Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twitts of the World, Unite!

The great thing about email is, you can ignore it. One of the things I can't stand about skype and IM is that, by design, they are very intrusive (or can be), to the point where I can't think straight. I'm slow, so I need a lot of uninterrupted time to think. Thus, I've held the same opinion, a fortiori, about Twitter. The very name has been its own aversion, for me.

Well, so much for principles. That all changed last week when I was presenting at the Portland CMG regional group. In a side conversation, Ed Borasky (one of the local FOSS literati, amongst other things), started extolling the virtues of Twitter to me and suggested that I "follow him" if I wanted to get a better idea of what it was about. So, when I got back home, I did.

But first, a word from our sponsor ...

Very quickly, however, I grokked it (more or less) and started digging around in what is otherwise a very intriguing world of its own. Here are some of my early impressions:
  • Twitter just turned three years old. Still, no one really knows what it is. If they say they do, they're lyin' to ya.
  • It has an API. This is what Ed B. and I were discussing.
  • A twitter message ("tweet") is text, restricted to 140 chars; including URLs. Every character counts!
  • Non-ASCII characters are allowed. I've even seen some Wingdings used.
  • Tweets are obviously synergetic with SMS-style texting in the mobile world.
  • Tweets do not allow embedded graphics e.g., small PNG or GIF (photos can be hyperlinked). This could be changed.
  • Twitter is to Email as UDP (stateless) is TCP (stateful).
  • Replies have to be fairly immediate or the meaning could be lost. There is no email-style "quote" context.
  • Unlike MySpace, your home page is restricted in terms of dazzle effects. Amen to that!
  • Where do all the old tweets go? They don't die and they don't fade away (just out of sight, our of mind). Retrieving old tweets is apparently a more complex issue than retrieving old emails. I don't understand why.
  • There is a subtle simplicity to almost everything you do. This is both a strength and a weakness.
  • There is some unconventional symbology (e.g., usage of '@' and '#') which takes a little getting used to.
  • Twitter is like the photon; the "mediator" or "force carrier" that provides the interaction between blogs, email and web sites.
Last, but not least, if John McCain can do it (can he really type?), I can do it! If you're interested in finding out more, come and "follow me" on Twitter.

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