Making the Most of Twitter
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At the moment it seems as though everybody who isnít talking on Twitter is talking about it. In case youíve missed all the fuss, Twitter is the microblogging site that lets you speak to the world in 140-character chunks of text. The concept has proved remarkably popular, perhaps because it satisfies the desire to blog while alleviating any residual guilt that, if youíre going to bother at all, you ought to be prepared to write at length and have something worthwhile to say.
On Twitter, with just 140 characters to play with - that's roughly half the length of the sentence you're reading now - only the sharpest and wittiest minds, the supreme exponents of the one liner, are going to manage to communicate anything really worthwhile. All of which has resulted in something quite strange. By removing the idea that people should be able to write before they blog, and by paring the length of each post to the minimum, Twitter paradoxically encourages an excess of words and a minimum of content.
Most microblog posts are of the mundane variety. A random sampling tends to reveal the minutiae of existence rather than its grander themes. Food, illness, travel, work, boredom: these are the subjects of the regulation post. The uninitiated may well be wondering how exciting it can be to read that some stranger's granny's hip replacement went well, or that the 8.22 was 16 minutes late. Isn't all this just another way to waste time online, as though such a thing were necessary?
These are not unreasonable questions. Many people find their initial experience of Twitter less than satisfactory, wondering what all the fuss is about. Some simply leave, never to return. Take British Journalist Nick Curtis, who wrote recently in the London Evening Standard: "I can't find any celebrities, or any breaking news, just endless prattle from people with too much time and too little imagination. After two hours, I log out, and I won't be back."
It's an understandable reaction which somewhat misses the point, viewing Twitter through the prism of the traditional web site and failing to understand that it more accurately reflects cell phone text-messaging culture. Those that persist with the site often report that something strange begins to happen. In among all the noise, signal begins to emerge: meaningful information that stands out among the trivia and banalities, not just making sense of the whole idea but encouraging people to come back for more. So, given the difficulty that many people seem to experience trying to find a way into the whole Twitter world, the question demands to be asked: what exactly is the secret to having a worthwhile Twitter experience?
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