Saturday, December 20, 2008

So what is this Twitter you keep going on about?

Twitter is the one social networking / micro-blogging / status update service that I fully embraced this year and used extensively. At Web 2.0 Summit in October 2007, there was a lot of talk about Twitter, so I thought I really should give it a go, and once I got into it I was hooked.

I often describe Twitter as being like the status update feature on Facebook and you can choose to follow other people's or companies status updates and to restrict who sees yours (if you want). I, in fact, also have my status update in Facebook automatically whenever I update it in Twitter (except for when I am replying to somebody else).

First off, Twitter is FREE to use. They are looking at various Revenue models, but the base service is expected to be free for the foreseeable future.

Twitter is based around the simple question of "What are you going?". In response to this you can only use 140 characters. Whilst you can just answer this question, most people use it as a way to distribute thoughts, links of interest, and inform others what is happening in their organisation or the world (e.g. check out @stephenfry - yes, it's really him and @NZQuake for up-to-date New Zealand Earthquake information). There is also the option of sending replies to other people (e.g. @gianouts Loved your blog post today. Very inspiring) or to send them a direct (private) message.

Similar to a water cooler or coffee machine in the office around which there are a variety of conversations, Twitter essentially provides a place Online for those discussions. Many organisations also provide customer support and information through this mechanism, such as Telecom New Zealand, Epic Beer, CNN and Xero.

Whilst a user can update their Twitter status via the Twitter Homepage there are also a variety of other tools people have built that makes this easier and nicer to do from a variety of operating systems, web browsers and devices. I personally use Twhirl a lot of the time from my desktop which is a client very similar to the likes of an Instant Messenger client.

CommonCraft also have a very good and short (2:25 min) explanation of Twitter.

Since you initially start off following no people you need to find other people or organisations of interest to follow. They don't need to be people you know, in fact the vast majority of people I follow I have never met. Other people also do not need to accept for you to follow them (unless they choose this as an added security feature) so you are free to follow whoever you want and this is expected practice. Following people you know in real life does imho make it more interesting.
There are a variety of ways of getting started with people to follow, including:

You can find me on Twitter at - come along, sign up and follow me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Keeping up with what's happening in the world

The world of technology (in particular) is moving very fast. I used to surf the web looking for what was new on key sites, but then decided that I would rather have the information come to me rather than me having to stumble across it. I then subscribed to lots of mailing lists, but once RSS feeds arrived this enabled access to even more information in a manner that meant I wasn't drowning my Inbox (or having to set up numerous auto-filter rules), so I stopped subscribing to the vast majority of mailing lists. For the past year I have been using Twitter and RSS feeds as key methods for keeping up with what's going on. I now wonder what next year will bring and how Semantic Web technologies will change relevant information makes its way to me.

The key methods I recall adopting for the past few years in terms of keeping up with what's going on:

Surfing the Web, in particular:
  • Computerworld
  • Slashdot
  • Aardvark
  • TheServerSide.NET
Mailing List subscriptions
RSS Feeds (read all)
Reading Intranet sourced information
RSS Feeds (read most)
Reading Intranet sourced information
RSS Feeds (read some)
Coffee catchups with peers
Delicious (looking at links in my Inbox)
Reading Gartner, Forrester, Yankee Group articles
Coffee catchups with peers
Coffee catchups with peersSlideshare
Reading Intranet sourced information

Reading IEEE articles
Conferences / Vendor briefings
Reading Gartner, Forrester, Yankee Group articles
Conferences / Vendor briefings
Delicious (looking through network)
Ad hoc

Reading IEEE articles
Podcasts (particularly after a conference)
Reading Gartner, Forrester, Yankee Group articles
Conferences / Vendor briefings

Technologies such as Twitter have enabled me to keep well informed about what it going on going on in the IT space, and Yammer has been great at finding out what is happening at work to throw ideas around. A lack though of decent Information filtering tools has meant that it is not easy to keep on top of the water hose of information that is available. Semantic Web technologies will become more prevalent in 2009 (probably not mainstream though) and it will be interesting to see how these assist in sourcing information that I want to read from all over the Internet and maybe even summarising it for me.

How are other people sifting their way through the large amounts of information out there, and what tools and/or processes do you expect we will be using in the next few years?

Photo Attribution: Creative Commons - Will Lion