Trying To Articulate Why Twitter Rocks So Hard

I just got an English teaching job with an @reply on Twitter. How cool is that? I didn’t use the service much before I got to Japan, but it’s replaced Facebook, and to some degree, Google Reader, as my biggest internet hangout.

For the unitiated, Twitter is…

“a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length,” says Wikipedia.

Like leaving post-it notes in the break room for people to comment or reply to whenever they pass by – but on the interwebs,” says Danisidhe.

“It’s a great way
to keep in touch with your friends and quickly broadcast information about
where you are and what you’re up to. For example, *“I’m
downtown and aching for some sushi. Anyone like to join me?” *says tweeternet.

And they’re all right. Twitter is an odd little service that you don’t get until you use, but once you do use it, it sucks you in like a drug. It’s the lives and thoughts of a big group of people, some strangers, some friends, happening in little episodes of 140 characters. Tweets are worth next to nothing individually, which is what makes them so great. There’s no need to edit your writing, to read long articles that don’t interest you, to compose replies or comments to eloquent, thoughtful blog posts. It’s a world of unashamed banality- there’s no point in trying, so we just tweet what’s on our minds. No one looks at tweet archives; the shelf-life of a tweet is a couple days. We tweet from cell phones, bookmarklets, and instant messages; we tweet impulsively and without self-consciousness.

That’s not to say it’s a world without rules. Flood the screen with posts, constantly self-promote, or tweet nothing but “Oatmeal for breakfast again!” and you’ll find your followers dropping off quickly. But be yourself, and tweet the things you find genuinely interesting, and it’s a great community.

Where do you get started?

  • Find me at twitter.com/dshack. Making an account is a thirty-second process.
  • Check out this awesome list of all the crazy things you do with twitter at Zen Habits. You can get reminders to do stuff automatically sent to you, get quick answers to questions, follow up with people you meet, learn another language, and find blogs, sites, and people that share your interests, location, or odd sense of humor.
  • Chris Gaunt’s Nihongo Notes has a great list of all the Japan-related twitter people he knows. Good folks; I’ve probably met half of them, and if you’re in or interested in Japan, it’s a great place to start making friends and finding things to read or do.
  • Track big events: I didn’t spend this year’s election day in front of the TV, I spent it in front of twitter, watching supporters of both sides deliver play-by-plays of the various poll results as they came in. When the US airways flight went down last week, the first (amazing) photo came from a guy posting to twitter from his cellphone. When there was a moderate earthquake in Tokyo this morning, 2Jpn’s earthquake tracker automatically aggregated all the tweets about it. There’s an insane amount of power behind tens of thousands of people being able to post text and photo updates anywhere, anytime, and I think it will be interesting to see the crazy applications that leverage the service in the next year.

Got other cool twitter resources? Let me know.

In other news: Exams are over! Woo! I’m so happy about having two full months of fairly negligible commitments- it gives me the ability to overcommit to a whole host of new employment opportunities, web projects, and random Tokyo nightlife excursions.

Update: My Jamaican Japanophile buddy over at Jamaipanese also thinks twitter’s pretty nifty.