All in a twitter; in a fright. Twittering is also the note of some small birds, such as the robin, &c.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

In the world of social networking, websites can come and go as ever more fickle users surge through cyberspace as orderly as sheep scattered by wolves. Just look at Friendster’s precipitous drop from must-be-at status to tumbleweed ridden wasteland and Facebook’s successful bid for growth by opening up to pretty much everybody. Twitter is the newest social networking site to spread like shrapnel over the web. There is not much that is new in Twitter: in short, it is a shared blog that is limited to one hundred and forty characters per entry (twenty less than a text message) posted on the web, over instant messaging or SMS’ed from your cell phone. Once you have convinced your friends to join, you all get each other’s posts. What this creates is a sort of heartbeat of what your friends are doing, in real time from wherever you are to wherever you are.

Twitter is also extendable via tools provided by the site if you have the programming chops, but even if you don’t, you can take advantage of emerging companion sites like TwitterMap (, which lets you see what others (friends or otherwise) are twittering about on a Google Map. In all likelihood Twitter‘s popularity will peak, stabilize and erode as the wave of users washes out to the Internet sea again, but for now, it is likely that your friends will end up there and you will have to join if only so you won’t be left out. Twitter’s forté is simplicity and singularity of purpose, no lengthy profiles, no posting of pictures, no movies, and no music; instead it focuses on doing its one job well. Whether this will be enough to secure a place for itself in the future remains to be seen.

Check it out, just watch for your SMS bills when you start tracking a bunch of your friends. For the ultimate Twitter mashup, check out the hopelessly addictive Twittervision (, which continuously pops realtime Twitter entries over a global map.

#Twitter is: friend zeitgeist, trending pop meme, wish u were here, bite-size revolution, crowd-sourced wisdom, enforced clarity, maddening.

The first thing I ever heard about Twitter the social network was that it wouldn't be the next Facebook. I heard that it could be a supplement to Facebook, that it was too different to even be considered on the same playing field. Maybe a unique social network is just what I need!, I thought.

I was determined not to let this Twitter thing catch me off-guard like its predecessors, so I did a little deep thought. What could I expect from a "different" social networking experience? I supposed it would be something hard to guess, since it wouldn't be very different otherwise. I decided that the secret must be in that cryptic name -- "Twitter"? What was up with that? "Twitter" is something my heart does after my first kiss, not the name of a website!

So I tried thinking outside the box. What else could "twitter" mean?

I thought, "twit" can mean "idiot", so maybe it's a website for idiots? British idiots, based on the vocabulary involved. But that seemed too obvious, so I tried to think of other things that "twit" could be. I eventually came to the conclusion that "twit" could be a different onomatopoeia for "tweet", like the twittering of birds.

So was Twitter a website for birds? It seemed reasonable at first -- birds are rather important, after all. Turkeys are birds; without turkeys we’d have to skip Thanksgiving every year, which would eventually make the months go out of sync with the seasons. But something about that just seemed wrong. I couldn't recall ever seeing a bird use a computer, and there would need to be a reasonable number of them doing so to necessitate the existence of a social network such as Twitter.

That's when it hit me: this wasn’t a site for birds, it was a site for birds, with a wink wink and a nudge nudge. "Birds" from the 1930s who are still kickin' around and need to get in contact with all their birdy friends. Who knows what they might talk about? Now I was on to something!

And could it be that the name "Twitter" contained a double meaning of sorts? I reasoned that, if the marketing genius behind a name that crafty could have one obscure meaning, surely they could have two. "Twit" is barely one key off "tit", and tits would certainly reach a wider demographic than old women from the '30s, right? But selling to both markets would be even smarter!

I decided that there was only one logical meaning behind Twitter's name: that Twitter was a social network for 80-year-old women to show off their tits. Made sense to me, and seemed more original than Facebook and MySpace had been. I knew that Twitter had to be something special to make people praise it so much.

Swelling with pride, I registered for Twitter. Half an hour later, I realized that it was yet another site for people to whine about their boring-ass lives, and most definitely not a place to discuss granny tits.

What a gyp.

Following are some notes on twitter.

1. There are two ways to hard retweet: one with the original tweet at the beginning and one at the end. Manually choose the way that suits the content you are adding to the original tweet according to the way they are logically related. For example, if you answering a question then the original tweet (the question) should come first.

