How to get started with Twitter

I have several friends who "just don’t get" Twitter.  And I know why – they are not USING Twitter.  They are just looking at the Public Timeline and wondering, "Why do I care about this crap"?

And that is fair.  But that isn’t Twitter.  At least not the best of Twitter.

Twitter becomes interesting (and useful) when you follow people that have similar interests, people who make you laugh, people who make you think, or you get similar people following you.  To accomplish that you have to be actively involved in Twitter – that doesn’t mean running it 24/7.  It does mean getting involved though.

I have four uniquely different groups of Twitter Friends.  Those that follow me for a variety of reasons, those I follow for business, those I follow to learn from, and those I follow to have fun with. It is easy for me to separate the three groups – because I pay attention to them based on the time of day.  During the day, I focus on people I learn from, and people I am invested in from a work standpoint.  Late at night I like to have fun with another group (although many individuals cross-over).

If you are just starting on Twitter you need to find interesting, and interested people.  Two quick ways to do that:

1) Go to and type in a keyword you are interested in – like WiFi, or Microsoft.  Follow some of the people you see Tweeting things you find interesting.  Rinse and repeat.

2) Find people close to you – it is always nice to know that a Freeway is closed, or that school is canceled tomorrow.  Or even that a tornado is headed your way.  You can find people in your area on  Don’t narrow your search too tightly – search for your city, or the nearest large city to start.  Again, find people that say interesting things and follow them. Rinse and repeat.

Twitter will ONLY work for you if you follow people – and don’t worry – you can always UN-follow them later.

But don’t stare as the public timeline flies past your screen and tell me you "don’t get it".  You can’t learn programming by clicking on executables, and you can’t learn to bake by eating donuts!

If you "don’t get" Twitter then you are lazy – or scared of "following" – or you just don’t want to get it.

And if those three things do not apply to you, and you still don’t get it – call me – let me help.  But first you need to follow at least 50 people. If you can’t find 50 interesting people on Twitter you are not trying.

PS – Download a Twitter Client Application – like Twhirl.  It takes your focus away from the public timeline and focuses on you, and your friends, and followers – and their friends (which may quickly turn into your friends).

Really.  Don’t dismiss this too quickly. 

The World Wide Computer (AKA, Twitter)

I know – a lot of Twitter posts lately.

I’m meeting a friend for lunch today and wanted to find a certain restaurant I had heard about some time ago, but had never been to.  I couldn’t find it in Google search, so I posted this on Twitter:



Just about ten minutes later a Twitter friend (Michael May, AKA Joffi), who lives in Michigan!,  sent me the answer.  Evidently he is better at search than I am!



But Twitter makes for a damned powerful distributed computing platform.  And a very effective Search Engine!

I am Running for Twitter Community Evangelist (convince them they need one)!

Most of the people I know that complain about Twitter when it is down are just frustrated.  Most of them are not even mad.  They just miss Twitter.

Like a High School friend that chooses a different college than you – when Twitter is gone you wish it wasn’t – but you forgive them.  Because they are, after all, friends. 

Twitter has done a great job building a sense of community.  Ev and Biz talk back to people.  When Twitter is up.  Not so much when it isn’t.  I can fix that!

Hell, I am a Twitterholic (12 step post to follow, I am sure!).

I even suggested yesterday that we send Twitter some Pizza. Shannon Whitley ran with it (and I donated) and he made it happen.

I Tweeted the first real-time blind date in Twitter. As far as I know.

I created the first Startup Company developed completely on Twitter.  Staffing, ideas, finances, etc.  As far as I know.

I started Tweeting about the need to relieve the Twitter servers of their workload before most people started Tweeting about a "distributed" Twitter.  I think we need smart clients that have an open source API they can all use to add features such as Peer To Peer, filtering, groups, etc.  But I think Twitter needs to be "the network".

I’ve blogged about all of these things over the last few months.  Right here, on this blog.

I deserve to be the Twitter Evangelist that they don’t know they need. Look at my Social Networking footprint (Google Search kr8tr – or just click it on the menu bar).

Oh – and I understand the API, and I have blogged a tutorial about using Track with GTalk.

So vote for me.  Tell @ev and @biz that I should carry the Twitter Torch!

Been a long time since I saw Twitter this dead:



Twitter and Track


Update – as of today, 29MAY08 Twitter Track is disabled. I will update this post when it is turned back on.

Twitter has been described as a “micro-blogging tool”. And it is that. It is also a chat client.

And it is an extremely useful research tool. By tracking specific keywords (your company name for example) you can obtain a near-real-time feed anytime anyone on Twitter mentions your company.

First, the “Track” command. According to the Twitter FAQ:

What is tracking?
Tracking is an SMS or IM only feature that allows you to receive all twitters that match a word you’re tracking. For example, if you send track Obama, you will receive all updates that match “Obama.” All updates sent from tracking will begin with parenthesis. You can easily stop getting these messages by sending untrack Obama.

So using track is quite simple. From your cell phone your could use a Twitter Mobile Client and send Twitter a message like “track Microsoft” and you would receive a message every time Microsoft is mentioned. Of course, receiving an update every time someone mentions Microsoft is probably not what you want to do on your cell phone.

talk_logo And that is where GTalk comes in. GTalk is a Google Chat Client. And it works wonderfully with the Twitter Track function.

And if you have a GMail account (get one here for free) GTalk can also automatically archive all of your “Tweets and Tracks” into your GMail account.

After downloading and installing GTalk (and creating an account) you can now add Twitter to GTalk You do this on by going to the Settings page and clicking on the “Devices” tab.


Enter your GMail address and select GTalk from the drop-down menu.

Click “Save”


You will be prompted to send a unique code back to Twitter from within GTalk


Just type in the code in the GTalk Chat window (after selecting from the user list) and press enter.


Nearly instantly (assuming GTalk/Twitter are both functioning) you will receive a response from Twitter.

Now you are set.


To track something (Microsoft for example), just type “track microsoft” into the chat window. Twitter replies letting you know it heard your request. And as you can see, it took only seconds to get a result.

To stop tracking type “untrack microsoft”.

You can also correspond with all of your Twitter friends with GTalk. Let me know you got this working by sending “@kr8tr – Tracking is set up” or something similar to me!

Of course, for normal Twitter use, I recommend Twhirl – and Adobe AIR-based application that has a lot more bells and whistles for Twitter.

And soon you’ll be able to use Track in Twhirl as well.

Final notes on Track – it does NOT pay attention to punctuation, so Tracking “@kr8tr” is the same as Tracking “kr8tr”. Track also ignores CASE.

And as of now, there is no filtering in Track – so you will get every instance of the word you track, even if it includes words you would rather not see. I expect this to be addressed (at least at the Twitter client level) very soon. In fact, the CEO of Seesmic was interviewed on The Gillmor Gang and committed to adding these features to Twhirl very soon.