With the advent of the social networking sites(SNS), more and more people begin to enjoy the cyberized social networking. “Twitter” is one of the most frequently mentioned SNS on the internet these days, and it reached the top three largest SNS within three years (Kazeniac 2009). Even though I heard Twitter more than one year, but I only used it for a couple of weeks, and after that I was hesitating whether to continue to use Twitter. In this article,a brief introduction on Twitter will be given initially, then I will show some particular aspect of my experience and feeling with Twitter, and my general opinion in using Twitter will be present in the end of it.
Twitter is a real time short messaging service that enable its users to post updates in less than 140 characters and read other users’ updates, it also known as a micro-blogging service. With this service, you can subscribe others’ post by “following” them, meanwhile, others subscribe your post to become your “followers”.
Focus and Reflection
a) Is Twitter really trendy?
I was thinking this question after I register a Twitter account. It is really difficult to know how popular Twitter is by just have a glance at its official website: a simple user interface and an normal register process.
Then I visited the Twitter page of Barack Obama, who was breaking news on Twitter with his every movement during his historic presidential campaign. It was not surprised me that he has over 65 thousand of followers, and the number was increasing every time I refreshed the page. According to Owyang’s research (2008), Twitter had approximately 5 million users till November 2008 since it founded in March 2006. Some people believed that Twitter played an important role in their life, and they predicated that Twitter will go mainstream in 2009 (Rowse 2008).
b) Why is it so popular?
There must be some reason for the remarkable rising of Twitter. Therefore, I was trying to find some unique features of Twitter during these weeks. To achieve that, I followed many people and visited many Twitter communities to observe people’s ways of using Twitter.
Firstly, Twitter is a service works over multiple networks and devices. Due to the open API, Twitter users can design and build different Twitter clients/applications with their own interface and purpose. From the site of Twitter Fan Wiki, you can see hundreds of Twitter tools/applications works on Windows, Mac, Linux, web browsers and mobile platforms, even some application for Second Life. Vast majority of these applications were developed by third party, which involved Twitter into an virtuous circle: Twitter is popular -> developers are keen to develop it -> users are keen to use it -> Twitter get more popularity...
With the support of so many third party applications, user can access to Twitter at any time and place, which means the message on Twitter can be update and broadcast in real time. For example, I saw some unusual things in somewhere without computer, then I took a photo of it with my cell phone and I want to share it with other. In this case, if I post the photo to my Twitter page with my cell phone immediately, then my followers can see it in the first time, and they might forward it to their own followers... An news can be published like this way, obviously it much faster than traditional broadcast media. As Roumen (2009) said, Twitter may be is world’s fastest news source.
Another significant feature of Twitter is the limit on the length of each post, which is the same as the length limit of SMS, 140 characters. Just like Wikipedia mentioned, “Twitter is the SMS of Internet”, people write things in a casual and liberated way. This is totally different from write an article on a blog, there is no need to organize your thoughts or quibble over the words. I think that is another reason why so many people like to post on Twitter. Among the people I am following, most of them using Twitter in the following three ways:
- A part of them use twitter to update their status/thoughts or show his/her position to their friends. “Jack Dorsey had grown interested in the simple idea of being able to know what his friends were doing.” (Twitter 2006), as the Twitter official website described, to know friends’ status is the original intention of Twitter.
- Some use Twitter to publish their articles or share some articles they were interested, these posts often comes with a brief introduction of the article and followed by a web link to it. Many bloggers take this active spreading approach to attract more readers.
- There is another group of people who just play Twitter for fun, and they following people aimlessly. Here is a guy called “cola_addict”, if you pay a little attention to his page, you will find that he had following nearly 1000 people in 2 hours.
Do I really need it?
I have to say that Twitter is a really interesting SNS, it is very convenient to share something with others, and there are so many ways access to it. Nevertheless, there will always be something to stop me using it more.
While my Twitter account only connect to my friends, I really enjoying the way of writing things as my pleases. Gradually, some people that I do not know started following me. This makes me feel exposed, so do not write these things any more, although there are different privacy setting and I can remove the people I do not know. In addition, I had an interesting test on Twitter: I followed ten people randomly, then I received seven following notification from them in one hour. While I was praising the quick responses, I also wondering why they accept strangers’ follow request and why they followed someone that they do not know. Therefore, I think privacy might be a big problem for Twitter users.
Since I had following more than 50 people, I realized that I am facing a serious problem: the information on my homepage is disordered and overloaded. Due to the informal writing style of Twitter, people are not always share high-quality information. As a result of that, my homepage contains lots of information like following:
“Weird.. my about page has a PR 3 and my Homepage has PR 1 :S”
“whose going to drink tonight somewhere after #SMX? Where are we going?”
“Coke or Pepsi? “
“#sydney traffic sucks”
What is “PR”? What is “SMX”? It is really hard to know what they are talking about and whom they are talking to. Many information in my homepage are meaningless to me, even so, I was forced to read these rubbish everyday. I am very curious that how those people, who are following thousands of people, filter useful things from tones of posts.
Instance Messenger (IM) and RSS are two services that I like to use the most in my daily life. Compared to Twitter, they are mature services which are more suitable for me. Most IM service come with status function, which allow me to tell others what I am doing by changing my status. Furthermore, I am able to share information with specified people by the group function. Although the social networking on IM is much smaller than it on Twitter, I know who they are and what they are talking about. On the other hand, I subscribed many RSS feeds from some famous blog and news sites which offer me the information I need. Some may argue that the news from RSS were not published in real-time, but how many people will mind a few hours delay in read a piece of news?
There is no doubt that Twitter is a great SNS which have many unique features, and it rapidly gained worldwide popularity due to its friendly usability and accessibility. However, it might give user some negative experience like how to protect users’ privacy and how to enable users filter useful information. Personally, I am more likely to use IM, RSS and Blog rather than Twitter. Whether it suitable for you, that entirely depends on how you would like to use it.
Kazeniac, A. (2009). "Social Networks: Facebook Takes Over Top Spot, Twitter Climbs." Retrieved 14 March, 2009, from http://blog.compete.com/2009/02/09/facebook-myspace-twitter-social-network/.
Owyang, J. (2008). "Social Networks Site Usage: Visitors, Members, Page Views, and Engagement by the Numbers in 2008." Retrieved 18 March, 2009, from http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/11/19/social-networks-site-usage-visitors-members-page-views-and-engagement-by-the-numbers-in-2008/.
Roumen, M. (2009). "Twitter - World’s Fastest News Source." Retrieved 21 March, 2009, from http://www.viralblog.com/social-media/twitter-worlds-fastest-news-source/.
Rowse, D. (2008). "Why Twitter Will Go Mainstream In 2009." Retrieved 26 March, 2009, from http://www.twitip.com/why-twitter-will-go-mainstream-in-2009/.
Twitter (2006). "About Twitter." Retrieved 12 March, 2009, from http://twitter.com/about#about.