How to use Twitter

I recently saw in the news that Twitter is losing its price in the stock market due to ignorance. I’m not affiliated with Twitter but I detest ignorance even more. I do not foresee this helping Twitter get its stock back in any way – I do not even know how those things work, “stocks”, …who pours tea in socks for Christ’s sake!? Judas? It has to be Judas.

The news reporter on CNN makes a joke about people not knowing how to use Twitter; after giving the fact that Twitter has not seen its usual growth in stock prices, thereby has “decreasing stock” – let us give her the benefit of ignorance and assume for her that she meant “decreasing stock growth” because Twitter’s revenues are still in the billion dollar range. This reporter, for her joke, went on to say “How does information flow on Twitter? What do you do with a tweet? Do you reply to it, retweet, favorite it? I don’t know”.

Twitter
The social media platform which allows you communicate in short messages (140 characters maximum) into the information hypersphere.

There are many ways information can flow on Twitter. But first, some definitions

Tweet
The micro message of no more than 140 characters which act as posts on Twitter. This is the primary means through which information flows into Twitter. One cannot say “information is created on Twitter” because, information, like energy, can neither be created nor destroyed. Debate on this as need be.
Tweeter
The Twitter user who tweets. To use the service, you must register with the website, choose a username and define an identity. The Tweeter has been nicknamed over time to be known as tweep, twat, twinja, twitfam, twife… and so on. The personification in these names are apparent.
Handle
This is also known as the username. When you register as a Tweeter on Twitter (if you think this is tongue-twisting, you are in for a treat) you will get to choose a username; a tag which marks your identity.
Timeline
a collection of tweets. This may belong to a Tweeter or may represent collective tweets of a search term. Every Tweeter has a personal timeline. All Tweets from a Tweeter is logged in his/her personal timeline. There are different types of timelines: personal, public, favorites, lists, and so on.
Follow:
…another way of saying “subscribe”. The person who Follows is called the Follower and the other party is the Followed; not “leader”. Following a Followed allows Tweets and Retweets from the Followed on the Follower’s public Timeline.

Now we are done with the basis of information entrance into the social network, let us consider how information flows; and dare I say “flows to a halt”.

Mentions, fallaciously known as Replies.

When a Tweet contains a Tweeter’s username in a Tweet, this is called a mention. A mention is not a reply, but a reply is necessarily a Mention. A Reply shares the same concept as email replies; from these, threads of conversation can ensue. At any point in a conversation, anyone can Reply to a Tweet in the conversation thread by Mention-ing those whom the Reply is geared towards.

This means of information flow is originally linear. Conversations flow downwards and remain linear if every Reply is made to the most recent Tweet. However, in the irrationality of the human intelligence especially in group dynamics, the conversation model has evolved from linear to dendritic – imagine neurons in your brain… that should be the base form of a basic (optionally “interesting”) conversation model on Twitter.

Retweets

Despite sounding like a pun on reply the Retweet is very perpendicular to the concept. The Retweet is the act of representing a Tweet from another Timeline on yours. Retweet-ing a Tweet shows this tweet on your timeline. It does not copy the tweet over to your timeline but provides a link to the original tweet your timeline. This is along the lines of “That’s what she said.” You do not own a Retweet on your Timeline, the ownership still lies with the Tweeter who send the original Tweet. In database modelling (for people like me who understand better in compu-speak) this would be an association: the resource being associated with does not share the same domain space but can be referenced. In the legal world (which I know little to nothing), a Retweet can be likened to a weak endorsement, with no liability to the endorsing party. You begin to get the drift?

Quotes OR Old-Style Retweets

If you hang around Twitter for a while, you will see Tweets beginning with “RT @Yaasky: something I tweeted a long time ago.” These are quotes. They were the original form of Retweets introduced by Twitter. The reason – I presume – this stopped being the go-to way to Retweet was to curb information bloat.

Remember the Fail Whale? I miss that dude!

This form of Retweet-ing will copy the tweet onto the Timeline of s/he who Retweets, creating a new Tweet from that which is to be Retweeted with the same contents. This gives s/he who Retweets the freedom to edit this Tweet and re-tweet it in the falvour they deem fit.

Favorites

This is Twitter’s rechristening of “bookmark”. The Favorited Tweet goes into a Timeline of Favorites for the user. This list is public; except the Tweeter’s account is protected.

Information does not flow via Favorites. I choose to believe this is where information flow comes to an end; information flow is hampered if not stagnant. Despite this, the Favorites can be used as a time machine: a list to understand what has intrigued the Twitter through time. Imagine Facebook keeping a list of everything you “liked” …that is the Favorites list; only difference is, Twitter allows you see it.

Messages

Direct messages can be sent to Tweeters who follow each other. These messages are kept out of the view of the public and the ensuing conversations are one-on-one.

This is a basic expose on the use of Twitter and its information flow. There are more advanced topics on this: how to analyze the data, carry out linguistic and sociocultural experiments, trends, activities and hyper activities, et cetera. The interpretation of these tools will change in time because of the constant change of group intellect. However, the fact remains the same that Twitter is a genius tool for conversation and communication. When Twitter is properly understood and properly engineered by the users (not Twitter’s Engineers), the world will become a quieter (soundless) and more understanding place.

Go ahead and try Twitter. If you do not know where to start, follow @yaasky.

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