Monday, September 22, 2008

The Phenomenon Called Twitter

Those who scroll down this blog and notice the "Latest Update from Twitter" section and don't know what the bleep Twitter is, read on. Those who already know what Twitter is, follow me already!

Twitter is a social networking tool that utilizes microblogging - statements of opinion, fact, or links that are alloted only 140 characters at a time. Anyone who knows my public username ("siskita") can read all the posts I make to twitter (done typically via a computer, but some twitter using their mobile phones or smart phones). One can send direct messages to one another which are private, or tag each of their 'twits' (= a twitter message) in a way that the public knows who you are talking to.

You can "follow" others and in exchange be "followed" by other people. When you follow someone, all of their twits are visible to you in a long list from your homepage once you log in. When someone follows you, your twits are visible to them. You can also block people if you don't like them viewing your twits, and seeing as there are a lot of "spam" users out there with only money-making purposes in mind, that's often an option.

I follow some people who I admire on a creative level. John Hodgman ("hodgman" on Twitter) of Daily Show/writing/PC commercial fame, John Cleese ("JohnCleese") of Monty Python fame, Bill Corbett ("BillCorbett") & Kevin Murphy ("kwmurphy") & Rifftrax ("rifftrax") of Mystery Science Theater fame, Peter Sagal ("petersagal") host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and Rob Long ("rcbl") writer & "Martini Shot" podcaster. The really crazy thing is watching some of them having twitter conversations with each other.

I follow my direct friends and their creations, among them my husband ("thepete"), my sister ("lisarein"), my friend Grae's movie podcast ("popcornmafia"), singer friend John ("johntorresmusic") and friends Alejandro ("biomix') and Tim ("timtoon").

I follow for professional reasons ("broadwaybullet" podcast for musical theater and "ActorNation" as a networking tool) and to get news ("CNNbrk," "BreakingNewsOn"). I also get snippets of encouragement, information, and understanding about health on a daily basis ("ediets," "skinnyjeans," and "healthydiets").

Lastly, there's the laugh factor. "Baby_Obama" gets me now with his (her?) twits on the current campaign trail, "DarthVader" enjoys sending out Empirical commands to his followers, and "Momku" offers up a mother-themed haiku as a comedic break from the day.

The only big issues with Twitter are that sometimes the white "Fail Whale" pops up at login to tell us that the Twitter servers are over capacity, but that often susses itself out within a short amount of time. Sometimes I must re-think my twits to a shortened alottment of characters (which, in all fairness, is a pretty good habit to get into). And I must use either or to abbreviate some long links.

During the DNC and RNC of recent 2008, my husband and I twittered through the speeches and added #DNC08 and #RNC08 to each of our twits. That made our twits searchable via outside hub websites (for example and Because of this, my husband's blog was even mentioned on C-Span2 by Leslie Bradshaw ("Leslieann44") who specializes in "new media, online advocacy, and brand management" and works as Public Affairs Community Manager for New Media Strategies and JESS3.

Twitter, in all its simplicity, has tapped into a certain brain function that appreciates brevity, linked information, and the focus of online personality. As a twitterer, you have to be aware of the public nature of each twit (unless sent as a direct message) and have a clear understanding of how you control your online personae (real or made up). It is a place of entertainment, gossip, information, opinion and communal discussion. And it's quite easy to learn (I'm talking to you, old timers!).

Twit away!


Leslie Bradshaw said...

Hi Sierra, thanks so much for the shout-out :)

Great post as well.

The kind of connectivity and efficiency that Twitter allows is pretty mind blowing. While it could certainly have other features and include a more robust profile, I am pretty sure that it works so well because it is so simple.

ThePete cracks me up as well, glad to have had the chance to get to know him.

All the very best,

Leslie Bradshaw said...

PS: We just linked ThePete on C-SPAN's Debate Hub. He pitched us over Twitter, of course ;)

Come on by, check it out...

The Timeline and Word Tree features have some amazing search and embed functionalities, feel free to play around and post about it if you are so inclined :)