You are what you tweet

[I added a new page that contains a brief description of different websites I have read about.  Periodically, I will highlight one particular website in my blog.  First up is Twitter.]

Twitter has an estimated 300 million registered users worldwide, with new sign ups running at about 600,000 per day.   According to a Pew Internet study , in 2009 only 8% of teens use Twitter.   However with mobile phone use growing among kids and the ease of using twitter on a small screen, this number may grow.   According to Twitter, about 46% of active Twitter users regularly use a mobile device to post messages.

Twitter is a micro-blog.  Unlike a blog where a post can be any length, twitter only allows “tweets” or messages up to 140 characters.  Your tweets are posted to your profile, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.  A follower is someone who receives your Twitter updates. When you follow someone, every time they post a new tweet, it will appear on your Twitter home page.

Most Twitter users follow their friends and celebrities and tweet about their daily activities or interests.  Most tweets resemble cryptic headlines.  To decode tweets, you need to know a few symbols.  For example, here is a tweet from EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Sincere thanks to @rysiekpl and @neoeinstein – digital defenders who set up Tor nodes for the #TorChallenge .

The @ sign is used to show the tweet is directed at a specific user.   The # hashtag indicates a keyword in a tweet.  Clicking on a hashtagged word will show all other tweets in that category. Following the tweet is a link to a website containing more information.

Twitter encourages quick social interaction.  New tweets are immediately added to your home page as soon as posted.  Unlike other social media, twitter encourages users to retweet — copy and forward tweets to your own followers.  Retweeting allows information to travel fast and far.

Some privacy experts like twitter because of the limited profile information.  A profile page only contains a profile picture and a short bio.  Twitter limits the bio to only 160 characters.   Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not require or encourage real names.  Many profiles use aliases and nicknames.  Except for professionals, most twitter profiles use an avatar instead of a photo.

Although profile information is limited, tweets are public by default.  Once posted a tweet cannot be edited. It can be removed easily but with prolific retweeting, it is hard to reel information back in.  Anything written on Twitter should be considered permanent.

If you wish to make your tweets less visible, Twitter provides a protected settingA public profile is visible to everyone but a protected profile only allows approved followers to view tweets.  Protected tweets cannot be retweeted by anyone.

If accessing twitter from a mobile phone, users can include geolocation data in tweets.  By default, Twitter has disabled geolocation, the exact location (latitude and longitude) sent from your phone.  Twitter won’t show any location information unless you’ve opted-in to the feature, and have allowed your phone to transmit your coordinates.

Given the anonymous nature of Twitter, kids have run in to trouble with receiving abusive tweets.  Twitter allows people to block specific users but does not mediate content.  Blocking prevents the user from following you or replying to you. Also, anonymous tweets may have become less anonymous.  Recently, a California Court compelled Twitter to disclose the name, email address and telephone number of an English government official accused of libel via a series of anonymous Twitter accounts.

If you think you are ready to tweet , check out my resource section.