Twitter seems to be the latest topic everyone’s talking about. Many people can’t see the point, others are hooked. What’s the deal? What is it? What’s it for?
When I first came across Twitter a couple of years ago, I wondered what the point of it was. It appeared to be for brief updates on what you were doing at the time. I envisaged boring little sentences about eating lunch, listening to music, having a shower – rather like an “away from the keyboard” status on instant messengers. I thought it was some passing (useless) fad and disregarded it.
I recently gave it another try and am now a convert. Instead of viewing Twitter as a medium for viewing people’s answers to the question “what are you doing?”, you can regard it as a micro version of your RSS feeds. Everyone now seems to have a Twitter page and regularly post “tweets”. Online newspapers, your favourite blogger, libraries, librarians, celebrities, politicians, journalists – you name them, they’re probably there. All you need to do is decide who is interesting enough to follow and you’ll discover fascinating tidbits about them, get directed to a link, get up-to-the-minute news, feedback on library conferences or journalist interviews, and find out the latest on all manner of topics. Some educational institutions have even started using it for their students – “Twitter breaks down barriers in the classroom“.
The Guardian newspaper, the technical section of which I follow on Twitter, recently posted a link about Twitter on Twitter, entitled Is Twitter killing RSS feeds? This is a good question. I have a Bloglines account on which I subscribe to various blogs and websites. How often do I visit Bloglines? Almost never, especially since I started using Twitter. Twitter seems easier to use. Perhaps I’m just too lazy to click on each separate link to view the latest blog post or update? The point of RSS feed aggregators such as Bloglines was to be able to view all your favourite websites (at least those that have RSS feeds) in one place. But even then I tended to scroll down my list of bookmarks instead of logging into Bloglines. But now at Twitter I can just scroll down one page and view the latest updates from my favourites in a matter of seconds. Having said that, RSS aggregators still have their uses, especially for updates on saved database searches, for example.
Twitter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d recommend you give it a try, even if just to see what others are doing with it. A search for libraries or librarians, for example, will result on a large number of ‘Twitterers’. I follow such people as Lawrence Lessig, Stephen Fry, Greenpeace, online newspapers and several librarians from around the world. It can be not only interesting but very useful.
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