In a fit of experimentation, I signed up for Twitter at the end of February. I must confess it seemed a bit silly, but I try to live by "don't knock it till you've tried it" and similar platitudes (they're cliched because they're true).
I've now been 'tweeting' a little over a month, I have nearly 100 followers and have posted nearly 200 updates. So I thought it was time to share some of what I've found.
- One of the things that really took some getting used to is the use of @ replies - a message beginning @username is treated as a reply to that person, but still sits in your stream of updates along with the 'real' messages which aren't addressed to any specific person. This creates a signal-to-noise ratio which makes it quite hard, when you encounter a new person, to work out whether they're worth listening to. Imagine that when you first visited my blog, you got all my 'outbox' emails as well as blog posts. To start with I tried to avoid sending these (for that reason) but by doing so, you miss out on the great conversational aspect of Twitter. I still wish there was a way to filter them out of the mini-feed in my blog's sidebar.
- There's also the facility to send direct messages but only to people who are following you (so far as I can tell). The 140 character limit still applies; this is handy if you want to reply to something in private or simply keep down the number of @ replies.
- There are lots of spambots which (I'm guessing) follow all new accounts. They're annoying insomuchas you think you've got a new follower but it's not a real person, but they also seem to be harmless. Thankfully the bots are not (yet!) sending @ messages with directed spam.
- I'm using a site called twitterfeed to push links to all my blog posts on to Twitter. A few new people have found my blog that way, and it means the links between blog & Twitter are bidirectional.
- Writing such short messages is good discipline, especially for someone like me who's prone to go on a bit. It's probably kept down the number of short and/or link-filled posts on this blog, because if I can think of a way to write something in very few words I'll now tweet it instead.
- I've also got useful recommendations, recipes and article links from the people I'm following, and had lots of interesting conversations with some great people.
- The ability to tweet by text message was handy when I went away for a week. I set up scheduled blog posts, but I could also tweet in real-time about my holiday, so I could keep in touch (a bit) even though I couldn't read replies from my phone.
- My main concern is that Twitter is one company - as contrasted with blogs, which can be hosted on one of a number of free services (like Blogger) or on your own website. I would predict that Twitter will have less longevity than blogging for that very reason. If Blogger closed tomorrow I could reinstate my blog somewhere else, but if Twitter closed then that would be the end of that, for the moment at least. I wonder whether that will change.