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Twitter? What the hell?

Twitter has been in the news on several occasions in the recent past. It all began with a few celebrities using twitter, then it caught on to CNN and Ashton Kutcher going head to head for who gets a million followers first. Ashton Kutcher beat CNN in what was the first demise of CNN on Twitter. This event was closely by Oprah's grand entry into twitter. It was at this point that many people actually joined twitter. Oprah happened to be a major occasion on twitter, with many geeks anticipating that twitter would be overwhelmed by the interest brought on it by Oprah and her millions (if they haven't hit a billion) of fans worldwide. In fact, we gave a Before Oprah and After Oprah Twitter ages.

Twitter has continued growing, with it been claimed to be the fastest growing social network in the world, with a growth rate of about 1300% per month. Ironically , a Harvard research says that only 10% of twitter users contribute to 90 % of the content on twitter; the content is known as tweets.

This is probably because many people do not know what twitter is about, and go ahead to compare it to Facebook. They later realize that this are different services, and this further confuses them to an extent they are unable to utilize twitter. I shall explain twitter by telling you of a recent occurrence.

The Iranians went to elections last week. Like the Kenyan elections, there were suspicions of results been prepared in a kitchen rather than been tallied. Many Iranians were angered by the alleged cooked results, and out they poured into the streets in droves. They posted tweets on twitter and urged other Iranians who were against the outcome to rally in the streets; this soon broke out to riots, just like Kenya.

Tweets, in case you are not aware, is the equivalent of a Facebook status update, or what you post on twitter for the rest of the world to see. Unlike Facebook, anyone can follow anyone in Twitter (which means that you see the tweets for anyone you would like to on Twitter). Tweets are restricted to 140 characters, the equivalent of an SMS. You can also post your tweets via SMS. Unlike Facebook, you do not have to approve for anyone to follow, thus strangers, enemies, thieves, former girlfriends, the president and any Tom , Dick and Harry can be your follower(for the default setting).Alternatively, you can choose to approve followers before they follow you, or block people from following you. On that note, a tech magazine reported last week that a man was claiming that his house was robbed when he twitted that he was away on a 3 week vacation.

So you should be careful not to "snitch" on yourself, or expose private information on twitter, since anyone can find it. You can search for people on twitter by searching "@person" where person is the twitter user name of the person that you are searching for. You can also search for certain information or news by searching for "#info" where info is what you are looking for.

Going back to the Iran example, information about the elections is available on twitter if you search for the keyword(a search term) #iranelection . If you want to hear it from the horses mouth, i.e Mir-Hossein Mousavi(the opposition leader who the Iranians are demonstrating for) tweets, you search @mousavi1388. In case I want to copy mousavi1388's tweet and post it on my tweet, I retweet(RT) it as "RT@mousavi1388blahblah" . If i want to indicate it as related to the Iran election, I add #iranelection to it. Quite simple!

Now, twitter is mostly used to spread news; if you want to invite your friends for a beer party or a study, Facebook is the tool to use, not Twitter.On the other hand, if you are a firm who would like to tell your clients about an event, Twitter is convenient for you.For example, if you have that no 58 matatu that is so on demand,you can tweet its location perhaps every 20 minutes or so, or tell your clients you are stuck in a jam. This is why twitter is a favorite for brands & celebrities.

As for Iran, the incumbent government decided to block the use of SMS in the country and to clamp down on the media,YouTube and other information channels. The Iranian population been a quite internet savvy one(yeah, quite a number of them make viruses and hack) started organizing demonstrations and spreading related information via Twitter.All news about where the next demonstration would be and what the government was doing was spread via Twitter.

Even CNN missed this for 2 days; as the Iranian government forces cracked down on demonstrators, CNN was rewinding the clip that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the elections! Infact, there is a Tweeter feed(a feed is info about a certain topic)about this; #CNNfail !

In short, twitter is an important tool to search for breaking news, and for what is happening in the ground that the government may not be that keen it getting to you.
Remember to follow me on twitter here: http://twitter.com/gramware
You can read more about twitting in Kenya here: http://moseskemibaro.com/?tag=twitter.
You can also read more about the act of tweeting , known as micro blogging here: http://www.geeks.com/techtips/2009/what-is-microblogging.htm

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