Why do you use Twitter? After the folks at Twitter added a "Share Your Story" link yesterday where they are asking people why they use Twitter, this has prompted a number of folks to blog about why they use Twitter. One nice piece was from Paul Colligan: "Why I Twitter - And Why It Just Might Make Business Sense" - and then there was Stowe Boyd's that I'll mention later.
All of this prompted me to take a look back at the post I wrote in late December 2007: "The 10 ways I learned to use Twitter in 2007... (aka Why and How I use Twitter)
Three-and-a-half months later the article is still pretty accurate. I would, though, make a few changes, such as adding:
1.5 Twitter as an "Attention Lens": I mention this in my #1, "Twitter as a News Source", but I've come to appreciate that it is different from "news". I find that Twitter suggests where I should focus my (limited) attention. By scanning down the list of tweets, I can rapidly see what people I trust think I should look at. My Twitter stream helps guide what I look at on the web on any given day. Sometimes it is "news", such as the Benezir Bhutto assassination I mentioned in my original article. Many other times it might be older articles or other information that someone found useful and tweeted about. Or it might be blog posts they or someone else have recently written.
11. Twitter as a source of presence information: Until Chris Brogan blogged about this, it hadn't really occurred to me that this is a very real way that I use Twitter. If I have emailed, IM'd or called someone who I know uses Twitter and haven't heard from them - and the matter is important - I will look at their Twitter stream to see what they are up to. Sometimes I've found that someone is on vacation or is many timezones away on the other side of the world. Or that a laptop crashed. Or other information that explains why I can't reach them. In fact I've found that sometimes I now go to Twitter before contacting someone to learn what they are doing before I try to contact them. Obviously, this only really works for people who use Twitter relatively frequently, but for those folks it works well.
I would also note that the way in with I interact with Twitter has changed dramatically since I wrote that piece in December. At the time, I was reading my Twitter stream in a Skype chat window (or alternatively a Jabber chat window). While that worked great, since that time I discovered Twhirl, and now there is no going back! In fact, I've now turned off the notifications in both the Skype and Jabber chat windows. I find Twhirl useful for a number of reasons:
- It runs outside the browser and updates automatically.
- It allows me to very easily reply or direct-message someone in my stream.
- It cross-posts to Jaiku and Pownce, letting me at least have a one-way flow of information to those services.
- It easily lets me see the various types of messages I can receive in Twitter (replies, direct messages, my own messages, the timeline)
- It provides easy access to the list of my friends and followers.
- It has two search capabilities: "Search" for terms in tweets, and "Lookup" to search for Twitter users
All in all, it's a nicely done client and has greatly helped fit Twitter into my daily workflow to a deeper degree. The one thing Twhirl does not have that I had with the Skype chat is a basically endless history (which is then searchable). However, I find that this is less required as I can also just use good old Google to find older tweets.
I should also note that as a result of my last post, I'm now using Twitterberry on my Blackberry 8830 for mobile usage of Twitter. It has its challenges at times, but it does work for what I need. (I do like very much that it has a "Get Replies" to see your replies.)
I do have to say that all my various statements about how and why I use Twitter, both here and in my previous piece, pale in the face of the simple, eloquent and inspiring "Why I Use Twitter" by Stowe Boyd, copied here simply because it's so good:
Being connected is becoming the best way to be effective in the brave new webified world. By tapping into and supporting the passions and drivers of a swirling, ever-changing network of people, I am made better. I am made stronger, smarter, and deeper, and more together in a way that I could not be, on my own.
There is an African saying that says it is through other people that we become people.
Twitter helps us become more human, in a time when it is more important than ever before to see us as connected on this Earth, not separate; linked together, not divided; to see ourselves as elements of a whole that is greater than any, and all, of the individual parts.
Twitter is about hope and love, although the casual observer might miss that completely.
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