How do you explain Twitter to someone who’s never heard of it? Here’s how I tried, in a recent e-mail to a Facebook friend. (I think I got most of it right …)
Twitter’s been around for a while now and is extremely popular. It works in a similiar way to the Facebook Status Updates, in that you can tell people what you’re doing, thinking, planning, etc., but it goes out to the whole world rather than just your FB friends. (There are settings to either restrict the visibility of your posts, so that just friends can see them, or to allow the Public Timeline to display them, i.e. to everyone worldwide.)
You can send short messages of 140 characters max via the web, or various web applications that access the Twitter interface, or even your mobile (in a number of countries), and those messages are then sent to all the users who have elected to “follow” you. Similarly, you can elect to follow other users and see all their messages — or “tweets”, as they’re endearingly called.
Incoming tweets, and the tweets you send, can be read either at your Twitter Profile page (when you’ve set one up — which is very easy), and you can also have them sent direct to your mobile as text messages if you’re away from your computer.
Here’s my Twitter Profile page: twitter.com/SomersetBob
I started using it about a year ago, then discovered FaceBook and concentrated on using that. Now I’ve sort of rediscovered Twitter and am getting back into using it again.
Several applications have been developed to interact with Twitter and display the info in various different ways. Sometimes it’s not convenient to have your Twitter page open all the time in a browser (and you have to manually refresh it to see latest tweets), so something like Twhirl, which works without a browser, is better — it automatically checks regularly to see if there are any new tweets and notifies you with pop-ups: twhirl.org
There are a few FaceBook applications designed to work with Twitter. Unfortunately, almost all of them I’ve been playing with over the past few days have technical problems!
There’s one built by the Twitter Team called, appropriately enough, Twitter, which my Facebook friends can see working in my Facebook Profile, but unfortunately the settings page is corrupted and inaccessible until someone fixes whatever’s wrong!
Another app, called TwitterVision, was originally designed to work outside FB, and they then developed an app for FB, but although it works well at its own site, this app doesn’t work properly inside FB either! (It doesn’t seem to update the box in my Profile with my latest tweets.) Try it at its own web site — it’s a map that displays many of the tweets from around the world almost as fast as they’re posted. Fun to watch!
This one’s a bit complicated to set up, but again my FB friends can see it in my FB Profile — it displays various feeds (not only Twitter) from me and my friends, and updates every time we add either a tweet to Twitter, add pics to Flickr or add other things to other social networking sites such as YouTube, del.icio.us, etc. This one seems to be working OK at present!
There you go — checking out that little lot should keep you busy for a while!