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Could Twitter Become Compulsive?

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Like a great many people, I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with Twitter during the past few weeks. Although I signed up in December, it’s only in the past two weeks that I’ve got active with it.

During this past week, though, it seems that everyone and his granny has jumped on board.

Twitter is… what? A chat tool? A social network? A text messaging service? A place to dump your daily triviality?

Whatever you think it is – it’s all this and a lot more – it’s clearly captured a lot of imaginations in a very short time. Lots of people have signed up for and are using the free service to chat via the website, via their instant messenger and via their mobile phone.

Lots of people are suddenly talking about Twitter, as this Blogpulse graph indicates:

Blogpulse Twitter

The service itself is creaking a bit under the strain of such an influx of users that it’s frequently slow and sometimes unavailable. Yet that’s not stopping anyone.

What is it about this service that prompts people – including me – to almost bare their souls with public snippets of comment that often seems to be the most mundane, and very often comes in a torrent?

Ross Mayfield expresses it well:

[…] Twitter, in a nutshell, is mobile social software that lets you broadcast and receive short messages with your social network. You can use it with SMS (sending a message to 40404), on the web or IM.  A darn easy API has enabled other clients such as Twitterific for the Mac. Twitter is Continuous Partial Presence, mostly made up of mundane messages in answer to the question, “what are you doing?” A never-ending steam of presence messages prompts you to update your own. Messages are more ephemeral than IM presence — and posting is of a lower threshold, both because of ease and accessibility, and the informality of the medium.

It’s that extension of your own social network that I think is what makes it quite compelling to so many people. Seeing snippets of thought from people in your own social circle (which can be personal or business, or both) adds to your knowledge about them and your connectivity with them. You read their blogs and listen to their podcasts; now you get to know a little more about them in a different way, and share a little more of yourself in return.

Ross mentions a tool that makes using Twitter easier, an application for the Mac. There are already lots of Twitter add-ins and I bet more will come soon (such as a Twitter plugin for WordPress).

One I discovered yesterday is really excellent for when you’re in Second Life – post your tweets (as your snippets of thought are called; thankfully not ‘twits’) from within the virtual world with TwitterBox. If you use Yahoo Widgets, there’s a desktop widget that lets you post your snippets.

Whether people will sustain Twitter as a great way to extend connections and conversations, or whether it’s a flash in the pan until the Next Cool Thing comes along, is anybody’s guess.

I think it’s got legs. It’s just beginning to gain traction. Tweets show up in Google searches. Technorati will rank your Twitter profile, just as it does with blogs. Indeed, that makes your Twitter a blog (or a micro-blog, as some are calling it).

Whatever you think of Twitter – cool or just another waste of time – don’t brush it off. In fact, why not join in, at least paying attention to some of the streams of consciousness (just as you do with blogs, right?).

If you want a place to start, try my group of friends.

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Could Twitter Become Compulsive?
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