Are you a news junkie? Do you love finding out the latest breaking information as soon as it goes public? Or are you just interested in following a particularly obscure topic that doesn’t get mentioned often in your area newspapers or TV news broadcasts?
If you answered affirmatively to any of the above questions, there’s an increasingly popular online communications service you should check out. It’s called Twitter. And it’s free and simple to use.
Those who like getting the most up-to-date information from their local media sources have plenty of options on Twitter, even in eastern Iowa. The Daily Iowan, the Gazette, the Iowa Independent, and the Little Village all post information and links to full stories on their accounts. Numerous other regional, national, and global news outlets have accounts as well.
Here at the DI, we maintain several Twitter accounts. Our Metro section’s account, which can be found at Twitter.com/TheDailyIowan, sends out breaking news alerts as well as headlines from and links to top stories from the daily paper. Offering a more interactive and personable online presence, we also have an account at Twitter.com/DrDaily. But if you’re looking for updates that are more outspoken and provocative, then Twitter.com/DIOpinions is for you. There you’ll find links to a wide variety of sites with information related to some of the most frequently discussed topics on the Opinions page. Finally, Daily Iowan TV also maintains a presence on the service at Twitter.com/DailyIowanTV.
But what makes Twitter unique?
Perhaps the most initially confusing aspect of this service is that it limits users’ updates to 140 characters (letters, numbers, and symbols) each. That’s only two or three sentences and it severely limits the amount of information that a single Twitter message, also called a Tweet, can convey. But that’s part of the point. Twitter updates keep people informed in real time. The most important thing is getting the headline out there as fast as possible. But one can also include links in the updates that allow people to click through to read the whole story.
However, the main reason behind limiting Twitter updates to 140 characters is that Twitter is designed to integrate with one’s cell phone. After a person has signed up for an account at Twitter.com, he or she can then go to the settings menu and follow simple instructions to link that account with a particular cell-phone number. Having done this, one can then receive updates from users of one’s choosing as text messages. And it’s also possible to send texts from one’s own cell phone that then post as updates on one’s Twitter page. This way, people no longer have to either be working on a computer or have a mobile Internet device with them in order to remain aware of what’s going on in the world.
Twitter also has many other interesting uses and features, but most of them are better discovered online than described in print. So start up an account, and give it a try. It’s a whole new way to interact with your news outlets of choice — and give us feedback, both negative and positive.