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Twitter and the "Twittest"

If there is such a thing as an "unbloggable" session, this was it.  Michael Sauers and his colleagues led a very fast-paced and real-time demonstration of what you can do with Twitter and how it can be used for information related applications.  Because it was live, I can’t show you any visuals, but I did learn some very useful things about Twitter.  There is an entire world out there that’s using it in unimaginable ways!

If you haven’t heard about Twitter, it is a rapid messaging service that limits users to 140 character messages.  You can follow other people using it and see what they are up to.  A post is called a "Tweet", so creating them is "Tweeting".  There are even Twitter search engines and aggregators.  It can be accessed via the web, a client, bookmarklets, e-mail,  SMS, or blogs.

Here are 7 tips to a good Twitter experience.

So what has Twitter been used for besides random chatting?  Presidential candidate sites offer a Twitter feed to keep up on where your candidate is and what’s happening in the campaign.  When the Los Angeles Fire Department receives an alarm, it sends a Tweet with the exact location of the fire so emergency responders can go there directly.  It could be used for reference questions in libraries, web site updates, or weather forecasts.  In fact, anything where an ultra-simple blogging application would be useful is ideal for Twitter (that’s why it’s called "microblogging").  And you can search Twitter content with a special search engine.

Twitter can be distracting and intrusive and can use up lots of time if you are following many friends.  In fact, if you receive too many SMS Tweets, your cell phone can become useless because it’s perpetually busy receiving them!

It may seem to many that Twitter is simply a passing fancy or for use only by the younger generation, but the examples cited here show that it may have many "serious" uses.  One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that you cannot understand how it can be useful until you try it.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and IL 2008 Blog Coordinator

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