Twitter. You’ve probably heard it described a million ways. A micro blogging tool. Group instant messaging. Social networking. Keith Elder even described like “being in the speaker’s lounge at a code camp”. There are as many ways to use Twitter as there are reasons to use it. Of course, you can go right to http://twitter.com and use the web interface. There are many desktop clients available too, my personal favorite is Witty. There are even ways to update your Twitter account from your cell phone or smart client mobile device.
There are two keys to making Twitter work for you. First, is to decide what sort of content you are looking for on Twitter, the second is to then follow people who will deliver that kind of content to you. Many people use Twitter to keep others updated on what’s going on in their lives. Where they are hanging out, who they saw that day, what their day was like, etc. Mostly (IMHO) stuff your Mom wants to know.
The next reason to Twitter is to receive information from companies. Places like http://woot.com keep you informed of their deal of the day, which means the info is pushed to me instead of me having to go hunt it down. One of our local TV stations also Twitters to let us know of bad weather events that may be coming.
The final reason I’ll mention is the reason I Twitter, for good technical content. I’ve chosen a mixture of people who Tweet a steady stream of links and tips that I can learn from. I also try to provide relevant posts with useful info.
So, you’ve decided you want to get on Twitter. You’ve gone to Twitter.com and signed up for an account. Now what? Well, you need to decide who you want to follow. There are several ways to do this. First, you can find someone you already know about. I’m assuming you’ve logged into Twitter, and are staring at your home page. Up in the text box next to the Twitter logo where it says “Name or location” type in my Twitter name, arcanecode (all one word) and press enter. You will get a result with me in it, just click on the “Follow” link and you’ll begin to see my Tweets when you refresh the page.
Now you can look at my profile, and look at the list of folks that either I’m following or are following me. (I’d suggest the following page, since it’s more discriminating). You can then choose to follow those folks.
Another way is to search for people in or near the town where you live. Back on your Twitter home page, in the Name or Location box type in the City, ST where you want to look for and press enter. This will produce a list of people who have identified themselves as being in your town. Look over the list, click on their profiles. See how frequently they post, when their last post was, and most important are their posts of interest to you.
I’ll mention one other thing, a common convention when you see someone’s twitter name is to use an @ sign in front, for example @arcanecode. When using an @ sign, Twitter will automatically route that message to the person so they can see it.
To get you started, here is a short list of technical folks I follow for one reason or another. If you want to see my full list, just look at my Twitter profile and click on Following.
@arcanecode – That’s me!
@jeff_barnes – MVP for Connected Systems (WCF)
@tmiranda – MVP for UI (WPF guru)
@KV4S – Fellow ham and software developer
@keithelder – MVP from Mississippi and the person who got me hooked on Twitter
@dougt – Microsoft Developer Evangelist for the Southeast and all around swell guy, no matter what Glen says.
@TheADOGuy – Co-author of many of the .Net training books and magazine articles, recently into Silverlight
@vinull – Speaker out of Knoxville TN and .Net Developer
@dougal – One of the authors of WordPress, one time room mate of @glengordon, and my brother in law.
Nationally Known Twitterers
@shanselman – Host of Hanselminutes and nationally known speaker
@carlfranklin – Host of DotNetRocks
@codinghorror – If you don’t know who this guy is, you should
@saraford – Famous for her Visual Studio tip of the day blog
I’ll wrap this up to an apology with all the folks I couldn’t mention, there were just too many. I follow a lot of really great folks and you’ve all provided me with some great information. Thanks!
Now, to the rest of you go out and start Twittering!