I’m a big fan of Twitter, and have been using it heavily since the outset. For those of you not yet using it, Twitter is a communications gateway that asks the question: “What are you doing now?” Users can answer and hear their friends’ answers via SMS, via IM, or on a webpage. Updates have to be under 140 characters. Think somewhere between IRC and IM and that’s Twitter.
Twitter is a constant pulse product, meaning it can really sap your attention span. That seems antithetical to life-hacking, or at least to Getting Things Done. So how is it useful? Here are my tricks.
Use Twitter for Good
Quick Human Answers– Ask folks on your friend’s list which digital camera to buy for under $300 US, and you’ll get back a stream of responses.
Conference / News Briefings– The last several major tech events were covered by Twitter. I heard about the Apple iPhone faster through Twitter than I would via blog surfing. Similarly, I’ve watched people in San Francisco report earthquakes that took news sources hours to confirm.
Friendsourcing– Last Tuesday, I asked about a web designer for a project. I got back 14 emails in 10 minutes from different sources on Twitter. It’s a great place to find folks to help with things. We once helped a friend out of a bind when he got stuck at an airport, strictly by Twitter. (I write about friendsourcing on my blog).
Micro-Attention-Sharing– Lots of us use Twitter to direct folks to blog posts we’ve written, news we find needs sharing, or entertaining things we’ve found on the web (Twitter has a built in function to use tinyurl.com to shrink URLs to keep it under 140 characters). It’s *like* using del.icio.us to share, but it’s instant, and you wouldn’t drop 100 links on someone in Twitter in a given day.
Direct People to Good Causes– I’ve seen plenty of posts of someone doing a walk for hunger or a collection for diabetes. Twitter allows people to use their friend lists to propagate that information faster, and try to draw more direct help down to a problem.
Bonus– As advertised, Twitter answers the question “What are you doing?” It means that you can stay in touch with others without being intrusive. Just follow their twitters.
Twitter can be distracting, but it can be useful. It’s up to you.
-Chris Brogan is Community Developer for Network2.tv a guide to Internet TV. You can add him as a friend on Twitter. His username is “chrisbrogan.”