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Tweet nothings

The New York Times calls it “one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet”, Time calls it “the next killer app”. That’s Twitter for you.

Twit-what? Much like the succession of chirps made by birds to which it owes its name, Twitter is an online service that enables you to broadcast short messages to your friends or “followers”, ostensibly to answer the big question — “What are you doing?” It’s a remarkably simple concept, made even more so by the fact that you’re limited to a 140 characters per update, and that is perhaps one of the main reasons why it has caught on like wildfire. It may be best to describe Twitter as a place where you can share news, thoughts, ideas, jokes, and opinions, and anyone who cares to listen to you can do so. You can even choose to make your updates private, should you wish to be vocal about stuff only a small group need hear. Of course, at the same time, others are also sharing, on your Twitter home page, their daily events, perceptions, and attitudes, and you can choose who you care to listen to. In some ways, Twitter is like a giant room of people talking, but you only hear the people you want to hear.

A screenshot of a Twitter page

Of course, to the uninitiated, Twitter seems like an odd, time-consuming, and zero-value habit. “Hundreds of complete strangers will read what you post? Why would they do that?” Although using Twitter quickly becomes instinctive, trying to describe it to someone unfamiliar with the service is monumentally difficult, largely because Twitter really is a completely different form of communication, and trying to explain how it is “like” e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, or other communication media often ends in frustration for both the Twitter evangelist and the listener. You just have to try it, and once you do it will make sense. Let’s get you started, shall we?

To sign up, go to Twitter.com, click “Get Started-Join,” and in two minutes you can be Twittering. It’s free, so what do you have to lose? After selecting a username and password, Twitter will allow you to check your Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, or MSN address book for contacts that already use Twitter. You can well skip this step, but I’d recommend you take the time to see who you may already know on Twitter. There isn’t much point joining a service without having someone to talk to, right?

And that’s it. You’re ready to create your first “Tweet” (or more, if you’re the garrulous sort)! Type your message in the “What are you doing?” box and click “Update.” As you type, the character counter will track how much space you have left. Your Tweets can contain up to 140 characters. Right about this time, you can also configure your Twitter account to send and receive Tweets to your cell phone, since Twitter allows updates via SMS in India. This will let you to receive Tweets from those you follow and update your status when you’re out and about. But be warned — as your Twitter list grows, the volume of Tweets you receive can be substantial, so be selective! Besides the website and your phone, there are a ton of Twitter clients that you can play around with, and we’ve listed a few at the end.

As you get familiar, you’ll learn the use of directed messages and replies. For example, you can create a Tweet that is directed at someone or replies to someone by beginning your Tweet with the “at” symbol (@) followed by the username of that person. Keep in mind that replies are visible to everyone who follows you and everyone who visits your Twitter page (so don’t say anything you don’t want the world to see). Here’s an example of a reply Tweet: “@2shar Thanks for getting me onto Twitter. I found the article very interesting.”

Now what if you want to send a Twitter message to someone without the world seeing it? Twitter has a direct messaging capability; in the “What are you doing” field, enter the letter “d” followed by a space and then the username. Here’s an example of a direct message: “d 2shar Sent you an email about buying a camera — could you have a look?”

And you’re all set to Tweet your way to glory. Besides friends and acquaintances, you could choose to follow the lives of a whole host of celebrities or hotshot professionals. Ever fancied direct contact with @shahrukh_khan, @gulpanag, @BarackObama, @lancearmstrong, @Schwarzenegger ? Twitter’s the place — all you need to do is follow them (as if you didn’t do that already!). And oh yes, you could reach me on Twitter as well — @2shar!

• URL: www.twitter.com
• Twitter tools: Mobile (jTwitter, Twitterific, PocketTweets), Windows (TwitBox, Twitterlicious, Twitteroo), Mac (twhirl, TwitterPost, Twitterrific). More at http://twitter.com/downloads

Awesome Apple

Talk about doing the impossible. Apple’s new iPod shuffle has not only doubled capacity to 4GB, it’s also ditched the control wheel entirely in favour of its ultra-miniaturised form factor. The new design keeps the clip and adds VoiceOver — a new feature that gets around the lack of display by telling you which song is playing and who performs it at the touch of a button on the earbud cable. It’ll also call out your playlists and let you navigate to others songs.

URL: http://www.apple.com/in/ipodshuffle/
Price: Rs 4,200 plus taxes

Ultra cool

After months of build-up, Dell’s answer to the MacBook Air is here. It’s first machine in the ultra-premium, ultra-light Adamo line is a 13.4-in model with a full-aluminum-body. It’s a little light on specs — a 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo U9300 with integrated Intel X4500 graphics, 2GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD, and at $1,999, heavy on the wallet. Kinda like the MacBook Air, right?

URL: http://www.dell.com/
Price: $1,999

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