Back in July 2008 I decided to try out a little known application for the iPhone by the name of Twinkle, developed by Tapulous. I was instantly hooked as it used the geo-location functionality of the phone to let you know when people are nearby. You could search for users within a specific kilometer radius around you and chat to them, in addition you could enlarge or shrink that search radius to suit. Seeing other twitter users who were within range of you and chatting away was horribly addictive.
Twinkle was basically a superb (and still is) location aware chat client that allows you to upload photos to your Twitter account as well as update your status. Addictiveness knows no boundaries and I was pretty much ‘Twinkling’ on the way to work whilst on the bus, as well as doing the same whilst in the office at work and then on the way home. I’d be constantly ‘chatting’ to complete strangers via 140 character long messages, similar to SMS texts if you will.
Behind all of this was Twitter. In its simplest form, it is a website where you can broadcast short messages up to 140 characters max – to anyone who has signed up to receive them (known as a follower). In turn you can also become a ‘follower’ to other twitters. Your followers for instance could be say ten of your best friends or if you’re a well known celebrity like Stephen Fry, 190,539 crazed fans. Twitter started off fast and is gaining momentum and a frightening pace. Balls to Myspace and the Facebook’s of today, they’re nothing by comparison.
Twitter went mainstream fairly recently on February 5th 2009 when a US Airbus Flight 1549 hit some birds and lost power in both engines. The plane slammed into New York’s Hudson River, with everyone on board surviving. The most incredible thing was that there was a person on-board the flight using Twitter as his prime means of reaching the outside world. How he managed to remain calm and type away amongst the turbulence is another thing altogether.
As far as the UK is concerned Twitter is everywhere over here. Two celebrities have helped its popularity soar over the recent months. Stephen Fry as well as BBC presenter Jonathan Ross who was recently suspended for various reasons I shall not bother getting into. The tabloids got wind of Mr.Ross utilising Twitter to talk to his fans and Twitter received a great deal of national press coverage. As for Mr.Fry, well he got stuck in a lift and decided to ‘tweet’ some photos of himself in the lift with various strangers. In Ross’s first chat show following his suspension Fry discussed Twitter with Ross and that was enough to get the thing even more publicity.
The premise of Twitter is as described by the website.
"Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”
With that statement in mind, you may think that this is another Facebook – it isn’t in the slightest, it is so much more. Everyone uses the service in their own unique way. You could add your latest tweet as "I’m taking a dump", or simply "I’m at a Phil Collins concert" (with an attached photo of the stage area. You could use it to keep in touch with friends because its usage is so much more flexible than plain old SMS texts in that a complete stranger can see what you’re talking to your friends about and simply join in the conversation.
I had a great time during my lunch hour a week ago chatting to a guy in Darwin, Australia because he had seen a screen shot of my jailbroken iPhone 3G that I had uploaded and wanted to do similar things with his phone.
Twitter is far from a fad, it is what you want it to be. In the right hands it can be a time killer, a news source, a business tool, a way to keep in touch with distant or even close friends – whatever you wish. There are a lot of people out there who will simply follow the trend of criticising yet another internet phenomenon without actually trying it.
1. Try it! – Before you bash the thing, give it a shot. Sit back and search for friends or celebs and generally see what people are doing.
2. You don’t have to use the website – There are heaps of programs out there that making Twittering easy. They’ll either sit at the side of your screen and appear with a single click, or you could see if you can get one of the many Twitter style apps for your phone. There are quite a few on the Apple iPhone platform. I use Tweetie for twittering and I use it 90% of the time. Other Twitter applications consist of TweetDeck , Twitterfeed , Twhirl and Twitterific .
3. Confused? – Don’t be. I still get confused about certain things and I have been using it solidly for a couple of weeks now. You aren’t alone so don’t be afraid to simply put out a tweet saying "How does <insert feature> work?".
4. Use it however you like – I use Twitter to publish my little daily thoughts, odd moments during the day when only a photo can express things or I will comment on blog articles published by friends. My overall goal is for my Twitter feed to detail my blog activities and just general day to day ramblings.
5. Twitter on Mobile Phones – If you have a suitable powerful smartphone, then look for Twitter applications on it. The iPhone 3G excels in this area with its GPS functionality enabling you to search for other users around you and so forth. Tweetie , Twitterfon and Twitterific are the most popular applications for the iPhone. All mid-high end phones in 2009 should have applications that utilise Twitter in some form. Don’t ignore them!
Finally I have a bone to pick with someone. See back in July 2008 when I first discovered Twinkle, I was MOCKED by my good mate PR who said things like "Oh if I want to chat to people I pick up the HOUSE PHONE" and so forth. So it highly amuses me that he was HE who just recently signed up to the service and then I followed suit and re-signed up myself!
So for those unfortunate souls who wish to follow me, my Twitter ID is Kainz_UK.