Jemima Kiss

Twitter on Today

Twitter made it to the hallowed halls of the Today programme this morning, and I managed to get a word in. These kind of ‘Twitter for the masses’ explainers can only ever really skim the surface, but one day some form of grown-up Twitter will be ubiquitous and then we’ll have the last laugh.

You can listen again if you’re keen (about half way through the last half-hour) and If that doesn’t work, try this file instead.

As I’ve said before, the two main barriers to Twitter take-up are 1) that it is hard to explain what it is and 2) that it takes along time to curate a manageable and useful group of friends. If you’re into technology it’s much easier because that’s where most of the users are now, but it is opening out slowly.

My tips for starting out are:

- Get an account at, dig around a bit to see who looks interesting and follow a few people. Others will come and follow you eventually, but persuade a friend to start at the same time. You can’t just sign up and wait for Twitter to happen – you have to push it forward, as Salt’n'Pepa once sort of said.

- Think of Twitter messages in three ways: functional messages (‘Does anyone know a good site for cheap flights?’), discussion (‘Can someone give me feedback on these photos?’) or, for the more poetically inclined, haiku-style notes about your day or observations on life. These are fascinating mini-insights into fleeting moments in our life that we may not remember otherwise and become quite special, in retrospect. (‘Beautiful day, and walking with Mum by the river. Hoping the apple crumble doesn’t burn while we’re out!’)

- Having to pop back to a web page every time you want to check Twitter or send a message is a bit of a pain – hence some lovely techies setting up services like Twhirl or Twitterrific that you can download and use just like an instant messenger service. It will make all the difference. I’d advise that you set up your mobile with Twitter (see the instructions under the settings tab) but set it to only receive direct messages. These are private messages between you and other people, sort of a Twitter back channel. That way when you’re out you can skip the ambient chatter but still get direct messages. I was stuck in a cab once and neither the driver or me had the correct address – Twitterers came to the rescue!

- There are so many possible uses for Twitter. It’s a very functional group messaging service – if your ten closest mates were signed up you could say ‘I’m in the pub’ and would only have to send one message instead of paying for ten. And you could also use it for more creative projects, something I’d like to explore when I clone myself and have some time to do ‘art’ outside of all-consuming work time.

The real point, though, is that we should all be a little more willing to explore these tools without feeling the need to classify it or nail it down to some definite function when it is still so young. So many inventions were born out of a completely different idea; vinyl records were a spin-off (no pun intended) from a project for talking dolls or some such… It’s far easier to dismiss something out of hand than to be open-minded, creative and playful.

See you on Twitter!

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17 Responses to “Twitter on Today”

  1. WebUrs Says:

    Here is a list of tools we use 1, 4, 8, 9 AND 11 on this list of 12 tools that help you be more effective with Twitter:

    Might be helpful to some.

  2. Paul D. Waite Says:

    > one day some form of grown-up Twitter will be ubiquitous

    I reckon the Facebook status line is already there. Many of my non-geek friends update theirs regularly, but still stare blankly when I try to explain that “Twitter’s like an entire website that’s just the Facebook status line”.

  3. Darren Says:

    This is great, I can use the “I am in the pub” bit to persuade my non-Twitter mates to sign up. :-)

    Re Facebook, I was asking a friend (who was already on Facebook) if he used Twitter.
    He dismissed it so I sent him a link to my page on Twitter – he replied saying “It’s like Facebook without the spam!”.
    Two minutes later he had signed up and was Tweeting away.

  4. wendy Says:

    Love it. Fast pace for fun. Powerful technical resource has helped me to build up a wealth of incredibly useful links covering a wide range of ideas, concepts and issues. Great bunch of highly knowledgeable people. One of the few sights where I feel fairly happy to use part of my name rather than a pseudonym.

  5. Sean Says:

    You might want to take twitterfone or dial2do for a test-drive. Could fit your style nicely.


  6. Mark Says:

    I’m a full on convert; I tried once last year and didn’t really get it – but the use of Twirhl really does open Twitter up and following some useful resources like the BBC and key bloggers such as Techcrunch has really opened my eyes to its potential. I’ve tried to persuade the girlfriend to get involved with it but she just thinks its crap, so thanks for adding more weight to my argument!

  7. Sim-O Says:

    That is it, it is like the face book status, but with out the vampires, the werewolves the dodgy security issues and all that.

    I joined twitter for a trial run and still don’t know why I am using it but I do. It sort of gets to you a bit.

    Just for this post a lone, you’re going in my blogroll.

  8. Jonathan Says:

    Warning! Anyone texting to the so-called UK number is charged at 25p PER MESSAGE! Many people are finding out the hard way. I have a recording of a conversation with Three customer services about this confusion, and how they explain it away. Interesting…

  9. Aaron Heath Says:

    Great stuff.

