On Becoming a Twit


In the last three years, I've written just under 4000 blog posts. You might think that is more than enough, but for some time I have been conscious that I don't always blog everything I could or even want to.

Often, I've multiple Firefox tabs sitting there holding juicy items that I think deserve passing on; and yet I never get around to writing about them. I've been pondering why that is, and what I can do about it.

I think it comes down to two things. First, it takes a certain minimum amount of time to craft even the simplest blog posting: sometimes I just don't have the spare minutes/spare brain cycles to do that. Often, though, there is very little to say about the item in question - no profound comment is required beyond "take butcher's at this". What I really need, I realised, is a lightweight way of passing on such stories quickly.

Enter Twitter.

One of the interesting trends over the last year has been the steady rise of Twitter. Increasingly, I am finding bloggers that I read referring to stuff they find via Twitter, or to conversations conducted there. Clearly this can be a very powerful medium, if used in the right way. I've always been sceptical about the idea of twittering about every mundane detail of your life, but using it as a kind of micro-blogging tool is an attractive solution to the problems I've been experiencing.

As a result, I've started using Twitter at twitter.com/glynmoody; updates aren't protected, so anyone can follow. Note that I won't generally be posting links to blog posts there, unless there's a particular reason for doing so. In part, that's because the info is meant to be complementary. But it's also because some kind soul (now revealed to be one Jonny Dover, to whom many thanks) has set up a separate Twitter feed for opendotdotdot (which also includes pointers to my other posts on Open Enterprise and Linux Journal) at twitter.com/opendotdotdot. This means that you can choose whether to follow just the longer-form stuff, or the new, reduced-fat posts, or - for masochists only - both.

A few early observations on the medium.

First, one of the reasons I have held off from Twitter is that its parsimonious format forces you to use a URL shortening service, the best known of which is TinyURL.com. I have inveighed against these several times, largely because of the fact that they obscure the inherently linky nature of the Web. Fortunately, things have moved on somewhat: you can now provide users of the shortened URL with a preview. This means that (a) they can see that structure and (b) they can be slightly more sure you are not dumping them on some manifestly infected site.

Although TinyURL offers this service, I've plumped instead for is.gd, partly because it uses considerably fewer characters than TinyURL.com, partly because it has a shorter preview feature (you just add a hyphen to the end of shortened URL), and partly because it uses buckets of open source: