Monday, August 10, 2009

Twitter for beginners - Part Two: The language

You know the drill. You look at somebody's Twitter page and it doesn't make sense. It's a long list of disembodied comments. That's because you're just sitting at their dock and not swimming in the tweet stream. Once you're signed up, you hit the home button and there are the tweets of everyone you follow and it looks more a conversation in the comments section of a blog. But it still looks like a foreign language, which it is in a way, but it's easy to learn. Take for example this tweet:
andrewhuntre RT @utbrp: RT @ddjango: Where In The World Is Your Member of Congress? / Reeks of "C Street/Family" hooliganism.
What this says in longer form is Andrewhuntre retweeted Utbrp, who retweeted Ddjango's link to, Where In The World Is Your Member of Congress? Andrew adds that it reeks of C Street and The Family's hooliganism. What comes after the / sign following the link, is Andrew's comment on the link. You'll see different forms of that. Some people use // some use | or || to separate their comments from the original tweet. Retweeting obviously just means he's reposting someone else's tweet.

Sometimes, people will put their comments at the beginning of a retweet like this.
johnrobinson Prayers & good vibes sent your way RT @jeffjarvis My cancer:
John is obviously reacting to Jeff's link announcing the sad news that he has cancer. So anything that goes before the RT is the commentary of the tweeter. So far, it's easy. But what about those hash tags, you ask. Like this:
andrewhuntre RT @politicalticker:"Palin urges restraint at town hall meetings"- / Backs off when busted as part of #Crazytrain

andrewhuntre "What's In This Health-Care Bill Anyway?" (via @DeloresMBernal) #hcr #hc09 #tweetthepress #digg
Hash tags are just a category that people start and try to build into a trending stream. If you click on any one, it will take you to a page that consolidates all the tweets of everybody on Twitter who is using that tag. Not just the ones you follow.

The thing about Twitter is that mini-memes develop when a lot of people are tweeting about the same subject. If you don't know what they mean, visiting the page usually helps define it. And they change often. Most of those tags started since I joined. #Crazytrain is shorthand for wingnuts like birthers and teabaggers. That seems to be supplanting #rwnj of last week, which was right wing nut jobs. #hcr is health care reform. #tweetthepress is a new one just started yesterday by some people that want to get the legislators to discuss the reform bill on Twitter. Often they're obvious, sometimes they're not, like #GWS for global war on spiders. In any event, don't worry about them. You don't need to use them to get started and you'll pick it up as you go along.

Otherwise, it's not that different from texting from a telephone. When you only have 140 characters or less, you get creative with abbreviations. And the tweets make more sense once you have the context from reading the link.

Addendum: Dealing with links. Twitter is supposed to have an autofunction that shortens your links if they're too long, but it hasn't worked for me. Maybe it only works for mobile tweeting or is an app I don't have. You're likely to have to shorten yourself in an external program. I use A lot of people seem to use I gather that's better if you want to track your link hits but I don't care about that. In any event, obviously, with only 140 characters you are going to want to shorten them.

Coming in part three, navigating the twitter stream. And if you missed it, Part One - Your follow list. [graphic]

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]


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Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

The last nail in the coffin of the English language.

"texting" -- Sam Morse invented it about 170 years ago, but he wasn't dumb enough to include a tiny keyboard where you have to scroll through letters and of course it was and still is more than ten times faster to use a key. Such progress. Next we'll be going back to the horse and buggy and calling it "horsing."

9:02:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

It's true Fogg. Texting, social media, hell even spell check has ruined people's ability to spell, much less use the language properly.

1:35:00 PM  

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