Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Joining the twittering classes

How many times have you Tweeted today? Have you become one of the Twitterati? Does your life revolve around a constant stream of micro-blogs from the friends, colleagues, celebrities and news organisations you follow online?

If the foregoing makes any sense to you, the chances are you've already signed up to Twitter, the internet phenomenon that's taking the world by storm. Essentially, you "follow" people you're interested in, and they can "follow" you if they choose.

Twitterati send out Tweets (messages of no more than 160 characters) telling people what they're up to. Depending on who's following you, you'll get a reaction in the form of another Tweet. Or no response at all, which can be a bit depressing.

You can Twitter from your mobile phone, from your computer or even from your Blackberry. If, that is, you're posh enough to own such a thing and it isn't the kind that threatens to engulf your allotment every spring with its thorny tendrils.

Actor and wordsmith Stephen Fry brought Twitter to the notice of a grateful nation when he got stuck in the lift of a London office block last February. His claustrophobic Tweets ("This is mad, I'm stuck in a lift!") may not have reached quite the same intellectual level as some of his more trenchant writings, but they certainly got noticed, and written about, by his 388,000+ followers.

Rock god and shape-shifter David Bowie isn't quite so active. Despite having more than 12,000 followers, he's only Tweeted once, back in January, and after that it looks as though he gave it up as a bad idea.

Which of course it might be. Because a lot of Twittering is totally trivial. When America wakes up, the chorus of "OMG it's Monday wish it was Friday LOL" is often enough to send the system over capacity and bring the non-information superhighway to a juddering halt.

But Twitter has its uses. Follow or /bathsport and you can pick up headlines from The Bath Chronicle as and when they reach our website.

And other Bath organisations are getting in the act as well, most notably the Avon Street bus station. Follow and you'll find yourself on the receiving end of a stream of handy updates about gridlock in Dorchester Street, sheep on the road in Peasedown St John, Bath's singing bus drivers and more. (One of these is not true.)

On Tuesday they excelled themselves, with a link to their blog (yes, Bath bus station has a blog too) about some of the bizarre objects that have pitched up in their lost property department.

These included a dining chair (handy if all the seats are taken and your knees can't take the strain); false teeth; a hearing aid: a single shoe; a melodica (a mongrel hybrid of mouth organ and piano keyboard, often given as a present to children whose parents the donor wishes to torture); a dog; and a piece of chain mail. Whether the pooch was wearing the armour or playing the melodica – or both – is not recorded.

The list gets more distressing. We find "Jim" (lost by a care home, apparently, although who or what he is remains a mystery). We find prosthetic body parts and performance-enhancing tablets whose precise function is probably best glossed over in a family newspaper. (Here's a clue, though: what sounds like "Niagara"?)

All of these and more have been left on Bath buses, and if it wasn't for Twitter then we'd never have known.

(What we still don't know, though, is if they'll be sending the new 40-seat 20a/c service round Weston. If they do, we'll send a photographer!)

You can also read this in The Bath Chronicle. As long as you promise to read all the other stuff as well first.

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