BLOGSCANNING by Robert Janelle

Janelle-92X185Flip.jpgAs I work on projects, I get updates at the bottom of my screen from people at the conference, posting key points made by presenters, along with their opinions on those points.

Twitter tweets for columnist left at home by cool techies
From SCAN's Print Edition

On a May weekend, I’m stuck in Ottawa while all the cool tech people are in Toronto at mesh, Canada’s web conference. But I’m not entirely excluded thanks to micro-blogging platform Twitter, which lets me follow along with people’s posts (known as “tweets” in Twitter terms). As I work on projects, I get updates at the bottom of my screen from people at the conference, posting key points made by presenters, along with their opinions on those points. Twitter, originally called Twtr, launched in March of 2006 asking users who signed up for an account to answer one question: “what are you doing?” The answer is then posted in a public time line that other users can subscribe to. Subscribers can also send a direct reply to the original poster, making Twitter somewhat of a cross between a blogging platform and an instant messaging client. The service is also about being concise, imposing a 140 character limit on each tweet, including spaces. That said, it’s also portable, giving users a variety of ways to post. Updates can be sent through the Twitter web site itself, by sending a text message from a cellphone or from a variety of desktop clients made by third-party developers. Among those clients is Snitter, created by local freelance developer Jonathan Snook.

The platform eventually gained popularity among people already blogging because it makes the posts portable, allowing bloggers to add a widget to their blog that would contain short status updates, not necessarily worthy of a full post.

As more and more people start using the service, it becomes more valuable. As with most social media platforms, networking is one of the chief uses.
FaveQuest CEO Allan Isfan, who did attend mesh, would later tell me that along with providing updates on the seminars, he was able to use it to coordinate lunch meet-ups with colleagues, taking advantage of the instant messaging functionality.

When the San Francisco-based company first launched, there were quite a few jokes made. Many tech pundits wondered what the value was in people posting that they were going to the fridge to get a drink, posting that they had retrieved a drink and finally posting that the drink had been consumed.

But in some ways, it’s just interesting to see what folks are up to and specifically, to see immediate commentary. For example, last month I woke up and grabbed the morning paper from my doorstep. The front page story was about Public Service Alliance of Canada looking to negotiate higher pay rates for government workers who were “always on” because they were carrying Blackberries. Returning to my computer, I saw there was already commentary from public servants on Twitter regarding the move (the early tweets were uniformly against the idea).
Unfortunately, for all the interesting uses Twitter has, there are some problems as well. The biggest one being reliability. Twitter outages have become a punchline in the tech blogosphere, since as usage grows, the service seems to have had problems scaling. Large numbers of posts are often the cause, often bringing the database down during big conference events.

Along with system failures many industry observers have wondered after more than two years of existence just how the product is meant to generate revenue, though Twitter is hardly alone in solving that mystery when it comes to Web 2.0 start-ups.

But regardless of its faults, Twitter is certainly a fun distraction when it’s up and running properly and has grown into a useful tool in the social networked world.
Bob Janelle is a freelance journalist who has plied his trade at the Citizen and Kingston’s Whig-Standard. A bilingual grad of Algonquin’s J-School, where he won awards for both writing and photography, he is a self-confessed video game addict. Readers can follow Bob’s musings on Twitter at twitter.com/loudandskittish].

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