Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's Swell About Twitter

Are you a Twitter naysayer?

I was too, back before I went to Cairo. Somewhere along the way, I think in early 2007, Jared and John Bligh got on Twitter. They were now able to virtually give each other shit all day long. Jared was in the office one day and showed me what he was doing. I was amused but not enough to sign up.

Fast-forward to me listening to a writer speak at some-event-or-other, earlier this year. I'd learned a certain revulsion for Twitter as the masses crowed about it. I can't help it. Skepticism is my knee-jerk reaction to anything that people glow about en masse. When the Times starts covering something, it's probably past its prime.

"Even if you don't like to Twitter," said the writer (which just means post little one-liners all day, perfect for a nation brought up on sitcoms), "just go and get your name so no one else gets it."

Oh. Right. Shoulda thought of that one myself.

I dutifully scored my name that same evening. There are not many other Marie Javinses in the world, but there are at least two. I'm now MarieJavins on Twitter, but I don't post much.

But I do use Twitter for things that are, I think, genuinely useful. I hogged this info to myself for some time, but it seems only fair to share my knowledge with you, loyal reader.

Twitter is good for these things:


I "follow" PATH, for example. That's the name of the subway train I take to work. Once in a while there is some kind of delay, and PATH will "tweet" about the delay, and then I'll know to go downtown to take the other line, or to catch a ferry home.

I also follow some tour operators and airfare discounters. If there's a discount, I want it to pop up in my face. Now, before the fares sell out.

Last, I have found Twitter to be a godsend when it comes to ticketing. The band Pavement is playing Central Park Summerstage next year. But the tickets sold out instantly. That didn't seem right, so I searched Twitter and immediately learned that another night had been added. I zipped over and bought a ticket for that night.

And when I wanted to see Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the ticket server crashed the morning the tickets went on sale. You can guess how I found the alternate server and was able to take my time choosing my ticket, because everyone else was still fighting with the original ticketing site.

A similar event occurred yesterday with tickets to the New Yorker Festival.

So what I can recommend to all you Twitter naysaysers out there is this. Sign up and find sites where you need real-time updates. It IS useful, honest.

But one side note when you're Twittering... see that little "@" sign that shows up? That means the person has posted to someone's page. What it is NOT is a cool, new way to identify people by their electronic signatures on non-Twitter comments pages. My policy is, if you have to type in the @whatever, guess what, you're not on Twitter. Stick to addressing them by name.


John Bligh said...

Make sure you cross-post to Facebook. All the cool kids are using that.


Marie Javins said...

That's where the biggest offenders are. They see it and don't understand what it is and think "I'm ahead of the digital curve, I'm gonna do that too!"

Marie Javins said...

Here is a proper use of the @:

Note the @GuyKawasaki is an attribution straight to his Twitter page, not someone addressing him in a string of names on a comments page.

John Bligh said...

Good point. :)

Susan D-L said...

I haven't subscribed to Twitter yet mainly because I didn't think *I* would have much to contribute--but you make a very good point: It's becoming a go-to source for updated information.

Maybe I'll hook up with it after all -- although it also means I should get an internet-enabled phone to take full advantage. Or an iTouch...

(The use of "@name" on FB is really upping my annoyance level. Good to know it's not just my cranky MAB gene acting up.)

Marie Javins said...

Susan, I have a dirt-cheap prepaid phone from Virgin Mobile that goes online. But I think the monthly places still screw people on the bills.

I was thinking of picking up a used first-generation iPhone, unlocking it, and using it as a wi-fi device. Like an iTouch but I can use it overseas as a phone with my international SIM card. Now I just have to wait for the right price.

The @whatever blithely typed in by people who want to be on the cutting-edge and don't understand it's a default setting on Twitter (or cross-posting) to show how current they are is really starting to bug me. But everyone knows that.

Hint: You're less cool if you're doing something wrong, people!