What is Twitter? A Guide for the Uninitiated.

Well this post is late! Twitter has been around now for a couple of years now and has long been a geeks social network. Things have changed now and Twitter is become more mainstream. So what exactly is Twitter?

Twitter started off as a web and SMS based service that allowed friends to “tweet” what they were doing in a 140 characters (limit of an SMS Text Message) or less. But rather than writing out a long and drawn out explanation watch this short little video explaining Twitter.

This video does a great job of explaining Twitter, but a few things have changed since it was produced in March 2008. Twitter has become more than a way of just following your friends. It has become a way to follow other interesting people, have conversations with people and friends and even to get breaking news. A bevy of services have also sprung up with Twitter that allow you to search for specific message subjects, find tweets from a local area, seeing your twitter ranking and much more. For example I have my Twitter account set up so that when I tweet it also updates my Facebook Status.

The popularity of Twitter has led to the development of several software clients for almost any device so you can update your status from virtually anywhere. There are Twitter clients for PCs, Macs, iPhone/iPod Touch, Blackberries and other phones. Personally I use Tweetdeck and Twhirl on my PCs and Macs and a program called Tiny Twitter on my Blackberry. I like Tweetdeck because on a 2 display system it allows me to keep it open and have all my friends in one column, replies in another, Direct Messages to me in a 3rd and then I can have search columns also running It does take up quite a bit of real estate on the desktop and I feel is better suited for dual display set ups. I like Twhirl because while it allows me to follow Twitter, it also supports other services like FriendFeed and Laconica based (open source twitter like software) sites as well for example indenti.ca.

Twitter has really changed over the past several months, news has broken on Twitter before it has been aired on the national news services. Reports of the Earthquake in China several months back and the terrorist attack in Mumbai were tweeted up to an hour before news services like CNN could report it. More recently the landing of the Southwest Airline Plane in the Hudson River, the Continental crash in Buffalo, NY and the more recent airline crash in Amsterdam all hit Twitter before the news services.

Signing up with Twitter is free by visiting www.twitter.com, but then what. The next step is to follow people that you are interested in. At the end of this post I will include a few notable people that you can start following. Otherwise you can find your friends and start posting your updates. You do have the option of either keeping all of your updates private (requiring approval before allowing people to follow you) or public.

You can also tweet for your Internet enabled mobile phone by going to m.twitter.com. Blackberry users can also download one of the Blackberry Twitter clients. If you are a Bell Mobility subscriber in Canada you can tweet and get updates via SMS, Rogers and TELUS users unfortunately can not take advantage of SMS updates just yet.

To use Twitter to update your Facebook profile you have to install the Twitter application in your Facebook profile

A couple of things to note about Twitter. While you can send private direct messages to other people they can only be those who follow you and you follow. Some people will automatically follow anyone that follows them as well, however personally I do not. I follow a majority of my followers but there are some that I just won’t. Another thing I don’t do is automatically direct message a person I follow and who has followed me. For some people with very large numbers of followers they can get bombarded with messages “thanking them for the follow” which is akin to spam.

Here are a few interesting people that you can follow right off the bat…


Aston Kutcher http://www.twitter.com/aplusk
Demi Moore mrskutcher
Shaquille O”Neil http://www.twitter.com/THE_REAL_SHAQ
Dr. Drew http://www.twitter.com/DRdrew
Neil Gaiman (Author) http://www.twitter.com/neilhimself
Wil Wheaton http://www.twitter.com/wilw
Martha Stewart http://www.twitter.com/marthastewart
Jimmy Fallon http://www.twitter.com/jimmyfallon
Brent Spiner http://www.twitter.com/brentspiner
LeVar Burton http://www.twitter.com/levarburton
Penn Jillette http://www.twitter.com/pennjillette
Adam Savage (Mythbuster) http://www.twitter.com/donttrythis
John Cleese http://www.twitter.com/johncleese
Stephen Fry http://www.twitter.com/stephenfry

News Sources
Calgary Herald http://www.twitter.com/calgaryherald
Global Calgary http://www.twitter.com/globalcalgary
CBC News Calgary http://www.twitter.com/cbccalgary
Western Standard http://www.twitter.com/westernstandard
Global National http://www.twitter.com/globalnational
National Post http://www.twitter.com/nationalpost
CNN Breaking News http://www.twitter.com/cnnbrk
Rick Sanchez CNN http://www.twitter.com/ricksanchezcnn
Anderson Cooper http://www.twitter.com/andersoncooper
Stephen Harper http://www.twitter.com/pmharper (not very active)

Some others
In this category are some fake accounts others may be useful.

Darth Vader http://www.twitter.com/darthvader
Abe Vigoda http://www.twitter.com/abevigoda
God http://www.twitter.com/god
Fake Stephen Harper http://www.twitter.com/fakesteveharper
One night we were watching the TV show The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon one of the characters mentioned he twittered something. Right after the show I jumped online and checked and sure enough every member of the cast has a twitter account. These two seem to be the most active

Rajesh Koothrappali http://www.twitter.com/theraj
Sheldon Cooper http://www.twitter.com/sheldoncooper

And finally if you wish to follow me go to

Twitter is really what you want to make of it. Some companies are using it and monitoring what is being said about them, and replying. I was contacted immediately by Smugmug Support and the CEO after I complained about an upload problem on twitter. I encourage you to try it out and see if it is useful.