2. How to find interesting tweets:
*Have a set of interesting keywords and systematically search for them.
*See what is trending now.

3. Make use of your client. Do not follow a twitter account, make your client pick up his tweets off his timeline (unless he has a protected account in which case you will have to follow him).

4. Do not keep your favorites on your online favorite list (people will be able to scavenge through them later). Keep track of the interesting tweets through their tweet ID.

5. Use better methods to follow stuff on twitter. For example:

6. Pavlovian conditioning is your friend. If you have conditioned your followers into relating your awesome tweets with, say, your avatar for a long time then for God's sake do not change it. They can identify you through your avatar not your nick name!

I was recently part of a social media team at a college, and I’ve been genuinely impressed by how educators are using Twitter to share ideas and resources.

Before I joined that team, I was quite familiar with Twitter because of my other career as a professional writer. We novelists and short story authors are all over social media, tweeting recent publications, writing advice, tidbits we hope will entertain our readers … and sometimes just plain procrastinating! But the upshot was, because of my interactions on the writing side of Twitter, I thought I had a pretty good grip on how and why people use Twitter to communicate. My mental image of Twitter was that of a cocktail party where people move from conversation to conversation dropping witty remarks and sharing laughs and gossip. (And occasionally getting into unseemly arguments!)

Twitter, it seemed, wasn’t really a vehicle for serious conversations most of the time.

But once I started digging into the education side of Twitter, I found that teachers and other educators are engaged on Twitter in a way that puts most writers to shame! Every day, schools and individual educators are hosting education chats to enable people to share their expertise and gain new knowledge. These chats are often fascinating and well worth the time.

How do you find them? Look for hashtags such as #edtechchat (if you’re interested in educational technology) and (on Saturday mornings) #satchat. Most groups that host regular chats will publicize their hashtags, and most educational conferences will also have a unique hashtag to enable others to follow along with conference events, such as #GAFESummit for the various Google for Education conferences held around the U.S.

There are far too many hashtags to list here. To find others of interest, you’ll need to follow educators who share your interests and check out the hashtags they tweet. (And bear in mind that it’s possible that some Twitter trolls and bots might use educational hashtags to promote inappropriate or inflammatory materials, but in my experience this happens fairly rarely.)

Back in 2014, the Journal of Research on Technology in Education published a paper titled "How and Why Educators Use Twitter: A Survey of the Field"; here’s the abstract:

While the microblogging service Twitter is increasingly popular among educators and offers numerous affordances for learning, its relationship with formal education systems remains complicated by generally ambivalent educator attitudes and institutional policies. To better understand the role Twitter plays in education, we conducted a survey of 755 K–16 educators that yielded quantitative and qualitative data concerning how and why the medium is used.

Respondents reported intense and multifaceted utilization of the service, with professional development (PD) uses more common than interactions with students or families. Educators valued Twitter’s personalized, immediate nature, and the positive and collaborative community it facilitated. Many cited Twitter's role in combating various types of isolation and described it as superior to traditional professional development. We finish by discussing implications for educators, researchers, and educational institutions.

It seems that while some institutions and educators remain ambivalent, plenty of others are embracing Twitter as a valuable resource. I encourage anyone who is involved in K12 or higher ed to investigate the many educational Twitter chats for themselves.

Twit"ter (?), n. [From Twit.]

One who twits, or reproaches; an upbraider.


© Webster 1913.

Twit"ter, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Twittered (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Twittering.] [OE. twiteren; of imitative origin; cf. G. zwitschern, OHG. zwizzirn, D. kwetteren, Sw. qwitra, Dan. quiddre. Cf. Titter.]


To make a succession of small, tremulous, intermitted noises.

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed. Gray.


To make the sound of a half-suppressed laugh; to titter; to giggle.

J. Fletcher.

3. [Perhaps influenced by twitch.]

To have a slight trembling of the nerves; to be excited or agitated.


© Webster 1913.

Twit"ter, v. t.

To utter with a twitter.



© Webster 1913.

Twit"ter, n.


The act of twittering; a small, tremulous, intermitted noise, as that made by a swallow.


A half-suppressed laugh; a fit of laughter partially restrained; a titter; a giggle.



A slight trembling or agitation of the nerves.


© Webster 1913.

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