    And Sim-O above, is also worth following. :o )

  10. cstechcast Says:

    Excellent post. I’m following you on Twitter and between you and several others, I’m figuring out the groove of the service. When you sign up, you feel a little lost, but you hit it spot on. Make some friends, find a niche, and it’s all good.
    - Eric, @CStechcast

  11. Mark Andrew Webber Says:

    hey thanks for all that information about twitter! wow!.. im new to the thing.. and seems like an interesting place to get into!.. i like the sound of that twirl thing!.. im going to have to give it a try as it is a bit of a pain having to keep logging in when i have soooooo many other sites im a part of already!..

    so are you a writer for the guardian? i recently carved a front cover of the newspaper, and did it in my own way, i figured it would make it more interesting that way, as its pure typography as i couldnt carve the pictures too… I was wondering how on earth can i send a print of my linocut to the guardian.. its A0 (a little bit bigger) but i look on the guardian website and am not sure im allowed to send you guys artworks?

    anyways cheers again!
    have a nice day!

  12. BOKE Says:

    (haven’t posted a message here before ..need a quick test to see how the comment box formats .. i.e, reduces linebreaks etc)

    [17:18] You’ve got these rather lovely haiku-style diary entries,
    {15 syllables}

    [17:21] because people are limited
    [17:23] to a text-message length.
    {14 syllables}

    (end of test … if this works, I’ll post the rest:)

  13. BOKE Says:

    Stumbled over here after a exchange … and discovered BBC Radio 4 because of the April 19th program link above … (Listened to Saturday Live for the first time, also… Ah the Brits are so much more eloquent than Americans, aren’t you. :)

    Anyway … was led (by my strange tendencies) to analyze the 5-minute technology piece on Today… especially your remarks:

    KISS #1) 17:18-17:35

    [17:18] You’ve got these rather lovely haiku-style diary entries,
    {15 syllables}

    [17:21] because people are limited
    [17:23] to a text-message length.
    {14 syllables}

    [17:25] — So –
    [17:25] you have rather charming
    [17:26] insights into people’s day, into what they’re doing,
    {15 syllables}

    [17:29] into,
    [17:29] I don’t know, an int’resting, (a)
    [17:31] a line of conversation they may have had,
    {16 syllables}

    [17:33] or,
    [17:33] or a line from a film,
    [17:34] or something they’ve thought of.
    [17:35] # # #
    (13 syllables)

    —– (more lazily)

    KISS #2)
    [18:26] Ten years ago everybody dismissed the idea of mobile phones
    [18:29] and now it’s impossible to imagine living without them.

    [18:32] I’d really like people to be a bit more positive, perhaps a bit more playful
    [18:36] in just exploring these things.and see where they go



    Your nemisis (twitter-is-a-circle-o-hell): 50 seconds
    Kiss (twitter is lovely/charming): 25 seconds
    (Half the time, but you did get the last word.)

    BOTTOM LINE: (Rhetorical question lol) Why don’t you make this page a publicly edited wiki? ;)

  14. Sim-O Says:

    Boke: Why don’t you make this page a publicly edited wiki?

    In a way it is.
    In a another way, it’s a conversation…
    And conversations are quite nice.

    Aren’t they?

  15. BOKE Says:

    re: “publicly edited wiki” and “conversations”

    Please excuse my attempt at charming ellipticality lol … I was being cheeky about the Kiss-ing of PEWs (a smiling allusion to a previous discussion over at

    Love that you’ve added “conversation” to the equation. Perfect…

    Ah, tea time here in America (I think, lol). Solutions must wait.

  16. BOKE Says:

    Ah, had tea, food, sleep … what were we conversing about? :) Some tangent about PEWs … which are not the topic … so we’ll save that for elsewhere.

    Not to keep a conversation going in an “old” thread … but I do have a couple of quick questions about British pronunciation from the Today piece. Here’s the sound bite transcribed:

    re: Gordon Brown/Downing Street Tweets

    LEE BRYANT (socal media consultant) :
    [16:44] I think they’ve got this completely backwards.
    [16:46] I mean, in an ideal world, you know,
    [16:48] the Prime Minister’s office would be listening to what WE Tweet, on Twitter…
    [16:52] Or, or listening to our emails … or our petitions … and then responding.
    [16:56] (erm), I have absolutely no interest in knowing, EXACTLY where Gordon Brown is, or what he’s doing at any minute of the day.,
    [17:03] And, ah, [?? take it as writ ??], if that information was actually useful, he wouldn’t be Twit’ing it anyway.

    QUESTION 1: I wasn’t sure. Did Bryant say “take it as writ,” or something else? If so, what?

    QUESTION 2: (not in the sound bite) Is Jemimah Kiss actually pronounced Jemima “Kish” (which is what the host seemed to be saying)?

    (ASIDE: As for the content of the statement, perhaps we should direct him to … where he will find that Senator Obama is “doing” exactly what Mr. Brant suggests. TO WIT: Obama is following 61,955 while being followed by only 59,293. ;)

  17. Earwig Says:

    What the fuck is the difference between Twitter and sending an SMS? I don’t get it. Or why not send an e-mail?