Posted by: SOE | March 17, 2009

In Other News…

Social networking has been growing over the last couple of years. We’ve gone from MySpace and Facebook to even simpler formats such as Twitter.

After moving from Seattle to San Diego and back, plus growing up somewhere else completely, I know folks spread all over the place. Social networks allow me to keep up with what’s going on with my various friends without feeling as though I’m intruding on their personal lives and time. They update their own information, telling all their friends what they’re doing or thinking and everyone knows at the same time…or at least at the very next time we check our electronic universe.

A couple of years ago, I signed up for Twitter and immediately wondered what the heck was the point of it. Space is limited to a certain number of characters, so the verbose have to break their messages into chunks. After a few messages, I stopped tweeting entirely.

Even so, I was tickled to hear about KPBS using Twitter to update news when the October 2007 fires in San Diego took out power lines to its tower and it could no longer broadcast. That’s smart, progressive thinking…but it wasn’t enough for me to pick up my Twitter account and use it.

More recently, Cuppycake posted about the reasons she found Twitter useful. She made a lot of good points, including the fact that Twitter becomes more conversational as you follow (and lead) with more folks. Instead of the handful of folks that I saw everyday, I can follow passively or participate in conversations with people from all over.

And so I picked it up again. And she’s right; it’s more of a community conversation when you are following more of your friends and they are following you.

For example, from today…even as I have been typing this blog post (with their names redacted to protect something or other):

FriendOne: Trying to figure out how to make MSWord put Name/Title/Page# at the top of every page. Failing.

Me (owlchick): @FriendOne Headers and Footers are your friends.

FriendTwo: @FriendOne what owlchick said!

FriendOne: @FriendTwo @owlchick Thanks, guys! After Owlie IMd me and edumacated me, it’s working. After a month of frustration. Stupid MSWord.

Me: @FriendOne @FriendTwo I didn’t help at all other than to be saying, Did you try this? how about that? :D But glad it did…something!

FriendOne: @owlchick @FriendTwo What she said was, “Then type that in this box” and I said, “Oh duh.” I R dweeb. And sure, go for it.

If I hadn’t seen FriendOne’s tweet of frustration, I wouldn’t have known she was having trouble, nor would I have asked out of the blue, “Ever used Headers and Footers?” Thanks to Twitter, she’s now can get on with her busy schedule!

And Twitter’s still a great resource for passing along information that the sender wants to reach a wide audience in a short amount of time, just as KPBS had done.

Example: Maybe you’ve gone to see what’s today’s deal. Maybe you’ve abused your F5 key while refreshing during a Woot-off. Well, they’ve got a Twitter feed, too, so you don’t have to keep watching the website; you can get it tweeted right to you!

But they haven’t just used it to push $9.99 Woot-off Lights with Screaming Monkeys. They also sent out an alert when one the daughter of an employee went missing. And a month later, when she was finally located.

While it would be grand to conclude by saying it was a Twitter re-post that helped locate her, it was really exposure on America’s Most Wanted and an alert Washington State trooper that did the job. But still, I’m convinced that using these sorts of social networks is changing the way people communicate today.

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