If you've not at least heard of twitter by now then you've probably been in a cabin in the woods with no electricity or cellphone coverage.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a micro-blogging service designed to do answer one simple question:
What are you doing?
It has a 140 character post limit so you have to keep it short and to the point. Punctuation is optional as are spaces sometimes. (Hey, those things waste characters and with 140 limit every single character counts)
People "follow" your updates in order to see your post and you in turn can follow them back if you so choose. Its your choice on who to follow. Unless a person has their updates marked Private (thus defeating the purpose of twitter) then you can follow anyone you see.
Some terminology used in the twittersphere
Tweet = a twitter posting/message
RT or ReTweet = reposting another users tweet, sort of like applause for their tweet and passing it on
Fail Whale = the error page displayed when twitter is down or unresponsive
Tweeple = People that follow you and that you follow. Twitter + People (Thanks @PJ_Tweets for the reminder)
There are tons of sites out there that go into insane detail about twitter, its use, its abilities, and even how to make a business using it. There are just as many sites bashing twitter as there are promoting it. You're smart, google up twitter and find em yourself.
This post is designed to simply tell you how I use twitter and my opinion on its relevance (or not, take my information with a grain of salt and make your own decision on how to use it).
Twitter helps me keep up with news and information from around the country and sometimes the world. It has scooped mainstream media on current events and happenings more times than I can count. I will often read about something that happened and a few hours later finally see that same happening show up on a mainstream media site. The plane crash into the Hudson River is a prime example, news of the crash and pics of the plane in the water were on twitter and twitpic before mainstream media had a clue. Now do you see why CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc.. are all talking Twitter now? They are tired of getting scooped. Via Twitter I knew about the last few earthquakes to hit California long before any news of it showed up on a "news" site.
This is what I see as the main power of Twitter: The ability to get information out to a huge list of people in an immediate fashion.
Celebrities, Companies, Politicians, Pornstars, and Regular people like you and me... Twitter has them all. Who you follow is up to you. Pick the people that you feel bring value to your twitter feed and over time weed out the bad decisions if you made any.
Here are just some of the people I follow that I have found to add good value to my twitter feed.
NOTE: there are TONS of Celebrity IMPOSTERS out there, I only follow the confirmed accounts so you can be sure if I'm following the person that its the real deal.
@rozsavage - this incredible lady has solo-rowed across the Atlantic and has recently rowed across the Pacific from California to Hawaii in Phase 1 of rowing across the whole Pacific. She fights for a Greener Earth and is not above replying to her fans questions. She and I have chatted back and forth a few times. She has a new book coming out in October and embarks on Phase 2 of her Pacific Row in 37 days as of this writing. www.rozsavage.com is where you can find out more.
@joethepeacock - I worked with Joe years ago and find his take on things to be quite enlightening and unfettered. He speaks his mind, has a great sense of humor and has written 2 books
@mariancall - I enjoy her music and follow to keep up with new releases and information. She responds back to fans which I find very cool. CyberPR says this of Marian "Norah Jones & Jason Mraz never recognized their secret love child, because she was raised by crazy uncles They Might Be Giants." I highly recommend you give her a listen www.mariancall.com
@donttrythis - Adam Savage of Mythbusters. Quite possibly the coolest guy on TV from a geeks point of view. My dream job would be to be a Mythbuster working with Adam. His tweets let you in on some of the backstage antics and his pics let you see whats coming up this season.
@grantimahara - Grant Imahara of Mythbusters. The 2nd Mythbuster to join Twitter. He's new but so far has tweeted a few good behind the scenes pics. Shows promise :)
@BadAstronomer - Phil Plait PhD - worked on the Hubble Telescope and is now a writer and blogger over at http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/ Funny guy, good source of information on astronomy
@NASA - yes, The N.A.S.A. - Great for news and information on current space missions and happenings
@wilw - Wil Wheaton - yes, Westley Crusher from Star Trek TNG. He's a witty blogger and writer now with a few published books under his hat.
While we're on Star Trek, @levarburton and @brentspiner are both on my list as well. Both are funny guys and are active in the theatre scene in some areas. They tweet about their play work alot and other appearances that they are doing.
@calilewis - Host of GeekBrief.tv and Tech Geek Icon.
@rainnwilson - yes, Dwight Schrute from The Office and all around funny actor guy. He is quite funny to follow.
@lancearmstrong - yup, its him. Nice guy and updates pretty regularly
I could go on and on describing the people I follow, all 170 of them.
In a nutshell
If I listen to their podcast, I follow them.
If I have their tech product and they are on twitter, I follow them (@drobo @1password and @boxee for instance)
If its a celebrity I like and can confirm the account, I follow them.
You can see who a person follows on their main page so feel free to check mine out and farm for some people to follow. I'm @shawnrhill
Twitter is a cool service and a powerful tool. Like most things, it is what you make of it.