and then this article was posted:
Why I've become a Twit
Jennifer Gardy, February 12, 2009 at 10:22 AM
I have just become a Twit.
Well, technically I've become a "Tweep" - one of those people on Twitter - but I can barely bring myself to type a word as twee as Tweep, let alone vocalize it. So a Twit I shall be.
I'd previously thought of myself as a reasonably early adopter of technology . My favourite plaything when I was 4 was our family's Commodore 64 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_64), at which I'd spend long hours playing Space Taxi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Taxi). By kindergarten I had become an ace Logo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logo_(programming_language)) programmer, able to guide my trusty turtle into drawing any regular polygon, and throughout school we had a series of Macs, in front of whose monochromatic glow I would sit for hours, trying to find Carmen Sandiego or making dot-matrix greeting cards in Print Shop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Print_Shop). I was on the internet in 1994, had my first website by 1996, joined Friendster before "to Friendster" became a verb, left Friendster for MySpace at the first sign of a sinking ship, and left MySpace for Facebook when all the blinking pink sparkle graphics became too much.
But Twitter? I couldn't quite see the point of broadcasting 140-character status updates about the minutiae of my life to what I assumed would be an uninterested audience: 5:02 a.m. - Awoken by cat attempting to make love to the duster. 8:34 a.m. - Wonder how husband can pack a band's worth of gear into a van but can only manage to fit two dishes and a pot in the dishwasher. 9:02 a.m. - Prolonged work stoppage due to cat's placement of its butt between my face and the monitor and cat's refusal to move.
I finally caved this week, though, and became a Twit. It was partially my editor's fault - after having what seemed like the majority of my social circle badgering me to join Twitter for the last few years, his just happened to be the request that pushed me over the edge. Probably because he issues me paycheques whilst the rest of my social circle does not.
Mostly, however, I joined as a preventative measure. I live in fear of becoming a technodinosaur, and any web or gadget trend I fail to embrace, or at least half-heartedly attempt, brings me one step closer to being That Person. The one who types hunt-and-peck style. The one who refers to their own computer as "the internet". The one who actually believed Ted Stevens when he said "the internet is a series of a tubes" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Series_of_tubes).
Just before my editor's plea for me to join the Twitter Army arrived in my inbox (or before it "downloaded to my internet screen" for any technodinosaurs that might be reading this), I was guest lecturing to a group of 4th-year microbiology students and it was there that I realized that even tech-savvy me is in real danger of being trampled by the next generation and their aptitude for computers, gadgets and Web 2.0 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0).
When I started my B.Sc. over a decade ago, taking notes in a 4-colour clicky pen and having a small ruler handy was considered the very height of technological sophistication. Professors lectured using markers and an overhead projector, and we checked our campus e-mail on Unix (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix) terminals in the library basement, using Pine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pine_(e-mail_client)) for e-mail and the text-only Lynx (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynx_(web_browser)) for web browsing (yes, children, once upon a time the internet did not have pictures.)
These days, all but the most reluctant lecturers use PowerPoint or other slideware to deliver their lectures, while their students listen in what may or may not be rapt attention. It's hard to tell when you're up there, because the students' faces are all obscured by their laptops and, for all you know, they're probably on Facebook. Or Twitter (11:42 a.m. - OMG am in lecture with Gardy. She has a LOLcat in her slides! LOL! Kawai! ^_^ )
They share their notes electronically, organize virtual study groups, and use their social networking sites to organize and promote parties and other campus events. They hack their iPhones to capture video and record lecture snippets, which can then be shared with anyone who overslept and missed class, and next they'll probably be using their phone's GPS to track which campus pub their friends are at.
It's a different era now, and if you don't jump in and participate in all this Web 2.0 stuff, you and the other Facebook deniers, Twitter haters, and Flickr phobes risk being left behind, as was nicely pointed out by a recent slate.com article (http://www.slate.com/id/2208678/). Keeping abreast of these trends is especially important for anyone involved in teaching today's kids, as the last thing you want to see on your RateMyProfessors.com (http://ratemyprofessors.com/) entry is a review uploaded (probably by iPhone) by one of your students... "LMFAO. Dude is such a n00b. Overheads? tl;dr. WTF?" And while you're translating that, I'm off to tweet 140 characters about wrapping up another column for the week.
and then this article was posted:
Twitter is what you make it
New York Times News Service
February 12, 2009 at 1:40 PM EST
Writing can be solitary work, but not when you write a tech column. Feedback pours in so quickly – by e-mail, on blogs, in online comments – that it's almost real-time performance art.
For the longest time, my readers kept nagging me to check out this thing called Twitter. I'd been avoiding it, because it sounded like yet another one of those trendy Internet time drains. E-mail, blogs, chat, RSS, Facebook ... Who has time to tune in to yet another stream of Internet chatter?
