March 11, 2008

Twitter and micro-blogging

Wondering what all the fuss is about Twitter? Lee Lefever from the CommonCraft Show has posted another great video in his Plain English series breaking down this popular micro-blogging service and explaining why so many people (me included) enjoy using it.

Judging by the comments at YouTube, there remains a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what Twitter is and why people use it. While it is described as a social networking tool, I think Twitter is actually a pretty great professional development and networking tool. I've discovered many interesting resources, ideas, and events by following peoples' twitter updates. I've seen questions and calls for help met by a mass of followers (and their followers) and resolved in mere seconds or minutes. That's much more efficient and productive than possible using email or web forums. It's also just fascinating and informative to "shadow" people to see what they're thinking and what they're doing. Imagine the benefits to students, educators or other professionals who can receive professional development in their pocket simply by following the updates of people they admire in the field.

Because Twitter updates can be sent and received via mobile phones, web browsers, instant messaging clients or other 3rd party apps, people can communicate with each other in ways previously unimagined. For example, Twitter has become a popular way to communicate during professional conferences-it allows organizers to immediately distribute information to everyone's mobile phone and participants to discuss events or arrange their own ad-hoc meet ups. Protesters too realize these advantages to communicate with groups of people anywhere, anytime. Even established organizations such as NPR and the BBC are beginning to discover the advantages of using Twitter, and several of the presidential candidates this season used twitter to communicate with and listen to their supporters (and detractors).

So, what people need to realize is that innovative technologies like Twitter are really what you make them to be. Imaginative people will always be able to use simple tools to accomplish great things.

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