Friday, 21 March 2008

Twittering - the new way to be connected

I've recently started experimenting with a number of Web 2.0 styled sites, one of which is Twitter. This tool allows you to basically let folks know what you're doing. I've embedded a great video about what Twitter is that I found on Youtube by some folks producing a series called The Common Craft Show. Feel free to play it before reading the rest of the article if you have no idea what Twitter is.

I usually "twitter" at least once a day and do so in one of several ways. The website itself, once you're logged in, provides the traditional "forms-based" way of doing updates. The Twitter contact I have in Google Talk provides a more convenient way for me to twitter, since I check my Gmail at least once a day. There is also an option to make status updates on what you are doing via your mobile carrier's SMS (Short Message Service), however this feature is currently unsupported in Trinidad's mobile network.

My updates are broadcast several ways.
Firstly it is broadcast to all my followers on Twitter. The TwitterFacts blog sums it well by defining a follower as someone who has indicated another Twitter account as following and receives all updates of that other Twitter account. My updates appear on my Twitter homepage, as well as that of every one of my followers.
Secondly, my Facebook homepage gets its status updated so that my friends will see this status change when they log in to Facebook. So if I set my status on Twitter to "I am home", my Facebook listing would have my status as "Nissan is twittering: I am at home." This is a great example of where advertising doesn't become intrusive and one word ("twittering") is a willing price I pay for the convenience of easier updating of my Facebook status (and in turn making me feel Facebook is useful again in some way).
Finally I have embedded in this very blog a Javascript that updates the sidebar of my blog's layout with my status. I think this is the feature I like most since it allows me to increase the level of dynamic content present with less effort than that needed to, let's say, write an entire useful blog post.

Just as I have followers, I too am a follower of several other Twitter users, including several fellow Trinidadians. Their updates appear on my Twitter page, although an option exists to enable updates via instant messages in Google Talk. I am trying out the latter feature. The option to have status updates come via SMS to your mobile phone is not available in Trinidad, and I wonder if it were if I would really feel the need to have that feature activated for any of my Twitter friends.
(As a sidenote, Trinidadian mobile carriers do not charge for incoming text messages, so the billing problems the "Twitter vis SMS" feature causes in the USA would not exist if implemented.)

Over time I hope to give my own detailed take on Twitter, its uses and its usefulness. For now, if you wish, you can follow me and give your own opinions, good and bad, about the tool. Comments on whether you think it is crossing a level of connectedness that borders beyond your own level of comfort would be especially appreciated. For now I'll leave you to take in Twittervision, a mashup site that combines Twitter status updates from people around the world with the Google Maps map of the world