Whenever I approach some new Web-based gizmo, gadget or toy, I don't just jump straight in and press the 'Go' button: I generally like to have a mooch around, see how the thing works, and then ease myself in gently - that way at least I don't end up looking a prize twat when I make some honking schoolboy error, at which others are then free to have fun at my expense - and being the Web, invariably, any mistakes you might make are then there forever; immortalised for generations to snigger at.
That said, the attention-span of a lot of Twitter users is only 140 characters, so I guess I should really stop worryi...
One of the first things I did notice about Twitter, and one backed-up by an article on the BBC website, is that at least 50% (and I can say that's a conservative estimate!) of what you can read on it is utter "babble" (at least that's the BBC's polite description - although mine also begins with a 'B'); just another outlet for the celebrity-obsessed and 'da yoot an ting' to wax poetic about the raft of inanities and trivia with which they underpin their lives. Oh, and if I read the word "awesome!" again, used entirely glibly, out of context and in relation to anything from a list of the most underwhelming and inconsequential Z-list US soap actors, then you may just find me sitting atop a clock tower with a scoped rifle in an effort to redress the balance. ;)
The other thing I noticed was the sheer speed at which the porn industry has managed to latch on to the obvious shop-front which Twitter presents; the porn industry and the Web having been long-time bedfellows, and ones which have found increasingly inventive ways in their efforts to spread its love around, so to speak.
So, no sooner had I 'Tweeted', than I had 12 new 'followers' - none of whom I knew and all directing me to "look at my profile!"; all of which turned out to be some form of porn, adult dating or 'naughty' flirting site. And as with virtually all spam, they get paid just by dent of you hitting their URL link and viewing their site.
Needless to say, I felt obliged to respond with something in-line with the format which Twitter imposes on all its users, and so posted:
"Twitter: the Web's latest amateur porn outlet - where a vocabulary of only 140 characters is considered verbose!"
Now I can't for a second claim that this next move came as a result of my Tweet, but only a few days later, one of Twitter's 'trending topics' was the news that it has introduced a 'Report Spam' function for just this sort irritation.
What I can say I learnt is that if you try and impose any form of sense or ability to keep up with Twitter, dont': you'll go crazy - it's just not designed for that. And do not randomly try and see what's going on, either - you'll end up all over the map with your head spinning.
The approach I'd recommend for newbies to get you underway is that you choose just a small number of people you either know, or whose stuff you know you're going to want to follow (10 will keep you more than adequately occupied for an introductory period whilst you find your feet); mine are all comedians and journalists I read regular, so it's quite manageable.
Like all these things, it's not going to be for everyone: it tends to be favoured by those who can afford to camp on it all day (so it's big with 'slebs' and journos); you just have to be realistic and ask yourself what you want from it.
The only thing which surprises me, what with Twitter being so new and popular, is that Gordon Brown hasn't yet announced a 'Twitter Czar' to keep us safe from it - either that, or announced that he's going to introduce background checks on us all to ensure we're not all closet paedophiles...
Mind you, the day aint over yet...
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