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Ah, twitter. Boy do I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. With services such as Facebook playing a large role in keeping my personal relationships strong, incorporating twitter into the mix for that purpose is a little bit overwhelming to me. That’s probably why I just about completely abandoned it for months shortly after signing up, before being lured back slowly as I found out I could stalk follow some of my favorite celebrities on it. As embarrassing as it is to admit it, it’s true. I know I’m not alone on that one.. there is probably a celeb well versed in “twittering” out there that you’re a fan of. The appeal of being able to connect at a seemingly more personal level with @mrskutcher, @aplusk, @the_real_shaq, @johncmayer, @theellenshow, @mchammer – just to name a few – was great enough to pique my interest. But my attention quickly shifted from living vicariously through celebrities to finding twitter to be a useful tool in keeping in touch with current events while finding myself with little or no time to check my regular news sites or RSS feeds.
I work a 9-5 software job. Being in front of the computer all day, it is very tempting.. not to mention easy to get lost in cyberspace – between Google Reader (where I currently subscribe to 100+ feeds, yikes!), Facebook, CNN.com.. there is already enough content right there that if surfing the internet was a legitimate 9-5 job, I’d be set. Outside of work I have several miscellaneous hobbies, workout regularly, like to watch tv, and lead a fairly active social life. Balancing all of that takes coordination, especially if I want to keep it a priority of mine to be aware of what’s happening in the world.
I’ve recently found Twitter to be a good tool to help me out when I don’t have much time to read all my blogs, peruse CNN, quickly get the top stories of the day, and even check in with the few friends I have connected with on Twitter. It requires minimal internet browsing time, and it is also easily accessible on my phone when I have a minute or two downtime. Here’s how:
1. I follow my favorite blogs on Twitter. Many of the authors of these blogs will “tweet” their new entries, along with a one line summary so if it is something I feel absolutely compelled to read at that moment, I can click on it and read it right away. That way I don’t have to spend a ton of time reading through my RSS feeds (I constantly have 1000+ unread articles…) to find that one article… when there is also a good chance it may have at that point gotten lost in all the other unread articles and I would have skimmed right past it without really reading it. So now I’ve spent just 5 minutes reading a really great article vs. spending an hour browsing through articles and still only reading 1 great article.
2. I follow those who post breaking news as they’re happening. One can generally pretty successfully convey what’s going on in 140 words. @BreakingNews is probably the one I follow most closely, and by the end of the day, I can usually find myself with adequate knowledge of the days headlines and developments as they come. @CNN also has an informative twitter feed, with articles linked to each headline so you can read more details if you so please. For those who enjoy keeping up with celebrity gossip (I know you’re out there), there is @perezhilton. And for you sports fanatics (I wouldn’t leave you out), there’s @ESPN. See? There’s something for everyone! There are even those that post full recipes in 140 words or less. Surprisingly, I can make sense of them.. but I still prefer reading full recipes. Anyway, I digress.
3. I check a Twitter “tag cloud” throughout the day. What exactly do I mean by this? Well, TwitScoop does this nifty thing where it creates a “Tag Cloud” of the buzzwords that are hot right at that moment. TweetDeck makes it super easy for me to take advantage of this to instantly get the big scoop right at that moment. Here’s an example of a few snapshots from April 3rd:
At 11AM I noticed “Binghamton” nice and big in the cloud and saw some shocking and interesting “Trending Topics” below.
Curious, I clicked on “Binghamton” and via TwitScoop I was instantly led to a page full of tweets from twitterers expressing their shock and grief over the tragic Binghamton shooting. No longer do I have to remember to check CNN/MSNBC for the top headlines (I’m usually too preoccupied to remember), but a quick glance at TweetDeck gets me up to speed in 5 minutes, with no “overhead” time of browsing through a news site. Neat!
A couple hours later, just before 1PM I notice that the buzz around the NY shooting had quieted down a bit and “plaxico” to be a hot buzzword.
I am not typically up to date with football happenings… and admittedly know very very little about the New York Giants so I had no idea what “plaxico” meant, but was curious since it appeared to be a hot topic at the moment. One click later, I found out that Plaxico Burress is a football player on the NY Giants and he has been released. Awesome – I now appear to be a little in the know when it comes to sports news :)
Lastly, at maybe 3PM I saw words “joe” and “joey” becoming hot at the moment. That seemed incredibly random to me, so of course I was curious. And that… is how I found out that Donnie Wahlberg is now on twitter.
At that moment, apparently NKOTB fans everywhere had rallied together and decided to @DonnieWahlberg and plead him to convince Joey McIntyre to get on Twitter in response to @DonnieWalberg’s tweet: “joe mac is interested in twitter…. he aint sold yet though. what do you all say??????”. Isn’t twitter fascinating?
4. Of course, I follow my friends on Twitter. I think this is the most obvious use of Twitter, and also one of the more discussed topics so I’ll just list it as is, because it’s something that I do.
I am not necessarily suggesting that Twitter can replace any or all of these services… and for that, it may still be too overwhelming for some. However, I’ve found it particularly useful to keep up with current events while spending minimal time looking for it. I also do enjoy the interactions that are generated through twitter – I can see how it works in many ways and is different than those generated through other social networks. I have not fully immersed myself in the “Twitterverse” yet, but I’ve tried to find different ways to us Twitter productively and would encourage those who are skeptical to give it a shot. Happy Twittering!