If you already know what Twitter is, and what Live Tweets are all about, skip this story but please let us know how you like the Live Feed widget on the right, which is following #GA09 in DC (skip to the end of the article for info about the GA).
For everyone else: Twitter 101, or “What’s the Fuss About?”
Hmmm. Where to begin. Twitter is a free tool that lets you send little messages out into the world. The little messages are called Tweets. They started out looking a lot like phone text messages, answering the question “What are you doing?” (not that anyone in particular asked but just in case anyone was wondering what you are doing). For text messages, you need to have a “to”: you are sending a message to someone specific, or even to a list of someones. Tweets are a little different. Most tweets go out into the world, like a text message without a specific “to”. So who gets the message? Ahhhh. If you want to get someone’s message, you can “follow” that person on Twitter. You can follow Oprah, or The Ellen Show, or the WhiteHouse. Businesses caught on, and non-profit organizations too, and politicians, and so on. You can follow a lot. (Disclaimer: You can follow Boulder Jewish News. Our name on Twitter is “bldrjewishnews” because spelling out “Boulder” didn’t fit). If someone tweets something you like, you can reply to the tweet, to the person or to the world. You can also Retweet, which is like forwarding.
Here’s an example: Ellen tweets “Has anyone seen my purse?”. If you had, you could reply to Ellen. If you have followers you think might have seen her purse, you could retweet – and then your followers would get the tweet, even if they don’t follow her. But now they’ll know she’s looking for her purse. Maybe someone will find it.
Still with me? In the old days, you maybe got emails that said “forward to all your friends.” In the new days, someone tweets it, others retweet it. Like an old-fashioned chain letter. But quicker and less writing (only 140 characters). And much faster. Twitter is part of what’s called the “Real Time Web” – meaning, what’s happening right now. Right now, people are tweeting about lots of different topics.
Say you are interested in one particular topic, like brisket. Just like you can do a web-search to find things about brisket on the internet, you can do a Twitter search to see what people are saying about brisket right now. You might find tweets about people eating brisket, where they just bought brisket, brisket tacos, links to brisket recipes, and so on. Earth-shattering, I know. Stick with me.
Some topics are actually “hot,” also known as “trending,” meaning lots of tweets are about those topics; this happens when there’s a big news story. Before your local news/radio folks can even get the words out of their mouths, someone who was “there” may have tweeted it, a follower retweeted it, and from there it spreads worldwide, very fast. To facilitate finding those tweets, people use a “hashtag” (which used to be called the “pound sign” or “number sign”; it looks like this: #). Example: last week there were a lot of tweets about #worldseries. Anyone looking for Twitter news about it could search #worldseries and see all the tweets about it (no following required). In fact, you could have a Twitter account but not tweet or follow: you could just use the search tool and see what people are talking about right now, like being at a virtual water cooler.
Which brings us to . . .Live Tweets. For events big and small, people now “tweet” during the event. People were tweeting during the World Series. People were tweeting during the Inauguration. If you can’t be there yourself, following the tweets for the event is . . .not really like being there, but you can get some good soundbites. You’ll have the news a little faster.
The last couple of weeks have had several “live tweet” events in the larger Jewish world (outside the bubble, that is). The JStreet conference in Washington DC and the URJ (Union of Reform Judaism) Biennial Convention in Toronto had Twitter conversations. This week it’s the General Assembly (GA) – the big convention of the Federations of North America (which used to be called United Jewish Communities, and before that, was called United Jewish Appeal or UJA). More than 3,000 Jewish community leaders are gathered in Washington, DC for this event. Monday, we woke to the news that President Obama had to cancel his appearance. When we next checked Twitter, Netanyahu was speaking. After following the conversation briefly Monday morning, we decided to add a “Live Tweets” module on Boulder Jewish News to follow the GA. As I write this, a live tweet just said “Kathy Manning elected as first woman as Chair of the Board for UJC/JFNA.” That’s cool. Tuesday, Rahm Emanuel will be addressing the convention. We hope you’ll check out this fun tool for “listening in” on this event. Have a suggestion for other topics to follow? Let us know!
In related news – the Tuesday, November 10th meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG) will discuss “Making Sense of Facebook and Twitter.” Jeff Finkelstein of Customer Paradigm will moderate the presentation. For more information, click here.