Saturday, January 3, 2009


Randy at Geneamusings asks are any other Genea-bloggers Twittering?, and receives a yes from several, including myself.

Twitter is a social networking application which asks the user "What Are You Doing?" and provides 140 characters to continually update your response. You can follow other people, and they can follow you. You can reply to other's "twitters" or "tweets" (There hasn't been universal agreement yet on which term is best) Replies can be seen by everyone, but you can also send "Direct Messages" that only the recipient can view. (Direct Messages can only be sent to people who are following your tweets.)

My first tweet was on July 27, 2007: I'm waiting for an SS-5 of an ancestor. I've been waiting for about a month, but they cashed my check a week ago. 5:03 PM Jul 27th, 2007

Other early tweets included:

Decompressing from 4 days of nonstop fun at NASFiC. Rcvd ancestor's SS-5 finally from SSA over the weekend. 9:07 PM Aug 5th, 2007

Saw Les Miserables at The MUNY tonight. Well performed all around. Several scenes were cut a bit, but it still flowed nicely. 12:33 AM Aug 16th, 2007

The problem I had with my early usage is that none of my friends were using it to my knowledge, so I was just speaking to the ether. In early January 2008 I grew tired of this and wrote: Either: 1) sleeping 2) eating 3) drinking 4) working 5) reading 6) writing 7) interacting 8) necessary bodily functions. 5:37 PM Jan 9th, 2008 [I was pretty sure that covered all the bases.]

and stopped using Twitter for several months.

Then sometime in spring of 2008 some friends started joining, and conversations started happening. Twitter asks you "What Are You Doing?" but not everyone takes that literally. Twitter has been referred to as "Microblogging" since tweets are similar to blog posts except limited to 140 characters. Twitter lends itself very well to tweets such as "I'm headed to the corner bar, see ya there!" as well as "Have you heard the one about the bishop, the priest, and the rabbit?"

Those familiar with Instant Messenger (IM), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or the old-timers familiar with Bitnet Relay (Relay) are familiar with the conversations that take place with these applications.

Due partially to President-Elect Obama's campaign's usage of Twitter, the usage of this social networking tool has grown more quickly than some others. Non-bloggers are discovering it is much easier to come up with 140 characters. And since tweets can be sent and recieved through cell phone text messaging, it has become one way for the youth who are attached to their cell phones to communicate with their parents who are attached to their computers. (Don't ask me how to hook up Twitter to your cell phone - I don't know how.)

While several of my early tweets were related to my genealogy research, when my friends joined in I knew they were less interested about that, so I migrated towards our shared interests. Now that several genea-bloggers are creating accounts, I suspect I will start tweeting genealogy again.

Dean at Genlighten has an idea on how Twitter could be used productively by the Genealogy community.

Users should be aware that a complete history of your tweets can, by default, be read by anyone. Not just those who are in your "Followers List". By default, twitter feeds can also be read through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) on any newsreader.

Here's a link to my Twitter page; I use the pseudonym Gavroche. (The name of the mischievous gamin from the book/musical Les Miserables.) If you scroll down the page you will see an RSS link. Here's my twitter RSS feed for anyone who has a 'Newsreader' such as Bloglines or Google Reader and wishes to follow me without joining Twitter.

[I have added a 'TwitterRoll' to the sidebar on the right using the RSS feeds.]

Some may have noticed that above I use the phrase "by default." If you want only those who you approve to be able to read your twitter feed, you can click on "settings" at the top of your page, and on the bottom of the initial tab "Account" there is the option "Protect my Updates." Put a tick in the box next to that, and only those you approve will be able to read your updates, and it won't be available through RSS.

Twitter Feeds of a handful of Notable People

WilW [Wil Wheaton, former child-actor (Stand by Me, Star Trek:TNG) current author.]
levarburton [Levar Burton, actor (Roots, Reading Rainbow, Star Trek:TNG)]
WarrenEllis [Warren Ellis, author of comics and novels]
AlGore [Former Vice President. It could be him, or someone from his official website]
Scalzi [John Scalzi, author]
CraigNewmark [Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist - and not related to my knowledge.]
DaveJMatthews [Dave Matthews, Musician]
MCHammer [MC Hammer, Musician]
cst_roeper [Richard Roeper, columnist for the Chicago Sun Times]

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