So there I was just about to take a flight to the US. Leafing through my as yet unread Bill Bryson books that I have left, I was about to dive headfirst into A Short History of Nearly Everything, when “thud” went my door mat and a complimentary copy of O'Reilly Publishing's The Twitter Book leapfrogged to the front of my reading list.
I'm not a professional book reviewer although I have done one or two in my time such as Google Apps – also from O'Reilly. In fact the last tome I did review was a cookbook, so take my comments as you find them.
Anyway, a book on Twitter then - why on earth would we need that? It's an intuitive micro-blogging service that has taken the world by storm and is a seriously good networking tool for a freelance technical journalist such as myself. So wouldn't this just be 234 pages (I counted) of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs?
Well, Twitter is just about to get its own FA cup commentator this weekend in the form of Setanta Sport’s Jon Champion. Surely when a medium is used for broadcast football commentary then it has matured?
Well yes, there is some of grandmother to suck eggs element. There are the painful “This is how you sign up and search people – and this is what a #hashtag is” sections. But get past that and there are quite a few useful items to read. Make no mistake, this book is actually written by Mr Tim O'Reilly (they named the publishing company after him), or @timoreilly as he likes to be known these days. O'Reilly wrote the book with co-author Sarah Milstein (@SarahM) a freelance writer who boasts the claim of being the 21st user of Twitter itself.
As well as the stats to show the “thousands” of per cent growth Twitter has seen at various stages of its still blossoming popularity, there are some good “oh really, I didn't know that” pages to pick up on. I'll try and pick a few for you:
** There's a version of Twitter that works with assistive technologies called Accessible Twitter – you can find it at http://accessibletwitter.com
** There's some good help pages with useful web sites listed such as http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter which is a forum where people discuss Twitter issues.
** We all block those crazy “SEO specialists and web entrepreneurs” (well, I do these days) and I also block Tatiana46832 from Kiev who wants to know me. But did you also know that you can send a message to @spam or follow http://twitter.com/spam (which auto follows you back) for extra help in fighting the good fight?
** Trending has come to the fore recently and I worked out what Wossybookclub was after a few clicks, but I wish I’d known that I could go to http://whatthetrend.com and actually get an explanation for what each topic (or trend in this case) was supposed to be about.
** There’s some good info on advanced search in here that did give me a few extra pointers.
But Doh! Here are some of my Homer Simpson “doh!” moments. I’m sorry, but advice on using third party Twitter clients like Tweetdeck is preceded by the comment, “If you Twitter more than once a week”. Um, yes, like I do – really I do. Perhaps this is useful for beginners, but I fear the authors have gone one step too far back in their back to basics approach. Also, they mention Tweetdeck and Twhirl – but there’s no mention of Tweetie and many of the other worthy client interfaces. Poor show chaps. As for the “What to RETWEET” pages, I won’t go there as I’m sure you know what makes interesting follow on reading and what doesn’t.
** A final positive comment from me on the pages within – did you know that you should post on the right days to be amidst the most traffic? Guess which days are the most popular? It’s spread over Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. For myself I do notice that hardcore Twitterfolk (if I may place myself in that category) who Tweet on Saturday and Sunday do tend to leave the professional approach to one side slightly and chill out a little.
If I have one criticism to make it is probably that a lot of this kind of advice is exactly the reason many of us are on Twitter in the first place. What I mean is, this is the sort of help that frequent Twitterers share all the time. Like I said in the title of this blog - the Twitter Book: worth a look if you're hooked.
But when do you sit and read a hard copy book about online experiences? Well, like I say, I did it on board Virgin Atlantic VS0021 to Dulles. So as I'm blogging in the sky I think I can safely say: Virgin Atlantic, your planes are as lovely as your cabin crew, but your online booking system sucks big time as it spewed me out and wouldn't let me check in online. Richard, if you're Tweeting – sort it out will you please sir?
Finally, what would a Twitter bog post be without a bit of self-promotion? You can find me at http://twitter.com/ABridgwater and I’m generally a pretty congenial sort of guy.