Twitter's chitter chatter

The Numerator: Homework

About 53 percent of federal workers recently surveyed by Government Computer News do at least some work from home. Out of 111 federal Defense and civilian agency workers who filled out the informal online survey, 59 agreed that they used a home computer for work-related duties.

Yes

Response Percent: 53.2%

Response Total: 59

No

Response Percent: 46.8%

Response Total: 52

Twitter ' a free service that lets users send Short Message Service text messages simultaneously to cell phones and a Web site ' has some compelling features but thus far seems to be more a novelty than a necessity.

Its most interesting feature, the public timeline at twitter.com/public_timeline, lists the mostly minor activities of about 20 random Twitterers out of the more than 80,000 subscribers.

Presidential candidate John Edwards (twitter.com/johnedwards) seems to be one of the few government-related people who admit to Twittering. His posts weave together logistical, political and personal events ranging from 'Leaving event, spoke about ending the crisis in Darfur' to 'Wasn't Elizabeth great on Larry King last night?'

Messages can be no longer than 140 characters, but users can send unlimited messages.

Twitter combines elements of instant messaging, social networking and wireless communications. It could theoretically offer a peek into the zeitgeist of the Web through its public timeline page.

However, the timeline seems to be mostly a listing of what snacks people are eating. A cursory review of the public timeline shows about half of the posts resemble this one: 'at work having coffee and donuts. mmm. still thinking about Lost last night. and the Spurs won. yay!!'

Twitter seems to require users to have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. This obligatory narcissism is what makes us a bit queasy about Twitter and, to a lesser extent, MySpace. We may be old-fashioned, but we figure a person would write because they had something special to tell the world, not just that they were going out for a slice of pizza.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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