I'm a late adopter when it comes to social networking. I dabble with LinkedIn but continue to resist MySpace and Facebook. When Twitter first launched, I went to the Web site and wondered, "What am I going to do with this?" But since I started "tweeting" and, specifically, running TweetDeck, I've found ways to make Twitter useful for me.
For those similarly wary of social networking, here's the rundown on Twitter, courtesy of Wikipedia:
"Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read each others' updates, known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to other users -- known as followers -- who have subscribed to them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter Web site, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications."
Through Twitter, I've watched people from all walks of life as they broadcast their thoughts and ideas. Many link to stories they find on Slashdot or Digg, though I don't follow these folks for long, as they aren't providing anything new or valuable to me.
I've followed companies. At least some of them seem to recognize Twitter's potential as a customer service tool. I watched employees from an airline help stranded travelers and inform customers about new cities or services that they're adding. I also watched Tony Hawk hide skateboards and tell people where to find them. And of course, in the aftermath of the recent Iran elections, Twitter became the primary means for Iranians to tell the world about the protests and violence.
I agree with those who say there are more followers than tweeters. In my case, I don't spend much time tweeting. I figure people don't care about what I'm eating or that I'm stuck in traffic. What I find powerful about Twitter is the ability to search.
Numerous Twitter-related clients are available for the PC or your smartphone. With TweetDeck, I can continuously run searches for things that interest me (AIX, POWER6, IBM, etc.). Whenever a tweeter comments on these topics, I'll see it. Often I'll check the person’s profile and recent tweets. If they interest me, I'll follow the tweeter. Over time you'll find information that you might not have otherwise uncovered.
Google helped me find ways to automate sending Twitter posts from the command line using "curl" and "split" on a Linux machine. To test the functionality, I downloaded information from different Web sites and used the split command to divide these into several files. Then I published them on Twitter. I was doing things like downloading weather forecasts or RSS feeds, splitting them into 140 character chunks, and tweeting them. People more creative than I am could find other uses for splitting data using cron and simple text parsing.
I'd read that someone posted the text to "Moby Dick" onto Twitter. I wanted to do something similar, but on a much smaller scale, so I found the text from the Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat" and tweeted that file.
First I split it into 140-character chunks:
split –b 140 catinhat.txt cathat
This created files in my directory with names like cathataa, cathatab, cathatac, etc. To send them out via Twitter, I just ran:
for i in a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y; do curl -u
username:password -d "status=`cat cathata$i`"
Where the username and password were obviously real ones.
While for me this was simply an exercise in automatically splitting and posting large files, were anyone following me on Twitter, they would have be notified of my action. And anyone searching for the text of "The Cat in the Hat" would have been directed to my Twitter page. Granted, using this service to tweet "Moby Dick" and "The Cat in the Hat" is silly, but as I said, more and more people will find interesting things to do with Twitter.
Some argue that Twitter is a fad, and that it will soon be replaced by something else. That may be true. Nothing lasts forever. For now I'll use it until the next big thing comes along. Then I'll migrate to that next big thing--in due time, of course. I am a late adopter, after all.