Twitter, and why it's not just about what your breakfast was

Twitter has taken the internet by storm since its creation in 2006, but every day I seem to find somebody who states, "I just don't get Twitter. It seems all people to is tell others about what they're doing... what's the point of that?" Well, thankfully, there's not much to get. Those people I find who say that seem to think that Twitter is for people who are incredibly boring and wish to tell others about their incredibly boring lives; those very same people tend to be those who have actually never used the service.

Twitter features the tagline 'What are you doing?'. This, to me, actually doesn't seem very appropriate any more. Twitter, today, is less about status updates, and more about general communication. I read an interesting tweet by Major Nelson of Microsoft that read, "Twitter is starting to remind me of IRC....kinda of in some ways. But not in others." I actually agreed with this, quite strongly, and I know others could as well. Why? Because I notice more conversations happening on Twitter than anything else. You get a couple people who actually use it to declare their dogs new name, or the status of the weather where they are, but the vast majority aren't like that. Twitter is a hustling, bustling community of people all talking at once, to one another -- not shouting out into the darkness, hoping somebody is listening. Use the service for five minutes and you'll notice the same thing. The best thing about this community is that everybody is equal. Find a celebrity account and you'll see they they're more than willing to chat casually with fans, because on Twitter, popularity doesn't really matter. We're all humans, and Twitter knocks everybody down to the same level.

So, let me list a few reasons that show that it's not about selfish people with no lives. Firstly: NASA. NASA provides Twitter updates on projects like Space Shuttle missions, as well as the International Space Station. If a social networking tool is enough to gain the interest of a company like that, it has to be doing something right. Sure, I could use any other example, but it's pretty unique to see NASA on a service like this, I think. Secondly: news. Yeah, you all knew that was coming, I'm a news reporter, blah blah blah, but it's true! 95% of the news that I read comes from Twitter; the thing with it is that it's instant. There's no waiting for RSS feeds to update, or having to check your favorite website... it just happens. This is especially handy for people like me, as time matters. Half an hour can make a world of difference when it comes to huge scoops, so the ability to get the details the second they happen is vital. Of course, this is great for non-journalists, too, but I'm just pointing out that using Twitter has actually helped me get news to Neowin quicker, and that's always a good thing. If you can argue that it doesn't matter in that respect, then I'm afraid you're a member of the wrong website. Thirdly: unique content. What does this mean? Well, it means that there's certain new or competitions that you won't find anywhere else. I'll use one of my favorite bands, Muse, as an example. They provide occasional photos or videos of them recording their new album on Twitter, and nowhere else. A lot of other bands are that way, as well as other celebrities. Not only this, but I have seen hundreds of exclusive Twitter competitions, ranging from signed John Mayer guitars to simple iPhone apps. This isn't, of course, vital to anyone, but it certainly is great; I've won a few things in under 140 characters myself.

Twitter is essentially a great way to stay up to date with the current events, without having to do much work yourself. Companies like CNN, Engadget, Gizmodo and even Neowin use Twitter to send out news updates, so unless you enjoy checking all these different websites, then you'll find it to be quite handy indeed. You don't even need to make status updates at all. I know that people will comment complaining that, "Oh, Sam, you foolish fool, why would I want a service to do what I can do already? I know how to read news!" and that's all well and good. If you enjoy it that way, so be it, but if you want to be able to get really up to date news, then Twitter is probably your best bet. And not only that, you can have fun doing it too!

So lastly, you know what else is strange? I don't think I've actually had anybody tell me about what they had for breakfast.

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