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March 10, 2009

Twitter to the Rescue

You've probably heard about Twitter. The social-networking service allows registered users to send and read other users' messages (known as tweets). Each message can be up to 140 characters in length. You can make your messages public or private. You can search for people by name, or by what they tweet about. Once you find someone of interest, you can "follow" them and receive their messages instantaneously. It's sort of like having a one-on-one chat session, but others are in on the conversation. But then, you can also send private (DM) tweets to someone you're following.

There are thousands of Twitter users--and more than a few detractors. But in my case, this technology is truly a help. I've been using Twitter for six months. Not only does it help me keep in touch with colleagues around the world, it helps me keep tabs on some of my customers.

Thanks to Twitter, sometimes I know if a customer has a question or a problem before the support people do. For instance, I recently helped someone with a serious DB2 issue. I was eating lunch when my cell phone went off. I saw this urgent message: "Help, DB2 will not come down. Will cancel of *MSTR bring it down?" I replied, "Cancel *IRLM will bring it down." I wanted to know what was running on this system he was getting ready to force down, so I called back and asked a few questions. Then I talked him through the process.

I'm sure he's happy his company doesn't block Twitter. Keep in mind that this customer doesn't have my cell phone number--he was just following me on Twitter; it was the only way he could reach me. Without it, it would have taken me about 40-50 minutes to get back from lunch and check my e-mail. That's a very long time when a DB2 system is hanging and people are waiting.

So, yes, it's great to use an e-mail service to a forum like DB2-L. I get help from there on a regular basis. I look at Twitter as another valuable tool. It allows you to connect with friends and colleagues. And, as you see from my experience, sometimes it's the only tool that can help you resolve a crisis.

If you use Twitter in the workplace, please share your experiences in comments.