Twitter is essentially a micro-blogging service that restricts the length of each post to 140 characters. (That's 20 characters shorter than a text-message.) Where the power of Twitter comes in is the ability to search through and link to (called "retweeting:) what other people are discussing and the integration of Twitter with a variety of other platforms. For example, I have several apps on my iPhone that let me upload things directly to Twitter including NetNewsWire -- which syncs with Google Reader and lets me automatically share a post I like with the press of two buttons. It couldn't be easier. I've also installed a GreaseMonkey script that lets me post links directly to Twitter from within Google Reader itself if I'm on my PC.
The other app I use on my iPhone is called Tweetie 2 which sells on iTunes for $2.99. The app allows you to directly post things to Twitter from your iPhone/iPod Touch (including photos), keep up with the tweets of other people you are following, search Twitter, show you a map to see what people in your area are "tweeting", mark other tweets as favorites, and more. I bought Tweetie 2 as part of my Twitter experiment and, between this and NetNewsWire, find that I am using my iPhone as my primary tool for "tweeting" -- often while walking to and from school. (About a 10-minute walk from home.) You can read an in-depth review of Tweetie 2 here.
I'm still exploring the full potential of Twitter as a research tool. So far, I have stumbled on three sites that I particularly enjoy:
- Twitscoop: Automatically updates your twitterfeed without having to refresh your browser window. It also adds links to simply retweeting, can automatically shorten any URLs you have in your tweets (a vital feature given the 140 character limit), and has a dynamically changing "word cloud" showing what the most popular topics are being posted to Twitter (updated by the minute).
- Twitmeme: Shows the hottest links on Twitter -- overall and by category.
- Twitter's Advanced Search: Advanced search features from Twitter's own website.
If you are interested in getting started in Twitter, here is a good post on how to use Twitter and a Twitter Fan Wiki that is also full of good tips.
You can follow me on Twitter and see my most recent updates in the sidebar of this blog.