That’s usually the go-to joke when someone mentions twitter. People seem to have the general idea that twitter is best used for keeping track of your pooping habits (actually that’s what Penny Arcade seems to think aswell), and sure, twitter can be just for that (although I don’t know why you would want to. Unless you…y’know…swing that way), but there is so much more you can use it for.
Chris Brogan made an interesting analogy: Twitter is like your Director’s Commentary. It can give extra meaning to what you do.
When I started using twitter, I used it to quickly jot down random thoughts or things I was working on. They were very short and to the point. Almost like a sort of diary. Most of them only made sense to me, and that was fine, because it wasn’t like anybody was reading them anyway. That’s in essence what twitter is about; asking yourself: What is on my mind?” But since then twitter has become so much more.
There are many ways to enjoy twitter. You could use it for:
I use twitter most often to ask myself the question “What is on my mind?”
Sometimes that is a project I’m working on, sometimes it is just random thoughts. It can be very liberating when you don’t happen to have anybody around to talk to. It’s instant and unedited. In real life, I am sometimes reluctant to discuss personal matters, but when I post something on twitter, part of that pressure is gone, even though I know people will still read it. It’s a strange thing.
When I find an interesting or funny link or quote, or have something to show or announce myself, I post it to my twitter for other people to see, and as a sort of note for myself later. People often post inspiring quotes or funny anecdotes aswell, and that might be just be that little pick-me-up you needed.
As you start to follow more people, and people follow you, sometimes conversations arise. You see something you want to respond to, or someone responds to something you posted. Twitter makes it easy to reply to eachother and share interests, perhaps striking up a new friendship in the process.
I also follow people on twitter that I admire or who are working on things I am interested in, like tech bloggers, game developers or comic artists (and even musicians or politicians). Especially with bigger names it’s great to get an insight in their lives and read about how they spend their day. It’s a form of inspiration in it’s own way. And you feel more connected with these people for it.
Leisa Reichelt effectively describes this as ‘ambient intimacy’. I like that term.
You could consider that a form of stalking, but hey, that’s web 2.0 for you! :P
Just as you can follow people, you can follow -or ‘track’- certain phrases. Say you’re interested in a certain book. All you have to do is track it’s title, and you get a notification whenever ANYBODY on twitter mentions it. Hey, if you’re lucky the author himself might be on twitter!
Twitter is great for asking questions to a large and random group of people. “What’s the best HDTV?”, “Who is your favourite artist?”, “How do these crazy airplane seatbelts works?!”
There’s always somebody with an answer.
And the other way around it’s a great way to help people.
To me, twitter is the pinnacle of Web 2.0. With so many users all across the world, breaking news often appears on twitter before anywhere else. When there is a big conference or event going on, you can get news and impressions as it happens. You can seek out likeminded people and see what is on their mind in realtime. You can learn more about your friends than you might in real life. And you can let everybody know what is going on in your life at a moment’s notice.
It’s like a photoalbum, but except of being filled with pictures simply showing what you saw, it’s a collection of snapshots of your thoughts, what you felt at that moment in time. And to me, reading that back a few years later is much more valuable than just flipping through a bunch of pictures.
In closing, my favourite twitter ‘app’: Twitstori. It finds tweets (twitter posts) bases on 6 keywords; Love, Hate, Think, Believe, Feel and Wish. The result vary from mundane musings to profound prose. It’s hard to put into words, you have to see for yourself.