Over Networked

Some time ago I started blogging using a wonderful piece of blogging freeware (WordPress) introduced to me by a propeller-head friend and former colleague (Steve Blasdale). I didn’t really know what blogging was then but, having recently retired and feeling somewhat technologically starved at home, extending my own web site to incorporate my own blog gave me something constructive to do over and above writing and receiving emails.

I have never kept a diary in my life. I got half way there once at work when I began writing appointments and so on in an electronic diary. I say “half way there” because I tended to write things in it but kept forgetting to check in it to see what I was supposed to be doing and when I was supposed to be doing it. Duh! However, being something of an online diary, blogging seemed to fulfill some hidden desire to write and I began to enjoy posting blog entries, so much so that we eventually began travelling with a laptop and, horror of horrors, frequenting McDonald’s to use their free Wi-Fi to blog on our travels. (A big thank you to McDonald’s for a great service as opposed to a great hamburger.) The big advantage of a blog over a diary is that, given a digital camera, photographs can be posted, too, and, as we all know, a picture speaks a thousand words.

A few months ago we booked to go on a walking trip to Corfu. No way were we getting anywhere near blogging whilst in Corfu – no laptop and very little Wi-Fi. Blogging withdrawal symptoms loomed. I can’t remember how I found out about it but, a few days before Corfu, enter Twitter and, of course, a whole new set of silly terminology. Twitter: a social networking and micro-blogging service. The micro it seems, refers to the fact that entries (tweets – oh good grief) are limited to 140 characters. The critical thing was that I could tweet via SMS on a mobile phone whilst in Corfu. People who tweet tend to be referred to as tweeps. It seems I have become a tweep as well as a blogger. Arghh!

For such a simple idea, a web-based 140-character text message, there appears to be a surfeit of Twitter client applications. There’s little wrong with Twitter’s own web site for sending and reading tweets. Still, it’s fun trying new software so I’ve given some a go. TweetDeck enables multiple panels with tweets, @replies, direct messages and searches for tweets on specified subjects side by side. Twitterfox extends Mozilla Firefox to show tweets but you don’t seem to be able to search for topics/keywords. Twhirl looks similar to a standalone Twitterfox but includess the search bit. For what it’s worth, I prefer TweetDeck. It’s clearly tough to get anything substantive into a 140-character tweet and that limitation shows when you see most of them. Given the majority of what I’ve read on Twitter, twerps would be a more appropriate term for those who tweet. Still, for anyone prepared to put in a little thought and effort, it is possible to tweet real content and it does seem to have its uses. The service is somewhat plagued by senseless advertizing tweets, though.

Today I’ve signed up for something I’ve been avoiding for ages (don’t ask me why): facebook.  It’s all very new to me but it seems that you can update facebook with SMS text messages, too. TweetDeck enables facebook status updates as well as Twitter tweets so somebody must think they are useful to have co-existing. Facebook clearly has loads of users ‘cos it found a bunch of friends from my email address book, including Carol’s niece, Vanessa, in Scotland. Naturally there is yet more fun terminology with which to become familiar. I seem to have a wall now. [Aside: Could this be the Wonderwall beloved of Oasis that I’ve never understood? Just a thought.] My favourite piece of facebook terminology so far came when, as part of my learning experience, I went to look at Vanessa’s facebook entry. Beneath her profile photo, as well as being offered the chance to “Send Vanessa a message”, facebook also offered me the chance to “Poke Vanessa”. Well, really! What terrific software! I’m quite sure neither Vanessa nor Carol would be thunderously impressed. I’ll leave that hyperlink alone.

With the growth of this plethora of so-called social networking tools, we could all end up never having to meet people face-to-face again. It’s just you and the computer now, kiddo. How sad a world would that be?

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