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Getting Reacquainted With Twitter

I blew the dust off my Twitter account over the weekend and started using it again. It struck me again how Twitter's critics don't get that its appeal is social. It's not about staring into the mirror and talking about yourself all the time. It's a big chat room. It's about holding conversations with other people.

I blew the dust off my Twitter account over the weekend and started using it again. It struck me again how Twitter's critics don't get that its appeal is social. It's not about staring into the mirror and talking about yourself all the time. It's a big chat room. It's about holding conversations with other people.

Twitter is a service that lets you send messages up to 140 characters that are readable to anyone on the Internet. You can send "tweets" -- or read others' tweets -- using using a Web browser, instant message client, your cell phone text messages or browser, or using a specialized desktop Twitter client on your desktop. I use Twitterific, a Mac client, and you can also find quite a few for Windows. I wrote about it in-depth a couple of months ago.

I started using Twitter about a month and a half ago, but then dropped it after a few hours, thinking it wasn't for me because I couldn't think of much to say. I picked it up again over the weekend when I discovered a few Second Life friends on Twitter and found I enjoyed reading, and responding to, what other people had to say.

The key to enjoying Twitter is finding other people's messages. You sign up for Twitter friends, and then you read all their messages, mixed in with your own, in a single stream.

For me, it has to be two-way. It's no fun to send messages unless I know people are reading them, and it's not much fun for me to read messages from people who don't subscribe to my Twitter stream.

What do we talk about on Twitter? Whatever we're doing at the moment. Mostly, that's not too significant. Sometimes it is. One friend just sent a message that she's trying on shoes, another wrote about problems she's having in Second Life. Another friend's wife just went into labor -- he's posting updates in free moments at the hospital. Coincidentally, Robert Scoble just posted a message with a link to a blog post comparing Twitter's early growth to Blogger's.

The other day, I read a post on Lifehacker about how to cope with home-office isolation. I've worked from a home office for 13 of the past 15 years, and the Internet and online services have always been a tool for me to cope with home-office isolation. I was already active on GEnie, CompuServe, Usenet, and e-mail when I started working from a home office in 1992, and since then I've added blogs, instant messaging, and, more recently, Twitter and Second Life to the mix. It doesn't feel to me like I'm working alone; it feels like I have conversations with lots of people all day.

Is there a business purpose to Twitter? I'm not sure. I hope to use it for viral marketing of InformationWeek articles; I generally post several links every day. And I've gotten a couple of interesting pieces of information over Twitter. But, mainly, it's just small talk, the kind of thing people who work in an office get naturally just walking the halls, but the rest of us have to seek out.

It occurred to me recently that the entire Internet exists because we don't have matter transmitters like on Star Trek. We're physically separated from our friends, family, co-workers, customers, and business partners; we can't just walk down the street and visit with them, so we've invented workarounds to simulate the experience of face-to-face content. Second Life is the current endpoint of that evolution; we've built virtual streets and virtual hallways we can walk down to visit each other.

One of my Twitter friends posted a link a few weeks ago to an article on 10 ways to use Twitter for productivity.

If you're on Twitter, let's add each other as friends; I'm at http://twitter/mwagner. Just add me and, when you do, I'll get an e-mail notification and I'll add you.