Short-Form Bloggers Let Loose
What do soulpatrol girl, who got stuck in an elevator on her birthday, and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards have in common? They're both using Twitter, a simplified blogging service founded by Blogger co-founder Evan Williams. Well, at least someone purporting to be John Edwards is using Twitter, the hot technology at the South by Southwest conference, where anything to do with Web 2.0, music, and film was up for discussion last week.
Twitter lets you post one or two sentences --140 characters at most--using phone texting, Twitter's Web site, e-mail, or IM, and read updates from others. You can set up a network of friends who, if they sign on, will get your missives and can respond in kind. Or you can sign up for prearranged groups of like-minded people. Users can opt to keep their messages limited to their friends or not, in which case they'll show up on the Public Timeline, a log of all the public messages.
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Messages tend toward the banal, like that from "Gillie," whose whereabouts update says "in search of hot caffeinated beverage and tasty pastry," or "gurm" who's grousing about sorting through his RSS feeds: "Too bloody many. ... I must hire some kid in China to do this for me."
Blogger Robert Scoble is a fanatic. He's been Twittering with Edwards, or whoever is answering Edwards' messages. Scoble, a former Microsoft blogger who now works at PodTech, a podcast network, asked Edwards how he'd keep his campaign carbon-neutral when he has to fly all over. Edwards' response: "Will fund alternative energy production that will offset the carbon generated from campaign travel."
One night at the conference, Scoble and about 30 friends headed for a barbecue place outside Austin. On the way, some of us had difficulty finding Scoble, and we powered up a wireless-equipped PowerBook to look for messages, but not a Twitter did we find--all the technology in the world won't get people together if they don't attend to it. So we found each other the old-fashioned way, at the prearranged meeting point.