Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Short and Sweet - Must be a Tweet!

by Pa Rock

I have always been a whistler. I don’t know why, but I suppose that whistling is a just a nervous habit that I acquired at some critical juncture in my life. Over the years, it has occasionally proven useful – like when I was a high school principal wandering the halls. My whistling would alert misbehaving students of my imminent approach and give them time to clean up their act and hide the evidence. Anything that I didn’t catch made their lives better as well as my own! I remember when one particular class graduated – probably thirty years ago – Cindy Stanley, a favorite student of mine, wrote in the school newspaper that what she would miss most about high school was Mr. Macy whistling in the halls.

It’s so great to have a legacy!

But this posting isn’t about whistling, it is about tweeting. While whistling involves expelling air across the tongue, teeth, and lips, tweeting is the act of excreting thoughts through the fingertips and onto the keyboard. Whistling may go on for hours, but a tweet lasts no more than 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

Tweeting, if you are still behind the cyber curve, is the fine are of posting very short messages, observations, quotes, threats, or obscenities on your homepage at It is similar to posting on Facebook or MySpace, but does not involve the use of passwords or any passive pressure to get cutsie or creative with the appearance of your page. It is much more user friendly, to me at least, than its two knuckle-dragging older cousins.

I am not very adventuresome when it comes to the Internet. I use the google like an encyclopedia to look things up, email for corresponding with a few close friends and my children, and news sites for keeping up with local and world events. A year-and-a-half ago I discovered blogging, and that hobby, as evidenced by The Ramble, has gotten totally out of control.

I had heard about “twittering” or “tweeting” around and about. I knew that Ashton Kutcher had some big contest going with CNN to show that he could attract more followers than them, but I had no idea how one became a follower - nor did I have a desire to do so. I also heard that the turmoil in Iran after their recent presidential election was being fomented on Twitter, but again, I had no idea how to follow that activity except through regular news sources.

I got into this mess on the morning of June 28th while I was catching up on the Internet news. It was then that I came upon a reference to a tidbit that Senator Claire McCaskill (Missouri’s good senator) had had apparently tweeted to her followers. To read her exact words, I had to hit a link to Once there, I was directed to register before I could pull up her comment. The process of registering was quick and painless. When I submitted my email password, I was given a list of my email contacts who were on Twitter. I checked each of their sites to see what they were discussing, and became a “follower” of most of them.

Being someone’s follower on Twitter is not like being a follower of Charles Manson (well, not usually), it just means that when that person posts a tweet, it appears on your home page. If nine people that you are following each tweet twice during the day, you have eighteen small messages to catch up on at the end of the day. Any tweets that I type to onto my homepage and are also distributed to anyone who is bored enough with their life to be one of my followers.

So far I am following ten individuals. Nine are friends who are also following me, and the tenth is an Hispanic poet whom I admire. Thirty-two people are following me – Allah knows why – and many of those seem to have an agenda that involves selling me something. This group of strangers appears to use the “search” function on Twitter, and then start following people whose tweets contain words related to their products. For instance, one evening I mentioned insulin in a tweet, and soon had three new followers who all had something going in the diabetes field.

Another evening I made a brief comment about Scroungy Bastard, the neighborhood cat that is adopting me. Within minutes Ted Danson’s Cat, Mittens, was following me on Twitter! Mittens lives in Ted's laundry basket.

The thing that I like best about tweeting is the challenge of saying something profound in just one-hundred-and-forty spaces. I am a fan of word games, crossword puzzles, and structured poetry, so I find the limitations of the tweet very appealing. It’s sort of like a haiku rest stop on the information highway.

If I’m not at The Ramble, check for me at And if I’m not there, it probably means that me and Scroungy Bastard and Mittens are hiding out somewhere snarfing up some creamed tuna on toast!

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