Virtual stalking or communications revolution?

Twitter. It's all over the place. Electing presidents, attempting to rescue lost chums, giving me a sneak peak at my ex-boyfriend's dream bicycle (no, I'm not going to link to that one)...

It amazes me that the ability to ping 140 characters of text into the ether can have so much of an affect on society, individuals and relationships.

The truth is, while I've been hearing about Twitter for a while now, I hadn't actually seen it for myself until a couple of weeks ago. It was the first day of the pilot project for my start-up social enterprise and I'd spent hours preparing the more theoretical component for the day.

The idea was to give both trainees a broad foundation in communications theory - the message, the medium, communications channels, noise, feedback, that kind of thing. Twitter came up when we were talking about internet channels and I confessed I'd never been on it. Jeevan didn't know much about it either, so Angela took over my laptop and gave us both a quick tutorial.

She showed us what it meant to 'follow' somebody (which still seems quite stalker-like to me) how to send a post, and the counter that tells you how close you are to your 140 character limit.

This reminded me of writing news text messages when I worked for Australian Associated Press. Trying to condense a 400 word article into 140 characters without the aid of text-speak was, in fact, really good for developing concise writing. Providing the laws of grammar are heeded, it seems to me that the same could be said of Twitter. Perhaps, alongside the enforced brevity, we could introduce a grammar and spelling check that encourages the use of correct English.

But this still leaves the question of the terminology that builds up around anything web. People using Twitter post 'tweets', apparently, and the most popular tweeters are collectively known as 'the twitterati'. I only really know that through searching the Urban Dictionary - another revelation to me and, again, courtesy of Angela. Thankfully, this is the only dictionary that's currently keeping pace with the rapid rate at which web users create new words.

Our focus turns to web writing next week and I'm sure, once again, I'll be learning almost as much as my trainees.

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