Word On The Tweet

January 12, 2009 9:24:28 PM PST
Twitter and sites like it are changing the way people connect.The blogging site www.twitter.com is so popular it was recently a high profile target for hackers. They broke into some celebrity's accounts and even President-elect Barack Obama's twitter page.

But what is Twitter and why does it have millions of people blasting out their life moments? 'Twittering' and 'tweeting' has become its own language. If you don't understand Twitter, think of cell phone texting and internet blogging all in one.

"Tweet-ups build new friendships," said Jacqui Cheng.

Yes, Cheng said 'tweet' up. We found one at a River North bar with a group of "tweeters" who all met on the communication Web site.

"You can just tweet and say like we are having a tweet up at this bar at this time and everybody is invited and people can just show up and hang out with your twitter friends," said Cheng.

Twitter is a live stream of millions of micro-bloggers posting their interests, questions and the sometimes daunting details of their daily lives. You can read and respond online or from your cell phone. All of the posts are under 140 characters.

"The word twitter itself comes from the noise sound birds make in a tree this idea of short trivial bursts of information they exchange," said Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.

Stone says the communication bursts defy the rules of instant messaging, emailing and texting because there's no expectation to respond.

"We allow you to be as connected as you want to be every second of every day or walk away from twitter a couple of days and drop it," said Stone.

When you're interested in keeping up with someone, you simply click on the 'follow' button on their profile page. They can also choose to 'follow' you back. If you don't know everyone who is following you then you may want to be reserved about how many details you post. But you can also block people from following you.

"I'm close to 400 people following me which to me is a lot to some people is nothing," said Jessica Odenbach. She and Reginald Pulliam tweet away as they work from what they call their 'Tw-office' desks at a P.R. firm. They "follow" updates from people in their industry, TV shows, news organizations, strangers and their personal contacts.

"Just that one little bit of information lets all of my flowers friends and family know what I am doing at this moment," said Pulliam.

Jennifer Gniadecki twitters from her home in south suburban Homewood. She's used it to land freelance corporate writing jobs.

"You can kind of insert yourself. Be part of that conversation and then you can move on to the next conversation whether its politics, business your children," said Gniadecki.

There are also other similar micro-blogging sites like Jaiku, Tumblr, Yammer, Plurk. But Twitter has the most users. In the last year, analysts say Twitter's numbers increased 400 percent to about 6 million users world wide.

"These sites have become popular recently because the technology plugs into the mobile world," said comScore Senior analyst Andrew Lipsman .

Both Facebook and MySpace also allow you to post 'what you're doing now' but users say that's not the same as 'micro-blogging' which pumps out a constant conversation.

One user put it this way: "I look at Twitter as being a digital cocktail party."

Military officials have expressed concern that terrorists could use micro-blogging sites like twitter to communicate. But Twitter was recently credited for helping families connect in the India bombing attacks.

You can also now twitter with ABC 7. You'll get quick updates of what we are working on for you. Just visit twitter.com/abc7chicago.