First – what is twitter?
Think of Twitter like a personal IM account that can be shared with everyone. Once you have a Twitter account set up, you can send short IM, SMS, or web-based messages to Twitter. Others who are marked as your friends or followers receive those messages. And there’s a public timeline that displays everything everyone is texting (there’s also an option to keep messages private, and to send messages only to individuals, which triggers an email).
It’s growing rapidly in popularity right now among the uber tech geeks of the world because… well, just because. It’s a geek fad, if you will. And SXSWi (an emerging tech/web 2.0 conference) is going on right now, and everyone there is apparently having fun with Twitter.
Second, for the library part
Apparently, some in the library blogosphere are questioning why they should pay attention to twitter, and are wondering how it can be useful to libraries.
Here’s what I’d say to that. Simply stated, if you’re asking why you should pay attention, you probably don’t need to. It’s not an interest of yours, and that’s cool. I didn’t have a facebook account for a long time for the same reasons – I simply couldn’t think of a good reason to get one, so I didn’t (I have one now). I have a linkdin account, but don’t do much with it (ie., I probably didn’t need one).
And that’s ok. With emerging trends, you really should play with the stuff you’re interested in, and let others mess with things that don’t interest you. But then – and this is important – SHARE. So with Twitter, I’ll watch twitter and tell you if I find something useful for libraries. You go watch something else, and report back, too – that’s how the blogosphere works! Make sense?
And third, what in the world might twitter be useful for? Here are my 10 Ways to Use Twitter:
- staying in touch with geek friends and colleagues
- Using private messages – then it’s really about staying in touch with true friends and family (that is, if your friends and family sms and IM frequently)
- keeping up-to-date with emerging tools (remember – Flickr started out as a silly web photography game, not the amazing social tool it’s turned into)
- News updates – CNN and BBC both have twitter feeds (ooh – a library use!)
- loosely following a well-wifi’d geek/techie conference
- Following the thought processes of emerging tech trend thinkers. Ex – Robert Scoble has a twitter account and over 1000 friends. He’s been asking his friends questions – and getting 1000 replies. Think of how blog posts and comments and trackbacks work – but on steroids. Instead of waiting a day or so for other thoughts, with twitter you get them within the hour, tops. Setup correctly, that could prove to be an amazing “collective brain current awareness” database that you could tap at any time.
- when interviewing someone for a job, check to see if they twitter – then check their twitter feed just like you’d google them and check their blog (if they had one)
- Check out a potential colleague’s twitter feed to see if you’d personally like them or not
- twitter as a personal note bucket – send yourself random thoughts that you don’t want to lose. They’re stored in your account’s history!
- Current awareness search tool. For this to work, Twitter would need a search engine (which I don’t think it has) or something like Google would need to be used. SO a bit of a dream here… BUT stay with me here for a sec. With Flickr, you can troll the popular tags feature and see what’s going on in the world. I’m assuming that with Twitter, if something BIG happens, people using Twitter would be texting about it. That could be an amazing resource to get the “feel of the streets” during a major event (cool, another library use).
So there you go. Right now, I think Twitter is simply fun – and sorta funny, too (I found out that Steve Lawson just made pancakes!). But I also think it’s an interesting emerging social tool to watch – if nothing else, it’s helping me stay current with emerging social trends.