Twitter Explained, Well Sort Of…

Twitter is one of those unexpected phenomena that occasionally appears in the tech world and takes it by storm.

Introduced in 2006 Twitter rose to fame in early 2007 when the ability to micro-blog on Twitter was taken up by tens of thousands people around the world. In just 140 characters you tell the world what you are doing now.


For many the introduction to Twitter is one of bewilderment. “What’s it for?” “Who is on it?” “I don’t know anyone on Twitter” are some of the thoughts I had when I learned of Twitter’s existence from podcasters.

Initially I checked it out, became overwhelmed by the mass of apparently disjointed comments or Tweets and promptly gave up. Then earlier this year, while house-bound for a week with a bad back and plenty of time on my hands, I gave Twitter another go.

I started to follow a few of my favourite podcasters on Twitter. I watched their Tweets and finally plucked up courage to say something myself. I held my breath and awaited a reply….. finally I turned blue and fainted. No-one replied to my Tweet! I was saddened.

But I wasn’t going to give up. I continued by Tweeting about my inability to grasp the purpose of Twitter. Eventually I received a reply, well two actually. Wow! they were talking to me. One, Allison a podcaster from California, USA, the other Damien a climber & hiker from Queensland, Australia. Even more surprisingly, they started to follow my Tweets. 

Over the next few weeks I was Followed by others and, in turn I Followed those. Along the way there were some “unusual” characters that chose to follow me (and thousands of others) so I blocked them from my list of Followers. I only want quality Followers, with whom I can have intelligent conversations I only Follow those that interest me. I have no desire to gain large numbers of anonymous followers, so I undertake a regular pruning of the Twitter-bots and the unsavoury or irrelevant characters.

You soon build up a network of fellow Tweeters who become “virtual friends”. You may never get to meet these people in real life, but they are as helpful as any good friend could be. A Perth-based businessman, and good Twitter friend, Mark, gave me advice when I couldn’t fathom out Domain Name Server problems on my website; Los Angeles Times photographer, Robert, helped me with my digital SLR camera queries; a friend in Ireland, Bart, advised on iPhoto editing and a friend from Hobart, Rose, cheered me up with her witty remarks on Twitter. They all remain good Twitter friends, plus there are many more who have joined me along the way. 

Today, Twitter is used by news agencies such as the BBC and CNNBarack Obama has a Twitter identity for campaign updates, emergency services use Twitter to spread essential information at times of major disasters. Twitter has become mainstream, and the proliferation of web-enabled mobile phones increases its efficacy.

Methods of communication are changing. We are using this new technology to expand our horizons, to link to others around the globe, to people in different social groups or disparate ideologies. Understanding of others is achieved via communication and Twitter provides the threads that link many of us together. It fulfills our desire to be heard and to be informed.

I started this article about Twitter intending it to be a couple of lines long (I could learn a lot from the Twitter brevity rule!) and to link to a video from the commoncraft website. The video explains one way that Twitter can be used. In fact, just watch the video and don’t bother reading my post above, it is much more eloquent!

Follow my Twitter Tweets via the link near the top of my blog.


Don McAllister of the ScreenCastsOnline podcast has produced an explanatory ScreenCast on the basics of Twitter. Check out Don’s excellent ScreenCastsOnline website.

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