Twitter actually can be useful

Some of my Twitter friends who helped me this weekend. Thanks!

Lately I’ve gotten back into Twitter — the service that is strangely addictive, yet people often can’t clearly articulate why they use it. It seems to have struck the online community at a subconscious level, and is seeking a conscious purpose or rationalization.

I’m agahran on Twitter, if you want to follow me there.

Twitter — or any “microblogging” service that focuses on very short posts — is an odd medium. It takes some time and practice to get a sense of what works here. When you first start, it helps to just choose a bunch of people you know or are interested in to follow and get a sense of the different styles of posting.

Over the weekend, I found Twitter useful when I learned that my blog was hacked by a spammer. As I rushed to understand what happened and what I needed to do to fix the problem, I posted to Twitter about it. I quickly received several Tweets, private messages, and e-mails in response to what I was Twittering about — mostly from people offering helpful advice or context, or helping me diagnose the problem.

Yes, the comments posted to my blog were very helpful. But Twitter was also helpful.

In my feed reader, I’ve subscribed to a feed for all tweets from the people I follow on Twitter. I scan that usually every couple of hours, as I’m checking other things in my feed reader. (For me, that’s more efficient than jumping to the Twitter site.) There I’ve found some timely leads for items I’ve ended up covering in Contentious, E-Media Tidbits, and elsewhere. Also, I’ve been able to offer fast assistance to friends in need — just like they did for me.

That’s the thing about having a social network: It’s most useful if you’re available to each other. Twitter can create that availability, but in a manageable way.

I’ll write more about this later. But in the meantime, how have you found Twitter (or other microblogging tools, like Jaiku or Tumblr) useful? Please comment below.

(Oh, and I just enabled the Twitterfeed tool, which should post a tweet announcing each new Contentious post. We’ll see if it works… UPDATE: Yep, it works!)

2 thoughts on Twitter actually can be useful

  1. I avoided signing up for twitter for about 6 months. Now that my friend Steve got my into it, I find Twitter the most useful when I want to IM everyone with a single message. Not that I have a lot of followers/ees yet, but Twitter fills the void between IM and Blog post.

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