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.
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 twitter.com, 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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