New York Times tech columnist David Pogue is, surprisingly, new to Twitter. He’s written a column about it that provides a good description of what it’s like to use the potentially bewildering service. It’s worth a look if you’re considering signing up. I liked this bit about how bottom-up spontaneous order turned a very basic application into a wonderful network:
In fact, [founder Evan] Williams said that a huge chunk of Twitter lore, etiquette and even terminology has sprouted up from Twitter users without any input from the company. For example, the people came up with the term “tweets” (what everyone calls the messages). The crowd began referring to fellow Twitterers by name like this: @pogue. Soon, that notation became a standard shorthand that the Twitter software now recognizes. The masses also came up with conventions like “RT,” meaning re-tweet — you’re passing along what someone else said on Twitter.
Pogue also says that I have no life:
Nobody has the time to read all the tweets from more than about 30 people — at least, nobody with a life.
Hey, I follow 149 people and I at least skim all of their updates. On the other hand, I’m terribly underemployed right now and stayed up till 4 am last night reading comic books, so maybe he has a point.
But seriously, scanning through Twitter doesn’t take that long and it’s a key part of my morning routine, which usually goes something like: Check email, brew coffee, scan Twitter, go through my RSS feeds, open news websites, and finally sort my Firefox tabs. Twitter is an effective way to get rapidly up to speed on what my friends are doing and what’s going on in the world.
An interesting side effect of being on the West Coast is how my feed changes throughout the day. It starts out very political with lots of updates from DC friends, who still make up the bulk of my contacts. By early evening here they’re closing down for the night or posting drunken tweets. By late night the politics are gone and it’s just my non-political food and drink friends from Europe and the West Coast posting updates. By morning it’s back to heavy politics from the East Coast crew who’ve been up for hours ahead of me.
I would add one more rule to what Pogue suggests: If you have a blog, don’t link every post in your Twitter feed. An occasional highlight is fine, but anyone tech-savvy enough to be on Twitter has probably mastered RSS. They’ll follow your blog if they want to.
By the way, I am @jacobgrier on Twitter if you’d like to follow for faster, briefer content like what you see on this blog, along with random personal updates.
[Hat tip to Maureen Ogle, who needs to stop writing about Twitter and just join it already! Even if only as an experiment.]