Twitter, the online micro-blogging service that lets you publish short entries—140 characters or less—and links to websites, is arguably the big Internet success story of 2008. The Mumbai terror attacks in November and the US presidential elections were two events that catapulted Twitter from the fringes of Internet geekdom into the mainstream. Today, the service is adding susbscribers at an astonishing rate. According to online traffic analysis company Compete.com, Twitter received almost a 100 million visits in March, against just eight million a year ago.
Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher speaks to Larry King about becoming the first Twitter-er with a million followers. On 17 April, Kutcher beat CNN’s breaking news stream to arrive at the landmark. CNN Larry King Live / AP
Helping in this astronomic growth in popularity has been the speed with which Twitter has been adopted by celebrities and organizations to publish updates. Stepehen Fry, Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong are some of the stars tweeting regularly, with thousands following every word. In April, Kutcher became the first Twitter-er to reach the mark of one million followers.
The service’s model is simple and can be adopted easily by even the most casual Web user. Users send out short Twitter messages—or tweets—and other users can then follow them for the updates. Users can also send private, direct messages to each other. The service is also remarkably versatile—updates can be sent via the website, your mobile phone and desktop applications. And can be accessed via these channels too.
But even if you don’t care enough to tweet or make sharp conversation with hundreds of followers, there are still a few interesting things you can do with the service. Here is our choice of 17 off-beat, no-socializing uses you can put Twitter to.
Popularize your blog or website
You can quickly build and manage an elementary community around your
blog by automatically feeding the RSS feed of your blog into a Twitter account through Twitterfeed. This way, as soon your site is updated, all your followers are alerted. And if they like what they read, they’ll re-tweet that to their friends.
Nothing kills the joy of a good office expense account like sloppy bill and expense management. Let Twitter help you really use those transportation and entertainment perks. Use Twitter on your mobile phone and the Xpenser service to keep track of your expenses. As soon as you pay a bill, send a private tweet to the Xpenser Twitter id. And you can add keywords that will automatically categorize expenses. Later, at the end of the month, log in to the Xpenser site to manage and track all those little bills and receipts.
3. Tweetwhatyouspend (TWYS)
Less comprehensive than Xpenser but also simpler. TWYS also lets you tweet in expenses that are automatically added to an online spending journal. As an added bonus, you can do this publicly as well. In case a little open ridiculing helps keep you thrifty.
Collect notes and ideas
People get the greatest ideas in the weirdest places. And then they assume they’ll remember details later when they have a notebook at hand. They assume wrong. So next time that genius marketing strategy hits you, tweet it out to Postica, which will make little virtual sticky notes out of them. Later, like Xpenser, you can access the Postica application to recall your brainwaves.
5. Fake friend
Want to create your own exclusive note-taking service within Twitter? A simpler solution than Postica requires nothing more than creating an extra user on Twitter as your personal secretary. Then whenever you have an idea just send that user a private message. And when you think you need to go over your ideas, log in with your secretary’s id and check your messages.
Keep a food diary
6. Tweetwhatyoueat (TWYE)
Maintaining a food diary is many people’s first experience with a fitness training programme. And also often the last. Perhaps TWYE will help. Sign up and tweet what food you eat at each meal and a calorific value. You just need to load calorific value once. Or you can even tap into TWYE’s user-generated calorie value database. Your comprehensive daily food diary is always available online for record and analysis. Bon appétit.
Trivia buffs will also like one of many Twitter-based games. Simply follow the @playtwivia user on Twitter. Quiz questions are periodically sent out to all followers. You message back the answers. Scores are maintained on the website.
Beatmytweet is a word jumble game that sends out jumbles every half hour. Again, scores are maintained on the website and there are leader boards where eager un-jumblers can flaunt their vocabulary. Goes well with competitive exam preparation of all kinds. The jumbles can be pretty tough.
Should you buy the BlackBerry Storm or the iPhone? Ask the world! Or at least your Twitter followers. StrawPoll lets you create simple questions with options and then shoot them out to friends. Responses are tabulated automatically to help you decide. Buy the iPhone.
This one works more conventionally, letting you create a poll online in seconds and tweet the URL out to all your followers. As an added bonus, you can also embed the poll in a website or a blog. Great if you want people to make your poll popular by re-tweeting. We still say iPhone, though.
Get news and reading ideas
Most international media outlets have hopped on to Twitter to beam out headlines and breaking news. Others also feed you with interesting stories on a variety of topics. Following these bots will ensure you never have to ask someone “to suggest something good to read”. We recommend CNN and BNOnews for great breaking news tweets, Livemint for business stories and Digg for stories on a variety of topics. Twitter ids are as follows:
Chatberry: There are Twitter applications for a variety of mobile devices, including BlackBerrys.
11. BNOnews: @BreakingNews
12. CNN breaking news: @cnnbrk
13. Mint: @livemint
14. The whole family of Digg feeds are available here: blog.digg.com/?p=463
Plan trips and ship boxes
Once your travel plans are finalized, log them on twtTRIP. The service tells you if there are other travellers in the city around the same time. Also get notices of events and tweet-ups happening in the vicinity.
Tired of refreshing the courier company site to see if that Amazon shipment has arrived? Let TrackThis tweet you when there is a change in status. The service tracks packages with several international companies and can also alert you via email and Facebook.
Share your files and photos
As long as your files are less than 10MB in size, you can easily share them with anybody anywhere through the TweetCube service. After logging in, upload your file, and that’s all there is to it. A link to the file is automatically tweeted out to all your friends.
These are just some of the many Twitter-based services available on the web. And developers release new many new ones every day. Keep checking twitter.pbwiki.com to stay on top of all new developments and products.