A TOOL FOR ALL SEASONS
Twitter, the new instant messaging/place-blogging/micro-blogging service continues to be in the news (via Techmeme), with the mainstream media now getting in on the action. The Wall Street Journal has a piece on the emerging Twitter culture, and it's interesting reading if you've missed the hubbub for now.
As I mentioned a few days ago, I've been a "Twitterite" since the service's launch last June.
However, my Twittering has become more active only over the last few weeks.
Twitter's utility is driven by it's network adoption, so it only gets more useful as more people start to use it. Especially if those people are part of a community and/or interest that you share.
In that it's like having a fax machine. It becomes more useful as more people get fax machines.
Waxy.org has a good post on how the service has grown in usage over the past few weeks, with additional charts and data.
Twitter is almost like an online version of a Swiss Army Knife. It can be used in multiple ways: as an IM (instant messaging) service that spans devices, as a "place-blogging" service, as a "micro-blogging service, and so on.
My use of it has spanned all these types of uses. Let me elaborate. So far, I've used Twitter,
1. As a way to keep in touch with bloggers I follow.
In this form it's mostly an IM service, albeit one that can be accessed on PCs and cellphones/blackberries/PDAs.
Twitter allows more social interaction with bloggers one's tracked for a long time. So it enhances the experience of being part of a particular blogging community. In many cases, it may even inspire more blogging, as the "bursty" interaction with other bloggers spurs on-going debates and discussions.
2. As a "link blog".
That is to say a quick way to submit short two-line snippets that may be of interest to folks, that otherwise would be too short for a regular blog entry.
As a blogger it means getting one's readers to either start checking one's twitter page, and/or subscribing to it via an RSS feed (in my case it's http://twitter.com/mparekh).
This is particularly useful as more regular bloggers start to use Twitter in this manner as well.
As a way to have spot one-on-one conversations with specific folks,
although again those messages are broadcast to everyone in Twitter's current incarnation. It can also be used to send private, direct messages to other folks.
To younger internet users and European/Asian cell phone users, Twitter may seem as nothing special at first glance, given that those groups are already huge adopters of instant messaging and SMS text messaging respectively, for some time now.
What the recent Twitter adoption curve of late represents in my view, is that an older, "geeky" US demographic that hadn't yet gotten addicted to either heavy-duty instant messaging or SMS texting, is now being introduced to both in the form of a seemingly new, "cool", service.
Anecdotally, it seems that most of these recent "A-list" cognoscenti use Twitter primarily on their PCs and laptops, as opposed to using it on cell phones. As a result, most seem to be avoiding the potentially hefty SMS text message charges while using Twitter on cellphones/PDAs.
As I discussed this issue in depth in an earlier blog post, this can add up quickly if one doesn't subscribe to a flat-rate SMS text package.
My SMS charges were already spurting towards $100 a
month when I changed to a $8/month plan that gives me 1500 SMS messages
a month. My current Twitter
SMS traffic is in the 800/month range, although that could grow as the
network adoption grows. The full rate plan on my carrier, Verizon
Wireless, is in the blog post.
Another problem that arises when using Twitter on a cellphone/Blackberry is that the Twitter messages can quickly overwhelm one's inbox and make "regular" emails hard to find.
I've already switched my Twitter messages to an older Blackberry I've had lying around for this reason. Carrying two blackberries or cellphones is not an elegant solution, but necessary while trying to figure out the true, long-term utility of a service like Twitter.
It'll be interesting to see how the popularity of Twitter, and presumably new services like it, evolve. Already, a small eco-system of Twitter-enhancing software applications and services are emerging, developed by third-parties. A good example of this is the Twittermap, which shows Twitter users mashed up on a Google Map.
As one would expect, Twitter has had some growing pains, given the recent spike in use and demand. Notifications of Twitter posts on cellphones and Blackberries have been down for a couple of days, and the service has been a bit sluggish on occasion. But they should get through those issues like many rapidly growing web services before them.
If you're looking to get a better sense of the growing enthusiasm over Twitter, I'd recommend following Robert Scoble's Twitter feed. He's been one of the most ardent Twitterangelists out there.
Rafe Needleman has a great "Newbie's guide to Twitter" up that's worth looking at.
After trying it a bit, you'll either say, "bleh", or get really, really hooked.
You've been warned.