So I finally gave in and started using Twitter this past weekend (if you’re on Twitter, follow me at twitter.com/bobcaswell). What is Twitter? It’s a mix of instant messaging, email, Facebook, and text messaging. It’s a network of users that follow each other. Here’s how it works:

It’s quick and easy to sign up; you just need a username, password, and email address. Once in, you can have it scan your email contacts to see if you know anyone already using Twitter. Or, it allows you to quickly send invitations to anyone you’d like. One way or another, you need some friends before getting started. The whole point of Twitter is to answer the question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters are less. Your friends instantaneously see a trail of your answers, and you see a feed of their latest answers as well.

If none of your real life friends are using Twitter (which is mostly the case for me), you can start making friends by following anyone who seems interesting. For me, it wasn’t hard to quickly find and follow 150 or so pseudo- friends (that is, people who I already know from their blogging online even if I don’t know them in person). And each time you add someone to your following list, they get an email from you. If you don’t know where to start to find friends, check out the Twitter public timeline, which is a running list of all “tweets” (messages) updated every four minutes.

Some people like to keep their following list limited and won’t follow you just because you follow them (which is just fine). But others will add you as a friend (i.e., follow you) after you begin following them (like entrepreneurship celebrity Guy Kawasaki who added me within minutes of me adding him). So, in short, Twitter relationships can be summed up as follows:

  • I can follow you, and you can follow me.
  • I can follow you and you don’t follow me.
  • You can follow me, and I don’t follow you.

Twitter can also be setup easily for your cellphone. In fact, that’s what it’s designed for (the tweet limit of 140 characters is so that it works well with cellphone text messaging). This makes for a lot of tweets that read something like, “bored, waiting in line at…”

So what’s the purpose of Twitter? The Twitter FAQ states it as, “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected.” But from what I’ve seen, people use it more for other reasons. Marshall Kirkpatrick explains how he uses it to find the latest breaking tech stories. NBC, CBS, ABC Family and MTV are using it as a marketing platform. And of the 150 friends I’m following so far? A good chunk seem to use it almost exclusively for alerting everyone when they have a new post on their blog.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of these uses, mind you. In fact, I’m inclined to be one of the users that adds most anyone who either seems at least mildly interesting or has already added me. I don’t think Twitter should be confused for email (i.e., a service where you generally scan/read every message). I’m inclined to use it as more of a zeitgeist or snapshot of the latest happenings of those I follow. Overall, I like it and will likely contribute / check others’ contributions frequently.

But it’s interesting for me to see how some have already claimed it to be a wasteful addiction that should be bridled. Well, true, but couldn’t that be said of anything used in excess? If you need it, here’s a 12-step program for email addicts that can just as easily be applied to any technology addiction. Incidentally, Twitter is already popular enough to have had a third party (Twitterholic) create a list of the top 100 most popular Twitter users.

Overall, I think I like Twitter. Is it a waste of time? Maybe. Is it useful? Maybe. However you’d like to classify it, it’s at least an interesting experiment in communication.


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25 Responses to Twitter Review: Waste of Time or Extremely Valuable?

  1. Now following: @bobcaswell Check out his blog http://www.techconsumer.com/ Hey Bob, Long time no see! 5 minutes ago from web

  2. [...] are a lot of discussions out on the web about Twitter and that may or may not be a waste of [...]

  3. [...] are a lot of discussions out on the web about Twitter and that may or may not be a waste of [...]

  4. [...] working). He had nearly 36 hours of downtime before, as he puts it, he lost his cool and posted to Twitter the following message: “I am going to expend significant energy over the next three weeks [...]

  5. [...] Twitter Review: Waste of Time or Extremely Valuable? | TechConsumer [...]

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  7. [...] stops working). He had 36 hours of downtime before, as he puts it, he lost his cool and posted to Twitter this message: “I am going to expend significant energy over the next three weeks trashing [...]

  8. Kristi says:

    I just signed up to see what Twitter is all about. Honestly nobody’s life is that interesting!!! Nobody wants to know everythime you do something. Seriously, who cares if you are picking your kid up from school or using the restroom. This is just another way for people that have NO LIFE to make them feel like they do by seeing how many people will follow them. I guess it’s a good thing there are alot of lonely people out there that have to validate themselves through twitter

  9. peggy says:

    I want to change internet carriers I can’t handle comcast any longer. I’ve been a customer since I moved to fl. 9 year or so and now I get a letter saying they have not been billing me properly and will increase my rate by $6.95 a month. I already pay them $188 a month. It’s a joke it has pushed me over the edge and I need to find a new carrier. Any suggestions?

  10. ZeroClass says:

    Will I R end up speaking teh AOL moron speek?

    *Translation:
    Will I end up speaking like those cat’s in the pictures on lolcats.com?

  11. Frad Johnson says:

    Have anybody seen this twitter toolbar? http://bit.ly/1dAPo

  12. Houston guy says:

    To me its just plain dangerous, why would I want everyone to know what I’m doing or where I am??? This is just problems waiting to happen. We are giving our privicy away by using such “social networks”.

    Get a bike and go for a ride or something pepople!!!

  13. Leighann says:

    I beleive Twitter to be the biggest waste of time EVER! I don’t think anyone is that interesting to have to follow what they do on a daily basis- like eating cereal, or going to the bathroom, or watching t.v. If i want to know something about a friend of mine, I will call them or text them….. ANd i don’t care enough of the celebs that i need to know what they are doing every minute of the day either. At least Facebook and Myspace have other things going for them other than just seeing what somebody is doing at that moment….. IF YOU ASK ME, DO NOT GET A TWITTER as they are just not worth it, Try something that people use to do, and make a phone call. (don’t get me wrong, i love facebook and the status thingy, but there is more too life than sitting on the computer all day checking in on your OH SO INTERESTING friends) thanks! :)

  14. Buggyfish333 says:

    this article helped me to do my Applied Tech class report on TWITTER!

  15. ThePadrino says:

    Extremely Valuable

    Sponsored Tweets is a Twitter advertising platform Where you can make money by tweeting post try it out http://bit.ly/7G4abB

  16. Anonymous says:

    i love twitter

  17. Twitter has some changes in Rulesnthat need to be done as soon as possible! I have excessive amounts of people following me and i follow them back and they suspended my account. I am highly upset with twitter and its unreasonable limits and rules.. Not a good social network!

  18. What specifically I used to become hunting for, and extremely correctly spelled out.

  19. Bao Rosselli says:

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