In August of this year Twitter announced that 20 billion messages had been sent via their service. In Australia, the biggest increases in social media use were in connection with Twitter. Twitter played a significant role in spreading the news about Kevin Rudd’s leadership spill and in the coverage of the Australian federal election. This year also saw Triple Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Stephanie Rice lose a sponsorship deal with Jaguar because of her comments on Twitter, and the high profile sacking of comedienne Catherine Deveney because of her Twitter postings.
So, what is Twitter?
Twitter is a microblogging service. Essentially, it is very much like a blog, in that it’s a service that allows users to publish information. Another way to look at it is as the SMS of the web. You can use Twitter either from a computer or from a mobile phone. However, the amount of information it will let you publish in one go is tiny – 140 characters is all that you are allowed per tweet; a tweet being what you call a posting on twitter. There is only a small amount of space to play with in Twitter yet there has been a large take up since the service arrived in 2006. There is always doubt about the accuracy of figures but it is believed that there are now over 100 million users of Twitter. You can call them tweeters if you like.
Why should I use it?
Widespread adoption of Twitter is relatively new, but seems to be on the increase. It is worthwhile noting that is not just people who use Twitter but companies and institutions do too. The UWA Library has a twitter account, as do plenty of other libraries worldwide. There are a number of potential uses of Twitter for a library workplace. You can find some at Twitter for Librarians: The Ultimate Guide , and also at Twitter Explained for Librarians.
Twitter’s usefulness will probably increase as we get more and more always-connected ‘smart devices‘ that send out updates to your always-connected smart-phone.
How do I use Twitter?
Let’s starts by explaining a few things.
- Subscribing to someone’s Twitter account is called following and subscribers are referred to as followers. Lady Gaga has 5 million over 6 million of them.
- @ in front of a username is used to reply to others or in mentioning them.
- RT stands for Re-Tweet. It’s very much like forwarding on an email you’ve received from one of your friends to another group of friends.
- Hashtags are a kind of metadata that are used to bring together tweets by many different people on the same topic. Essentially, they are twitter’s form of tags, only, rather than tagging the tweet after the fact, you must include the hashtag for your subject in the tweet. To create a hashtag, you simply preface the word you want to be the tag with a hash, which looks like this #. For example, back during the 2010 Australian federal election people added the hashtag #ausvotes to their posts, and then #auswaits, when we, y’know, waited for the election results.
“What? It’s almost 6pm and I haven’t voted yet #ausvotes”
“What? It’s been two weeks and we haven’t got a government yet #auswaits”
- People searching for information on the Australian federal election will come across the #ausvotes and #auswaits tags. They can then search for posts made with those tags, and see the discussion and comments from all the other people who use either tag.
- Despite the 140 character limit you can use twitter to share websites with others by using url shorteners, such as bit.ly and then including them in your post (twitter is currently trialling their own built in URL shortener – more info here ).
- Applications like twitpic , which just went and changed their name to Plixi, allow you to share photos via Twitter. There are other applications that allow you to add twibbons or symbols to your profile avatar or cool looking designs to your twitter home page. There are so many Twitter related applications now that it is helpful that Twitter provides a blog that announces new developments and add ons. Foremost amongst the new stuff is the new look that twitter will be rolling out soon, maybe before this blog post goes up. As I predicted, the new look is now available.
The default setting is for tweets to be publicly visible, but you can lock your account as private if you wish and invite and allow followers.
You can find out more about these terms and others, and some twitter conventions, at this site.
To Complete Thing 16:
- Sign up for a Twitter account, and send the Practically Perfect Programmer a link to your profile, so she can put it on the Participants Page.
- Follow some other 23 Things participants, and anyone else who catches your fancy, be it Stephen Fry or Ashton Kutcher. It is mandatory expected that each of you will follow UWALibray.
- Post at least one update to Twitter each day for a week, using the hashtag #23uwa. You might like to use the WordPress Twitter widget to bring your Twitter feed into your blog.