What is Twitter?
Twitter can be described as a hybrid of blogging and SMS messaging, or a severely cut-down version of Facebook.
Twitter asks its users – Twitterers – “What are you doing?” and provides a limit of 140 characters in which to answer, with what is known as a ‘Tweet’. Users can reply to this question and to the posts of others either by visiting the site or by SMS text. Updates can be received this way too and by RSS (Really Simple Syndication). This is similar to the Facebook status updates but with the ability to reply directly to the user, a feature Facebook has recently added to its interface.
Twitter offers many benefits:
• it’s a very simple way to keep in touch with friends, colleagues, cohorts, customers and users
• it’s a very direct, open and efficient way of reporting on conferences or projects
• it offers powerful privacy settings; users can open their ‘tweets’ to ‘twitterers’ of their choosing
• it can support communities of practice
• it supports ‘metacognition’ – the practice of thinking and reflecting upon learning
• because of the SMS-like limitations on length but a very public display, it forces twitterers to be brief and to the point – an important skill in thinking and communicating clearly.
Prominent users include:
• The BBC which has started using Twitter to disseminate breaking news
• Stephen Fry keeps in touch with over 116 000 fellow twitterers
• Barack Obama, who used Twitter as a publicity mechanism on his way to winning the US Presidential election
• The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering, which is using Twitter to relay information to students.
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