Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Goan Observer: Thinking Twitter!

Twitter can never actually be a social network, rather it is a great platform for a social network.

You can’t chat with people on Twitter, you can’t send them anything more than hyperlinks, which open on other websites.

You can not write messages longer than 140 characters even if they include hyperlinks.

You can’t send a direct message to someone, unless they actually follow you.

Once you post a tweet, you can never actually delete it, it’s like trying to take your words back.

It doesn’t give you a lot of privacy, unless you go to the extreme of protecting your tweets, err thoughts!

People have the liberty of writing back to you, via @replies, but you can never actually delete their messages.


So what is twitter?

It is a thought collector, where you follow other people’s thoughts (if they are honest enough about it, since they believe they can’t reveal too much in  140 characters)

What is it good for?

If you are the kind who is always bothered about what people think, albeit on a micro level, then this is a great way to listen to the thoughts of those who matter.


What is @ on Twitter?

@guykawasaki , for example, is a way of tweeting to a specific twitter profile, such that it is separately listed under @guykawasaki on Guy Kawasaki’s homepage.


What do you mean by RT?

RT means Retweet, where a user chooses to resend a specific tweet to their followers for the purpose of spreading a certain message. The source is usually listed as @source.


Why do tweets consist of links such as ?

These are shortened URLs provided by websites such as to ensure that the link fits within the word limit of 140 characters.



For some people, this may be the way to actually know how popular you are, but is it really?

Most of the time, the number of followers you have is inflated, by the number of marketers who are trying to capitalize on your viewers by displaying themselves in the Following list.

Is there any restriction on who can follow you?

If you don’t protect your tweets, NO ! Although there are ways to remove the followers through blocking them and reporting them as spam.


Fake profiles?

As with any other platform, one needs to safeguard and keep the platform clean by blocking or reporting any profiles which either try to pull you to their marketing scheme or adult dating site.

These profiles try to disguise themselves by posting normal messages on the top, and then putting the actual message along with the link somewhere in the middle.


Who is a Twitter expert?

Well, there is a marketing expert called Guy Kawasaki ( who believes that twitter can replace entire sets of marketing people.

Then there is Gul Panag who is acclaimed as the celebrity most comfortable with Twitter, so comfortable that she has been signed to post live updates of the ongoing Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW).

Gul Panag(, has her restrictions though. She has mentioned that actors should avoid unwittingly revealing secret details about their films.

Since there are likely to be a lot of fake accounts for celebrities, Twitter has a Verified badge which can be used to differentiate the fake from the original.


Are there any more Twitter controversies, besides the Shashi Tharoor incident?

Plenty! Take the case of Jon-Barrett Ingels(, who used to be a waiter at the Barney Greengrass establishment in Beverly Hills, USA. Used to be… till he tweeted "Tues: Jane Adams, star of HBO series "Hung," skipped out on a $13.44 check. Her agent called and payed the following day. NO TIP!!!"

The Los Angeles Times blog Brand X, reported that a month later, Ingels claims that Adams wandered into the restaurant, rather upset, and gave him his $3 tip. Ingels offered her platitudes of the "Aw, you didn't have to" sort. But Adams, he says, exclaimed, "Well, I read about it on Twitter!"

By the way, the Shashi Tharoor incident, was due to people outside Twitter, who could not actually read his statement in context. Within the Twitter environment, Shashi Tharoor is well followed, as he gives a very detailed, non-political account of his eventful day.


Twitter search?

Now you may ask, why do I need Twitter Search when I can just as well google my way around.

The difference, is that Twitter gives you results as they happen, meaning just about every Tweet posted regarding the given keywords or hashtags (if you choose to use the # tag, that is!). Google on the other hand, only provides the most popular results, but not the most recent results.


This is the reason why when the bomb blast happened in Margao, the first place it appeared, was on Twitter.

Similarly, when the Mumbai terrorist attack of 26/11 happened, there was continuous coverage on Twitter, even though the cable news channels were blocked for a few hours because the government had stopped it when there was a worry of too much information being spilled out.



Twitter constantly tracks the most popular keywords, hence the trending topics is a great way to keep track of what everyone is talking about the most. Since this is based only on the number of hits, it is far more accurate than any other listing of most important topics.


Is it accurate?

As with any other source of information, it depends on your sources.

If you have been following someone for a long time on Twitter, who has provided accurate information over time, then it will have a higher probability of being accurate.


Can Twitter be used with Facebook and Myspace?

Yes, since Twitter provides information which fits within the status box on various networks such as Myspace and Facebook, Twitter provides tools whereby users can integrate their Twitter account with Facebook and Myspace.

This is the main reason why, while you might delete a tweet on Twitter, you would find it difficult to also delete it at the same time on Myspace and Facebook.



One should never follow a new person, unless there is actually something worth following.

People who follow you, would be interested to know who you follow, hence if you are a marketing expert and are following Mcdonald’s, people would believe that there is something in Mcdonald’s worth following. If they come up on a dud, then it reflects wrongly on you as well.


Is there a message in reading the number of followers versus following?

Yes. If the number of followers is more than ten times the number of following, it would mean that the person is a thought leader, who most probably writes a lot of books, or is a celebrity.

If the number of following is more than ten times the number of followers, then this is a case of spam. Very often, brand based twitter profiles, or profiles for new websites, will try to increase their number of following, using software.

If the number of follower or following is more than say 1000, then there is a case of hype, otherwise the profile is clean and the chance of really interesting tweets is high.


Are there ways to Tweet from my phone?


Yes, currently Airtel is tied in with Twitter so that you can send Tweets just as you send SMSes.

For the rest of us, there is the option of pointing your phone browser to, where you can follow your friend’s tweets, and post your own.

There are also various mobile applications, depending on your phone model by which you can tweet comfortably.


So, are you ready to think out loud (tweet)?

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