases, Dave Matthews wrote a tweet about it. 

Other than, you can follow lots of celebrities, like John Mayer and RainWilson from the Office (Dwight). Shaq is also a popular user. It can be cool to see that celebrities are real people too. 

So it all depends, Twitter can be a great, practical microblogging tool that can keep you updated to the second or you can use it for celebrity gossip. Whatever it is, Twitter is going to be here for a while.

5 Responses

  1. There is also a pretty interesting application of Twitter that I read about – use in a disaster or emergency situation. When the airplane landed on the Hudson there were passengers who were Tweeting (via mobile phone) about what had happened and where they were. I have not yet joined Twitter, but it is certainly on my list of things to do!

  2. […] What’s the big deal? […]

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  4. I always wondered what twittering really was, not to mention I have had my parents ask me on numerous occasions what it entailed (my mom is technology-illiterate, and my dad is only half technology-illiterate). I didn’t realize that your messages were limited to a certain amount of words. I think that would annoy me, I already get mad enough when I have to use two texts to send something, and they hold 160 characters. I guess that’s neat to be connected to so many people around the country or world, and the Mumbai attack shows that it definitely is a beneficial application.

  5. I wonder what the main reason that social networks like Twitter and facebook have become so successful. In my own experiences these platforms seem to help pass time. I usually see people on facebook when they are bored with class, procrastinating, or waiting. The platforms are a great way to get in touch with people when needed, much like email. But honestly, it seems like entertainment these days is more to pass time than for the actual enjoyment. (Does anyone truly care what britney speares is doing right now…)

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