About a week ago I started checking out twitter. It's been on my radar for several months but I held off on taking the jump until now fearing it could become a major time sink. Is it? Let's see.
What is Twitter? This is the good question. Wikipedia says this:
"Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website or an application such as Twitterrific. These updates are displayed on the user's profile page and also instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to members of his circle of friends, or allow delivery to everybody (which is the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, or through an application. For SMS, currently two gateway numbers are available: one for the USA and a UK number for international use." ... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter)
To me, it feels like the bastard child of Dodgeball, ICR, Blogs, IM, RSS and SMS mixed with CB radios from the 1970's. It has the appeal blogging did before it became commercial. Far more personal and less commercial. More messages about where a person is, how they feel or what they are doing and less messages about the war, politics and religion. There is some commercial content, for example http://twitter.com/ads, a bot that I assume has a mission to annoy me when I watch the public timeline (http://twitter.com/public_timeline) or twittervision (http://www.twittervision.com).
So, who's using it? At this moment it seems to be mostly the new media blogging / *casting community. David Winer (http://twitter.com/davewiner), Adam Curry (http://twitter.com/adamcurry), Robert Scoble (http://twitter.com/Scobleizer), Jason Calacanic (http://twitter.com/JasonCalacanis), Mad Man Evo Terra (http://twitter.com/evo_terra) and Leo Laporte (http://twitter.com/leolaporte) are a number of examples. Independent musician Jonathan Coulton (http://twitter.com/jonathancoulton) has an account. Surprisingly, John Edwards (or at least his campaign) has been tweeting away at http://twitter.com/johnedwards. Will more politicians show up in the future? Probably.
It's rather addictive, to be honest and I'm enjoying playing with it. You have to turn it off so you don't look like this at work or in life. It appeals to the voyeur in me and I have enjoyed giving an insight into the little things going on in my life and having a platform for short thought that are too short to blog.
My real question is ... can it be a tool, or is it just a toy? I can see it going both ways. I have seen traffic with job offerings, technical questions, advertising blog / *casting postings, etc that have been mostly useful. On a couple of occasions I've been able to track down colleagues because they tweeted their location. On the other hand, I have seen lots of silliness. I have spent lots of time reading about people's relationship problems, hearing stories about their children, problems with their website provider, etc. I seem to have made new vFriends which is always nice.
The last question people have asked has been is it stable? To quote Jason Calacanis "if twitter down time is any indication they are going to be 2x as big as EBAY" (http://twitter.com/JasonCalacanis/statuses/16654291).
I think it's going to be a fun ride. Check it out. Check out twittervision (http://www.twittervision.com), a googlemap with tweets from the public timeline showing the location of the tweeter.