Twitter’s home page might put you off… Their definition isn’t really up to date. Also, users have come to ignore the ‘What are you doing?’ question. What if you want to see what using Twitter is like without signing up?
You don’t have to. You can follow individual people’s thoughts, status updates, links and reports on Twitter for a while. These messages are called ‘tweets.’
If you see someone use an @ before a username ( such as @audio ), that’s shorthand for a Twitter user name. You can see their profile page by adding the username to the twitter.com web address ( http://twitter.com/audio ).
As well as plain text tweets, you’ll probably see link recommendations. As each tweet can only have 140 characters, most people use a link-shortening service. This means you won’t get a clue from the text in the link to know where it goes. For example @guykawasaki uses his feed to post interesting links. Here is a recent tweet:
adjix.com is a link shortening service, http://adjix.com/if9t takes you to http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2008593860_teeth06.html?syndication=rss – As Guy is promoting his Alltop network, he also links to that too. You’ll also see short links from is.gd and tr.im amongst others. You usually only have the Twitterers word that this is an interesting place to go.
You might see messages to other people – they begin with their user name ( such as @alex4d ) – they might be difficult to understand out of context, but you might be able to understand the Twitter conversation using tweetree ( http://tweetree.com/audio ) instead – it is a site that looks at what Twitter people are doing and re-arranges the tweets the make things clearer.
It also expands the short URLs so you have a better idea of what people are linking to.
As different people use Twitter for different things, visit the profile pages of a variety of people. Each person’s profile page has a grid of little icons representing who they are ‘following’ – the people whose tweets they receive:
Click one of the icons to see another profile page.
Also, you might get an idea of what they’ll be tweeting in future by looking at the page they link to in their profile information at the top right of the window. Temporarily bookmark those you like the look of.
Once you have found enough interesting content, consider signing up. Instead of seeing everyone’s tweets, you’ll only see those from the people you follow. To follow someone, go to their profile page and click the ‘Follow’ button.
Once you have followed a few people, twitter.com will look something like what I see:
On the other hand, have a quick look at the post before this one…