I joined Twitter in the early days of it’s launch, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to delve in and  figure it out. After three weeks of living in the twitosphere, I am almost won over, BUT I am reserved about my praise.

Twitter is a great way to ascertain the heat on a new topic and to learn more about things you are interested in. For instance, in I have a search in my TweetDeck for GeoThermal. This allows me to see all realtime broadcasts from 12 million people tweeting that include the word GeoThermal. My friend @NASeason says that twitter for her is “more real time than Facebook, follow people without having to friend them, no more feeling strange about changing status 5x a day.”

So why am I still reserved?  Because in my Twitter exploration I have found the time suck factor to be quite high and I am still waiting to see if it is just another fad that will be supplanted with newer, more superior technology e.g. FriendFeed which has better support for conversations.

My friend NASeason highlights exactly why I think the time suck factor can be so high… people do change their status 5x a day. That is a lot of content to consume or filter esp if you are following a lot of people.

One of it’s primary drawbacks is that the conversational paradigm is nearly non-existant yet that seems to be the whole purpose of the tool. Weird eh? Not really.

The original idea was to be able to use SMS to tell groups what you are doing. It is easy enough to send a quick message, but to carry a dialog is another thing. The retweet (RT) paradigm allows your message to easily be fanned out to different networks of people which is cool because ultimately people forward your broadcast and expand your message to new networks of people. The respond to (@) paradigm is interesting; however, there is no straightforward correlation to what someone is actually responding to. The trail can’t easily be followed between two people let alone groups.

I am constantly asking myself the following questions in my Twitter exploration:

  • How can I optimize my engagement with Twitter to make my time investment valuable?
  • Could I be using my time more effectively somewhere else?

Some things I have learned along the way that may help you if you decide to jump on the Twitter bandwagon.

  • If you are new to Twitter, Mark Oneil has a step by step guide. Scott Hanselman also does a good job of explaining Twitter in a slightly more technical fashion on his blog post, usefulness of microblogging.
  • Some etiquette
  • Use it wisely. For example, I spend a lot of time investing in and researching stocks. I was curious if the tool could help me more readily predict what was going to happen in the market. Mostly I found that the tweets were often just highlighting articles on WSJ, NYT, SeekingAlpha, etc. that I would have read more directly if I wasn’t using my time to browse tweets. Occasionally though, a great article or point of view shows up that I would never have seen without a tweet. It is the diamond in the rough that I seek so I keep coming back.
  • If you need to laugh search for #textthatgetnoreply on twitter, quite funny

Overall, I think Twitter is a simple, but powerful broadcasting mechanism that let’s you follow topics and people you think are cool or pertinent in realtime.