White Paper
by Buthaina AlOthman developed for the TESOL Technology Advisory Committee (TAC)

Topic: Twitter

URLs:

Twitter - http://twitter.com/
TwitThis - http://twitthis.com
Twitter Client - http://twitter.com/downloads
TwitPic - http://twitpic.com
Twitter map - http://twittermap.com
Twittervision - http://twittervision.com
Twitter Packs - http://twitterpacks.pbwiki.com/
Tweetmeme - http://www.tweetmeme.com/

Purpose of White Paper

Twitter is a free service that allows people to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of short text messages or updates sent to the Twitter website. Users also have the option to send and receive updates using a web interface, instant messaging (IM), like GTalk, LivieJournal, and Jabber, mobile short messaging service (SMS), or Twitter mobile browser. The basic idea of this technology is that users exchange quick answers, in not more than 140 characters, to one simple question: What are you doing?

The 140 characters long text message choice is technical, not aesthetic since Twitter is based on mobile SMS technology that won't allow text messages longer than 160 characters; this limit or restriction, as with any restricted poetic form, is a strength that made Twitter so popular, recently, according to a recent articlepublished online from the The Economist print edition. Based on this technical fact, Twitter users should make the effort to learn and practice the skill of writing concise meaningful sentences to express ideas, musing thoughts, activities, or lists to do.

TwitThis, powered by Twitter and TinyURL, was developed to support this type of writing skill. TwitThis is an easy less challenging way for people to send Twitter status messages about their blog posts or websites. TwitThis is a button or link that can be added to a blog or website using a code. Visitors to a blog or a website can click the Twitthis button or link to send a Twitter status message with a shortened URL of the site and a description of a certain activity they are doing at that moment, like reading or exploring the website to all of the participants on their Twitter community or network. The shorter URL is created automatically by TwitThis, so that such status text messages won't be longer than 140 characters. This way makes the writing of concise effective text messages quick and easy.

Twitter Client has downloads for other ways to send and receive Twitter Updates. For example, TwitBin is an extension for firefox that enables Twitter users to send and receive messages / updates via Twitter in their firefox browser. TwitBin can be used as a backup channel for collaborative group-work online to support quick exchange of important updates. Other downloads include Twitteroo for internet explorer (IE), and Twitterrific for Mac users.

TwitPic is one of the latest ideas on Twitter that allows Twitter users or Twitter-ers to share photos through status text messages on Twitter. Users can, for instance, take photos during a conference and send them to their Twitter online audiences with a description of the situation or just a comment on a presenter or a presentation. Photos appear in the format of a link / URL inserted in a Twitter status message. (Please see an example).

Twittermap is a version of Twitter that allows users or Twitter-ers to enter their home or work locations to be located on the world map and to see other Twitter users in their areas. They can also enter any location in other countries to see who else is twittering in the world. Any user with a location and an image defined to appear on the public feed can be located on Twitter map.

Twittervision is a more dynamic interactive version of Twitter map that allows users to view a real-time geographic visualization of posts to Twitter. To set their locations and personal locations definitions on Twittervision and Twittermap, using Twitter updates, users can use the format L:place=address, where place can be any easy-to-remember word, (Adapted from the Twittervision FAQ).

TwitterPacks is a Twitter wiki project that has a compilation of Twitter home pages of individuals, communities, and organizations, divided into lists based on a topic. It is useful for a new Twitter user to look for the right people network Twitter to follow.

Tweetmeme is an extra supporting site to Twitter users where they can track popular links shared over Twitter. This way, users can relax as they are aware of a place that they can always refer to for popular links or information.

Twitter Control and Privacy
Twitter users can choose to follow or not to follow other users, and they can invite friends to follow them on Twitter. Twitter-ers have the option to receive or not to receive updates from people they are following, and they can choose whether to follow or unfollow people following them. Twitter users can also decide on who can view or receive their replies to other friends in their people networks and have the option to send private messages to a specific person in their Twitter communities; they can also block any user in their Twitter networks. In addition, Twitter-ers can have their updates protected, which means that they approve requests to follow them, and by this, Twitter is actually providing balanced control to all users.