True, there's nothing quite like Twitter. It's a website where you can broadcast very short messages – 140 characters, max – to anyone who's signed up to receive them. It's like a cross between a blog and a chat room. Your “followers” might include six friends from high school, or, if you're U.S. President Barack Obama, 254,484 of your most tech-savvy fans. (Incidentally, he hasn't sent out a single Twitter message since taking office. Where are his priorities?) Meanwhile, you sign up to receive the utterances of other people. Eventually, your screen fills with a scrolling display of their quips – jokes, recommended links, thoughts for the day, and a lot of “what I'm doing right now” stuff.
Even so, I was turned off by the whole ego thing. Your profile displays how many followers you have, as if it's some kind of worthiness tally. (See also: Facebook friend counter.) Then one day, I saw Twitter in action.
I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or website could have achieved the same effect. (It's only a matter of time before some Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.) So I signed up for a free account (under the name pogue) and stepped in.
It's not easy to figure out what's going on. Most people are supportive and happy to help you out. There is, however, such a thing as Twitter snobbery.
One guy took me to task for asking “dopey questions.” Others criticized me for various infractions, like not following enough other people, writing too much about non-tech topics or sending out too many or too few messages.
Determined to get the hang of it, I searched Google for “Twitter for beginners.” There were 927,000 search results.
(Of course, you get a staggering number of results when you search for anything on Google, which is why it's such a lame trick when journalists use Google tallies to prove their points. But I digress.) Most of these articles are lists of rules. One says to use Twitter to market your business; another says never to use Twitter to market your business. One recommends writing about what you're doing right now (after all, the typing box is labelled, “What are you doing?”); another says not to.
One of these rule sheets even says, “Add value. Build relationships. Think LONG term.” Are we talking about Twitter, or running for Congress?
My confusion continued until, at a conference, I met Evan Williams, chief executive and co-founder of Twitter. I told him about all the rules, all the advice, all the “you're not doing it right” gripers. I told him that the technology was exciting, but that all the naysayers and rule-makers were dampening my enthusiasm.
He shook his head apologetically – clearly, he's heard all this before – and told me the truth about Twitter: that they're all wrong.
Or, put another way, that they're all right.
Twitter, in other words, is precisely what you want it to be. It can be a business tool, a teenage time-killer, a research assistant, a news source – whatever. There are no rules, or at least none that apply equally well to everyone.
In fact, Williams said that a huge chunk of Twitter lore, etiquette and even terminology has sprouted up from Twitter users without any input from the company. For example, users came up with the term “tweets” for messages. The crowd began referring to fellow Twitterers by name like this: pogue. Soon, that notation became a standard shorthand that the Twitter software now recognizes. The masses also came up with conventions like “RT,” meaning re-tweet – you're passing along what someone else said on Twitter.
If you asked me to write my own “Rules for Twitter” document – No. 927,001 on Google – it would look something like this: 1. Don't knock it till you've tried it. Of course, this advice goes for anything in life. But listen: even my own masterful prose can't capture what you'll feel when you try Twitter. So try it.
If you don't get any value from it, close the window and never come back; that's fine. Despite all the press, Twitter is still largely a geek and early-adopter phenomenon at this point.
2. Don't use the website. I couldn't believe that 6 million Twitter users lumber off to a webpage every time they want to send or read tweets. Turns out they don't. About 70 per cent use sweet little free programs that sit at the edges of their screens (or run on their cell phones, especially iPhones) all day. They have names like TweetDeck, Twitterfeed, Twhirl and Twitterific.
3. You don't have to read all the tweets. It's common to check out someone's Twitter profile and read, “Following: 900 people.” Baloney. Nobody has the time to read all the tweets from more than about 30 people – at least, nobody with a life.
Clearly, these high subscribers just read the most recent ones, or skim for good ones, or use search.twitter.com to find messages on certain subjects.
4. You don't have to answer all the replies. If you have a lot of followers, you get a lot of replies to your tweets. Fortunately, this isn't e-mail; nobody expects you to answer everything.
5. If you're confused about replying, you're not alone. If you reply to one of my tweets, I can write back in either of two ways. I can reply as another public tweet, but of course nobody but you will have any idea what I'm talking about. (“puppydog: Maybe in Montana!!! LOL”).
Or I can send you a private Direct Message – but then our dialogue may end. You can't reply to my Direct Message unless I'm also following you (it's an antispam measure, according to Twitter). Get it? Me either. Twitter Inc. says it's working on fixing this and a host of other confusing elements.
6. Use it however you like. I've finally harnessed Twitter's power for my own nefarious ends. I pass on jokes. I share little thoughts that don't merit a full blog or article post. I follow links and track buddies. I un-follow people who are boring or post 50 times a day.
And I query the multitudes. Last week, I was writing a script for a TV segment, and needed a great example of “an arty movie that a teenage babysitter wouldn't be caught dead watching.” My followers instantly shot back a huge assortment of hilarious responses. ( Gandhi. My Dinner with Andre. The Red Balloon.) Other people plug their blogs, or commiserate, or break news; the first report of the plane in the Hudson came from a Twitterer. It's all good.
7. Don't worry about the rules. Including mine. Use Twitter the way you want to. Don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong.
Oh, and one more tip: when you're trying to get real work done, it's also okay to close Twitter. It may be powerful, useful, addictive and fascinating – but in the end, it's still an Internet time drain.