There's something infectious about the social networking and blogging movement of the past few years. Today, it's almost impossible not to run into a colleague, co-worker or old friend who doesn't have a Facebook, MySpace or Friendster page " or even a combination of all three.
In summer 2006, during the relative back end of the networking explosion, a microblogging service called Twitter began offering basic connectivity with a twist. Once signed up at www.twitter.com, Twitter users can personalize a home page, find people worldwide with similar tastes and interests, and post status updates " called "tweets" " for "followers" to read to keep tabs on what you're up to, in 140 characters or less. Tweets can be posted via text message, instant messaging or online.
Too limiting? One might be surprised at the amount of info that fits in that space. Take this paragraph, for instance " just 140 characters.
Dwayne Hunter, a technology services and support manager at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, said he prefers Twitter to various other electronic communication tools because of its simplicity.
"It's faster than e-mail, more intuitive, easier to use," Hunter said. "I think that we'll begin to find more uses for it as we go, but right now, it's a great communication tool for me with my colleagues. It replaces face-to-face very well."
OMITS BELLS AND WHISTLES
While popular sites such as Facebook and MySpace offer numerous tweaks and add-ons for users to dive into (and for tweens to swoon and dawdle over for hours), Twitter omits bells and whistles to aim for the on-the-go pseudo-tech-geek in all of us. In its most basic form, it's a supercharged version of a popular site's status feature.
Then there's the cutesy, minimalistic art direction. Believe me, you'll never stare at a failure screen as lovingly as you will if and when Twitter's server goes down. Two words: "fail whale." (A quick consult to one's favorite image search engine will yield visually pleasing results.)
Twitter's to-the-point philosophy, simple interface and 2.2 million plus users make it a prime communication vessel for the likes of the BBC, NASA and even several 2008 presidential election hopefuls and fictional characters from TV's "Mad Men." And just two years after its inception, Twitter shows signs of even greater networking potential " a graduate journalism student at the University of California, Berkeley, was arrested earlier this year in Egypt after taking pictures of an anti-government demonstration. After posting the word "arrested" to his Twitter subscribers, the university and several press organizations quickly took note and he was released.
See? Extended technological integration can be a really good thing.
A recent Loyola University communications graduate said Twitter works perfectly for self-promotion to generate traffic on her blog or articles, but it's perfect for staying in touch, too.
"I think the main reason that I use it is for expressing myself and maybe making connections with others," Misty Faucheux said. "I work from home and don't get a lot of face time with others. Twitter is like having co-workers for me." "Jake Dalton