Why you need this information

Twitter has, recently, gained a lot of popularity as a useful effective micro-blogging or social networking tool, used by individuals and various types of professional communities and people networks for sharing information and important announcements relating to their fields of profession or interest. Wikipedia described Twitter as the best micro-blogging tool so far.

Educational Twitter home pages have been increasingly created recently by professionals and organizations to utilize the technology for the benefits of teaching and learning in K-12 and higher education, personal learning, and for professional development. Many ESL/EFL professionals, educators, and professional organizations have actually started using Twitter to connect and communicate with their students, colleagues, staff, and people networks.

Tiwtter has become, for many professionals, a great source of up-to-date information relating to new trends in education worldwide, and an important virtual library where they can search for new educational technologies, software, articles, and books. As such, Twitter can be used as an essential tool that supports professional development and performance.

TESOL, for example, can utilize Twitter for social networking and to send updates on new events, publications, and other needed information for TESOL members or non-members network in the globe. In his article, titled Twitter as coral reef, Dave Winer stated that “the role that Twitter is playing is a vital one -- it's a notification system, always-up, and keeping it up is someone else's problem. As a system designer, I'd like to believe that Twitter or something like it will always be there. I'm not sure of that yet, but it seems we're close.”

Links to example sites:

Educational Twitters: (the lists below comprise only a few examples)
Community Twitter:
Missouri University of Science and Technology: http://twitter.com/MissouriSandT
Webheads Communities: http://twitter.com/webheads
LanguageLabUnleashed: http://twitter.com/LangLabUnleashd
Jeff Utecht: http://twitter.com/jutecht
Online Community: http://twitter.com/ocs2007
Second Life community: http://twitter.com/SecondLifeUsers
http://twitter.com/GoogleBlog
ESL Activities: http://twitter.com/a4esl
EVO 2008 session: http://twitter.com/web2foresp08

ESL/EFL/ESP Twitter:
Charles Kelly: http://twitter.com/CharlesKelly
Vance Stevens: http://twitter.com/VanceS
ESL Teacher: http://twitter.com/Dennis_Phoenix
EFL Teacher in Qatar: http://twitter.com/julielindsay
Digital Media class: http://twitter.com/academicdave

News Twitter:
http://explore.twitter.com/cnnbrk
http://twitter.com/bbcvideo
http://twitter.com/bbctech

More interesting ways to use Twitter are included in the article, Twitter for Academia, recently published on Academhack.org.

How to register

To join Twitter, create a free Twitter account following these 5 simple steps:
  1. go to the Signup page at: https://twitter.com/signup�103�<span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Tahoma">
  2. enter a username and then a password.
  3. add your email address.
  4. type the two words provided to confirm you are a human.
  5. click the "I accept. Create my account" button; you are done and have become a Twitter-er!

How to get started

Start at the Setting page by clicking the Setting tab at the top of yourTwitter home page. There you can change or fix your time zone, add the URL of your website / blog, add a one sentence / line bio, enter location, check or uncheck the "Protect my updates" box, and then click the "Save" button. Please note that if the "Protect my updates" box is checked, you will not be on the twitter public timeline that is viewed everywhere in the world.

Next, click each of the tabs at the top of the Setting page to visit the other setting pages in order to change, preview, restore, and save IM/Phone, Notices, Picture, and Design settings. Visit the IM/Phone and Notices pages to set where to receive updates and who can see your reply messages. At the Picture page, upload a photo to publish on your Twitter home page and profile section; at the Design page, customize the colors and background image of your Twitter home page, or restore to default settings and save.

After that, send a status message(s) or update(s) that is not longer than 140 characters. Send email invitations to friends and colleagues to follow you on Twitter. To send email invitations, click the "Find & Follow" tab at the top of your Twitter home page, (see a screen shot).

For more detailed information on Twitter and its other sites, please visit the Twitter FAQ page: http://help.twitter.com/index.php?pg=kb.book&id=3 and Twitter blog: http://blog.twitter.com/

Note: More Twitter applications are being either developed or announced while this report was written, like DearLazyWeb and Commuter Feed, which have been announced when this paper was in progress.