Monday, August 31, 2009

What's the green "tweet" thingy?

Observant visitors will have noticed that every post here now comes with a little green "tweet" button. If you are so inclined, and you use Twitter, you can click on that button and you'll be taken to your twitter account to send on a tweet noting the post.

If you are not using Twitter, you are probably asking, why in the world would you want to? I asked that myself until recently, but I am now finding that joining the flow on Twitter is making me aware of writing and opinions I would like to see and would otherwise have missed.

You've probably heard that Twitter consists of 140 character "tweets" that ostensibly answer the question "what are you doing?" People on Twitter "follow" each other's tweets. And if you have anything you value to do in life, you probably don't want to know on a minute by minute basis what your friends are doing!

That's not how I use Twitter. Instead, this is what I'm doing. I've always chosen which books to read, and which journalism to scan, and which blogs to follow, by establishing a more or less conscious list of people whose information and opinions I've learned to value. It used to be (like last year!), when I'd encounter a new candidate for that list in an online venue, I'd put a Google alert on the name and read mentions of them for awhile, figuring out whether I really wanted to follow them.

Now, many interesting thinkers seem to have adopted Twitter. I don't have to mess with Google alerts. They tweet their stuff and they tweet what interests them, often just as interesting. If I follow them on Twitter, I can sample the stream. I don't have to attend to all of it, but can dip in and out.

This development has me tweeting myself -- moderately. Every blog post gets tweeted automatically (sometimes twice -- I'm working on the glitch). Occasionally I'll throw out a tweet about an interesting article I've run across online. And if I'm at some more or less political event, I might tweet a "twitpic" -- a picture.

For a thoughtful rant (nice idea, huh?) on the authority of various forms of communication, try this from Coturnix. And I should say that the previous post here on health reform journalism owed a lot to Twitter folks @emptywheel and @jayrosen_nyu.

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