Twitter Micro-Blogging

Twitter is not just something birds do.

This week I attended the WordCamp Fraser Valley session in Langley. It was excellent with a great deal to learn about the WordPress blogging software from some fine speakers. However the biggest revelation to me was that Vancouver is perhaps the Twitter capital of Canada.

Like many others I had wondered about the allure of Twitter. It is a very simple webpage with a box where you can tell the world something about your current status. What you type will be seen by any of your followers, if they happen to be looking. You can send that message from your mobile phone if you choose, and it all seems very simple. How could so many in the audience be such enthusiasts? I was at the other end of the spectrum with people like Steven Hodson, who proclaims that Twitter is Not a Micro-Blogging Tool.

My shortsightedness on this is explained by the fact that I never read the instructions. Indeed how could such a simple tool need instructions? How wrong I was.

The major item that has come onto my radar screen is that Twitter now has Search. It acquired Summize and has integrated this as Twitter Search. Just check out some of the Search Operators. You can type these search operators directly into the search box. (Alternatively, you can use the advanced search form to automatically construct your query.) Just look at some of the examples they give:

  • "happy hour" near:"san francisco" containing the exact phrase "happy hour" and sent near "san francisco".
  • movie -scary :) containing "movie", but not "scary", and with a positive attitude.
  • flight :( containing "flight" and with a negative attitude.

How does a search function distinguish between a positive attitude and a negative attitude. It’s still one of the unanswered questions I have.

Of course 140 characters and spaces is a very short post even for a micro-blog. However you can tag individual tweaks by using what is called a hashtag. Provided you register with then you can do searches such as #haiku to find all tweaks containing the hashtag “haiku”. You can also have Realtime Tracking of Twitter Hashtags if you wish.

Once I realized that Twitter was more than just a small box I decided I should read the instructions. They are labeled the Official Twitter Commands. These allow you to keep Twitter under control from phone, IM, and most 3rd party applications by using the designated Twitter commands? On all devices they give you fine-grained control of Twitter updates.

For example type in STATS and this command returns your number of followers, how many people you’re following, and which words you’re tracking. Twitter Tracking is a feature allowing you to receive on your mobile devices all Twitter updates that contain a word of choice. Send track+keyword to Twitter from your phone or IM to get updates containing that word. For example: track Obama to receive updates matching Obama. For now, track is for phone and IM only but Web support is potentially coming soon.

If you have not read the instructions for Twitter, studying the above information will be very worthwhile. Who knows, if you find blogging would be too much of a challenge for you, perhaps micro-blogging will give you similar pleasure for much less effort.