Monday, March 12, 2007

People Are Freaking Tweaking on Twitter

Maybe that's going a little far, but a lot of people are certainly talking about Twitter, the so called "micro blogging" service that fires super short and super simple messages to groups of contacts based around the premise of: "what are you doing right now?"

That's the spirit of the Internet, really, capturing the essence of what's new and what's hot and what's going on this very second, and Twitter has found a way to capture some buzz, at the least, by harnessing that wave. I've just returned to the country after a month of mostly being offline (on a quest to find hobbits, as legend has it), and Twitter Fever has emerged as the big story during my absence.

Pete Cashmore at Mashable pulls out the "cat blogging" card in a snort-worthy piece entitled "The Evolution of Blogging, Cat Version." (Cat blogging is a derogatory term for navel-gazing bloggers who write about what they had for breakfast, how they felt after cleaning the dishes, and yes, what Fluffy McWhiskers has been up to of late.) Pete breaks down the issue perfectly by depicting two camps: those who see a "new blogging paradigm - short, to-the-point messages that let your friends, family and the world know exactly where you are and what you’re doing, every second of the day" and those who scratch their heads (or navels) and ask, "what's the point?" It's pretty easy to see where Pete stands on this one.

Mathew Ingram is by measures kinder in writing that the name Twitter "…is perfect, since it conveys precisely the kind of instantaneous, frivolous, and maybe even scatter-brained nature of the app itself, like a bird twittering." He admits, however, that it is "… a pretty cool way of sending out short thoughts."

While admitting that it's "antithetical to life-hacking," Chris Brogan of lifehack.org is a big fan and opines on five ways to use Twitter for good, including quick surveys of friends, news briefings (you can sign up for RSS-like updates from sources such as CNN and BBC), "friendsourcing" (using contact lists to seek out resources or information), and sharing information.

Marshall Kirkpatrick runs down Top 10 Twitter Things, which includes searchability of Twitter entries on blog and other search engines, the applicability of the product to save lives during a natural disaster, and BART updates for Bay Area commuters.

I spent some time messing with Twitter today and don't think I'll be utilizing it in my daily online activities, but I can see how people will find unique and personalized ways to use the service. Webomatica defines Twitter's realm as "a small space between IM, MyBlogLog, email, and blogs." Steve Rubel, for instance, enjoys the fact that Twitter allowed him to find out that Scooter Libby had been convicted – thanks to a Twitter message sent out by Jason Calacanis – through the service's IM applicability (it can also be used via SMS).

Another pretty cool use of Twitter: Democratic presidential aspirant John Edwards has joined in, so you can keep up with his undoubtedly hectic schedule as he attempts to capture the White House.

My guess is that over the long term, regular Twitter users will fall into three broad categories: manic warriors of the web 2.0 edge (Rubel, Calacanis), obsessive social networkers (a selection of MySpacers), and niche users (San Francisco commuters).

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