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Twitter: Free Microblogging Service Perhaps the Perfect Mobile Blogging Tool

Twitter can send e-briefs into your mobile pocket, but beware of SMS flooding

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Updated August 16, 2008
For many people, the swiftly spreading talk of microblogging service Twitter is enough to give the service a go.

Many stick with it on a regular basis because of its addictive nature to so quickly and painlessly update friends and strangers alike with all our random thoughts. But for those unfamiliar with the free service, what’s all the hoopla really about and why might your cell phone give a hoot?

Spawned from the San Francisco offices of Obvious.com in March 2006, Twitter isn’t just another service affording easy, free and quick blogging. Sure, it dispenses all that goodness, but it takes blogging to an entirely novel and interesting level with an integral marriage to cell phones.

Whether you blog quick-hit updates about “what you’re doing now” on Twitter.com, use the handy TwitterFox gadget that’s embedded directly into the ever-popular Firefox browser or receive Twitter updates from friends via RSS feeds, where Twitter spills into the land of the especially unique is in ability to push itself to your mobile phone.

In describing its love for cell phones, Twitter says on its site: “Twitter really shines when you’re away from your computer. By hooking up your mobile phone, you can receive updates from those you’re following … when you’re waiting in boring lines.

“You can send updates – like “OMG! There’s a monkey walking down the street!” – which … you’re unlikely to see while you’re indoors.”

With all the content being posted to Twitter every second, the service seeps into mobile phones when you’ve enabled the permission-based service to receive the updates via text message (or “SMS”). Twitter has coined these very short messages (no more than 140 characters) as “tweets”.

While Twitter is entirely free and using its SMS service is as well, one important consideration is to assure your texting plan can handle what might become regular SMS updates.

If you’re on a limited texting plan where you can only send or receive 50, 100 or 200 texts a month, allowing Twitter to find you on your cell phone might catapult you over your texting limit. With such a limited texting plan, you’d incur additional fees. If you don’t text at all and don’t wish to, obviously Twitter via texting may not appeal to you either.

Like many, though, you may have opted for an unlimited texting plan from your wireless carrier. If you buy into the fun and addictive nature that is Twitter and decide to allow the service to follow your every step away from the computer, Twitter’s texting service is ideal for texters on unlimited SMS plans.

If you enable Twitter for your cell phone and later feel the marriage doesn’t fit, you can file for a Twitter texting divorce by replying with “off” (and then change your mind yet again by texting “on”). If you’re interested in sleeping without being Twittered to your cell phone at night, you can even tell Twitter texting when it should enter sleep mode.

Now while Twitter has sometimes earned the wrap of catering to “frivolous” and “self-indulgent” bloggers, the service has also been put to practical use in the real world.

CNN wrote on June 5, 2008 of this incident that happened a month earlier: “James Karl Buck was released from a Mahalla jail after sending a one-word blog post from his cell phone through the Twitter site. The message – “Arrested” – alerted all of his friends on the site of his detention.”

That single word broadcast via Twitter texting aided in the University of California, Berkeley student’s release from jail after his college hired a lawyer to argue the case.

In addition, Twitter isn’t only used as a blogging and texting tool but also as another reader touch point from writers who publish their own blogs and publications. Peter Sciretta at the popular film blog /Film has more than 1,000 readers following him on his Twitter.

“Twitter is amazing because you can reach your audience instantly. I can leave a screening at Sundance and have my first impression to thousands of readers within minutes of the credits roll. The major movie studios are now even joining the game as I’ve noticed quite a few executives [have sent me] follow requests. And now with the new Twitterific application for the iPhone 3G, it will be easier than ever.”

As well, various daily publications (such as CNN and the Chicago Tribune) have also engaged the Twitter world as yet another way for readers to tune in to constantly updating sites. Twitter is a free service that currently has no site advertisements. A Twitter specifically for mobile phones can be found here.

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