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Twitter – now I get it!

I suppose there are many people who scratch their heads wondering what Twitter is all about. I’ve found a couple of things I find useful there, but overall the service is more of a curiosity than a necessity to me. I really don’t need to know when somebody I’m following goes to the bathroom…

I only follow three Twitterers (is that right?), and one of them isn’t even a person, it’s the Mars Phoenix Lander. The Phoenix doesn’t post often, but since it’s hardly front page news anymore, it’s a good way to keep up with what’s happening on Mars, in case I have to make a quick departure after the elections. I also follow a company I’m very interested in – this is a great way to get news out about what your company is doing, and this company clearly “gets it.” (This is not a reference to Team McCain.)

I tried following one of the important tech bloggers, but I found his tweets totally useless, since he always pointed to posts that I already see in Google Reader.

Tonight, I saw the real power of what Twitter can do. The site started a new service that does real-time coverage of the presidential race (which is starting to look like a potato sack race for one of the candidates, but that’s a different topic). I discovered this when I was looking for some coverage of the final presidential debate.

The website is http://election.twitter.com/. If you keep the page open, you’ll see real-time streaming tweets from people commenting on the campaign, and the screen keeps scrolling as new comments come by. Really neat – sorta like the marquee displays on cable news channels, except without their filters.

Here’s a screen capture from October 15, 2008. Click on it to see a larger version.

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3 Responses

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  1. Dan Rink says

    Walt,

    Great content and very clean simple, compelling blog design.
    I know it’s based on the standard template, but you cleaned it
    up and included just what is needed.

    Dan

  2. Old Louis says

    Actually, I just registered from Facebook, where I find out that “friends” are doing such compelling things as looking forward to a good weekend, or are on their way home.

    Do young people have an endless appetite for emails, texts, etc? Personally, I find them a pain in the ass.

  3. walt says

    There’s an awful lot of junk (at least to me) on the social networking sites, but also some gems. And it doesn’t seem to be age-related. The best people I “friended” on Facebook are my age. One friend posts fascinating articles he reads, and introduced me (and others) to fivethirtyeight.com.

    The way to look at Twitter is as a kind of permanent instant messenger that lots of people can read. In that context, it’s very appealing to some. Personally, I’m way too boring to post anything there.

    One of the really interesting phenomena is that hip marketing and PR agencies are starting to use Twitter for campaigns – something to watch, because I believe it’s not just a fad.

    Email can be a PITA (get with the acronyms, old friend). Some people have replaced email with Twits. Not me, not yet.