Monday, June 16, 2008

Twitter as a Life-Saver?

Along with thousands of others, I have recently been playing around with the "microblogging" site, Twitter. The premise is simple--answer the question "What are you doing?" using 140 characters or less and allow those who are interested to follow along with what you have to say. It's sort of like sending out text messages to anyone who cares enough to read it. The thing is, most of us are constantly doing something different, so the answer changes a lot.

Twitter also allows you to follow along as friends, celebrities, experts, and even the Mars rover, continually answer the question, as well. You may choose to follow just a select few, or thousands, it all depends who you think has something interesting to say, and you can choose to receive these updates online or even to your phone.

The obvious first question is, "why would anyone do that?" or "isn't that just more inane chatter to muck up your already overly complicated life?". Both are beyond fair questions and ones that I posed before playing around a little bit so that I might be able to answer them for folks. Personally, I've been using Twitter mostly like its an RSS reader that allows me to listen in to the up-to-the-instant insight from other experts in my field. I've also used it for quick research (by firing out a question to get some quick feedback from those who are following my posts) and to keep MediaSauce colleagues updated about what I'm working on without having to talk to a handful of people individually. As is the case with most Internet phenomenon, there isn't really a clear cut point to Twitter, just different uses for different folks.

Thinking beyond the techie geek side of things, there is also potential for the service to help with news delivery and personal safety. Recently, an American student in Egypt was unjustly arrested, but was able to send out a "tweet" before being put in a cell. The simple text message "Arrested." motivated his followers to begin calling the embassy and helping clear up the situation. He was free in less than 24 hours. Being connected can be a very good thing.

I'm yet to see too many great applications for business, but JetBlue, Comcast and others are already using Twitter for customer service, and at MediaSauce, we use it to send out quick internal announcements. I can also envision it as a great tool to seek out and motivate volunteers or canvassers come election time.

Anyway, you'll be hearing plenty more about Twitter, especially if someone really figures out what they're supposed to be doing with it! Feel free to sign up and follow my every move (at least until I get bored with it).