Thursday, November 22, 2007

Twittering with the Best of Um

TwitterPixelsIf you're reading this, you're probably at least a little savvy of blogging. A blog is a very free-form term nowadays that grossly covers any kinds of website in a "post-by-post" format. Now, a new form of blogging is coming out to play and it has its own ideas about what makes up a blog. It's called "microblogging" and as you can imagine, it's a very small version of its big brother, the weblog. While a number of ways to microblog are vying for space on the internet, the most popular by far is Twitter.

Before we can discuss Twitter or any of its competators, the basics of the technology must be understood. Once a blog has been published, each post can either be read on the original page, or, if the blogger is at all interested in getting people to read his or her page, the blog can be read in RSS format. An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a blog that has been digested into machine code so that it can be viewed with many other feeds in a standardized form. Feed readers like Google Reader or the reader built in to Flock make it easy to read a lot of different blogs, all at the same time.

If a post is too long, it either has to be truncated in RSS or it will take up a large portion of the feed. While regular weblogs struggle with this, sites like Twitter excel at making lots of short posts. Each Twitter user has an account from which they can post little blurbs up to 150 words 140 characters long. As soon as they hit enter, the micro-post (or "Tweet") is syndicated to their long stream of other little posts. This can then be digested as RSS and a users can "follow" the microblogs of many different Twitter users.

An example of what this kind of microblogging looks like is posted on the left side of this page. What you can see is a live feed of my Tweets that have been ported over from my Twitter account (Loyaleagle) and relayed as an RSS feed. I can post about what's going on in my life, send private messages to other users, and generally get a quick pulse of how my friends and favorite organizations are doing. That's right, a lot of companies and groups have Twitter feeds that they update with information about product updates and just crazy stuff happening in their part of the world.

There are a number of competitors, Jaiku and Pownce ranking near the top, but as with any social network, the one with the most of your friends is going to be your choice. I don't really have many friends on Twitter (it isn't very popular in the college scene yet), but I have found that most of the things I follow online are attached to a Twitter feed. Facebook has a similar feature with the "status" update you can apply to your profile, but because it is grounded in RSS, there are many more ways to display a Twitter feed.

Anyway, good luck Twittering and let me know what YOUR favorite microblogging agent is!

Edit: corrected the length of a twitter post

Works Used:
The image ("
My Twitter Friends: update") was created by Flickr user "Josh Russel" and is licensed under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

Blogged with Flock


  1. I think you meant 150 characters, not 150 words ;-).

    Otherwise, very good analysis of microblogging.

  2. corrected...and i even got the number wrong....

    thanks for the comment

  3. 140 is the character limit for text messages, which microblogs use.

    That isn't a screenshot of all of your Twitter friends, is it Jimmy? Gorram!

  4. Nice call mcandre....and no, it's an image I found on creative commons' search system. It's cited down at the bottom. My own friends list is pretty sad...:(


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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

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