100,000 Tweets!

TwitterWow! It’s hard to believe I’ve hit 100,000 Tweets on Twitter!

I think one way I can celebrate this milestone is to share some background into how I came to use Twitter, how my usage grew, and how I got to where I am today. And of course thank those who have helped and inspired me along the way!

I joined Twitter in May of 2008. I believe my initial experience matched that of nearly everyone else upon joining: utter confusion as to its purpose. Laura Fitton has a well-known signature line: “Twitter’s the stupidest app you’ve ever seen” – and it’s never more evident than when you first sign up. I did have a handful of friends using Twitter at that time, and my first step was to follow them. Most of them tweeted about 3 or 4 times a week – and, I should note, still do. I did not have a smartphone at the time, and I set up my account to both send and received tweets via text message. My usage, in terms of both reading and posting, was minimal for nearly a year; little did I know what impact it would eventually have.

Fast forward to April of 2009, when I begin hearing more about Twitter from colleagues at IBM – primarily bloggers and others in the social computing space. Most were just trying it out as well, so I decided it was time to find out more. I wasn’t disappointed.

After a few simple web searches, I found a number of articles and blog posts on how to get started on Twitter. Although I don’t remember the specific articles, they provided some simple steps to take and recommended people to follow in the technology domain, and this was the real beginning of my use of Twitter. In addition, I remember watching this video, which is a Google Tech Talk that Laura Fitton gave at Google in May, 2009. Much of my early understanding of Twitter came from this video:

At this point, I began seeking out people to follow in a few key areas: technology, social media, Boston, and IBM. For the most part it was not difficult to find people with these interests, and once I did, and I began truly consuming Twitter, everything changed. My Twitter usage increased significantly, from almost nothing to close to 30-40 tweets per day. I wish I had access to these early tweets, and although Twitter certainly has them stored somewhere, I hadn’t set up a 3rd-party Twitter backup/archive service that early on.

Those first few months of real Twitter usage were mostly a combination of learning about the platform itself, learning how other people were already using Twitter, and tweeting things about my life and of interest to me. I would guess that most of my Twitter usage during this time was engaging with others (@replies) rather than fully public tweets. This pattern has stuck with me – even to this day, despite heavy tweeting of links, I still hover around 60-65% @replies.

Light bulbIt wasn’t long however before I started to realize the potential for learning and connecting with others. I was suddenly now connected to “stream of consciousness” thinking from major tech bloggers, industry experts, news sources, and more. Not surprisingly, all of my existing learning sources (blogs, Slashdot, tech news, etc) were on Twitter. But not only did I get the pure news stories, people were providing their own spin on these news stories, and so Twitter became a human source of information. I could not only learn about news and technology, but get expert opinions and thoughts on these topics as well – and also share my own opinion, for what it was worth. For the first time, the learning process became clear, and I was able to consolidate and simplify a number of different areas of learning and keeping up to date on news. This was the point that the light bulb went off for me. Twitter was a true game-changer.

And yet, even this was still a beginning. In mid-2009 I began attending various “tweetup” events in the Boston area, and I began meeting folks who I had only known online via Twitter. It was incredible to suddenly connect face to face with folks I had never met before, and yet whose interests and everyday lives I already had a connection with. It was Tweetupat this point that I realized that I was also using Twitter as a way to interact socially with others – not just for learning and news, but to begin and develop new friendships and relationships, some of which could be further extended in person. And suddenly, my initial thinking about the usefulness of MySpace had changed – here I had found a tool which could simultaneously provide vast, customized, targeted learning, along with more traditional “social network” experiences of friendships and everyday conversations.

Once I began following others in my areas of interest in April and May of 2009, my posts to Twitter increased from close to 0 to a significant monthly number.

Today, I tweet about 100-120 times a day on the weekdays – though much of this is still @reply conversations. I actively use a number of tools to access Twitter via the web, desktop, and iPhone, and I interact with hundreds of different people on Twitter a week. This intersection between personal and professional, learning and social utility, has had a major impact on my day-to-day life and how I interface with the world around me.

Finally I’d like to specially thank some of the folks who have inspired me here on Twitter in some way that has had an impact on how I use it:

Thanks all, here’s to the next 100,000 Tweets!