I will follow

About a week ago, my first Twitter message (or “Tweet”) read as follows: “I’ve caved and joined Twitter.”

I had been reluctant to join Twitter, a service that allows you to broadcast short messages to your circle of friends and to “follow” them. I’m already spending time with this blog and Facebook, not to mention old-fashioned e-mail.

But I figure Twitter is here, so why not use it? So far, I like its simplicity and brevity, characteristics epitomized in its the 140-character limit for each message. And I haven’t been bombarded with “25 things” requests that have consumed Facebook lately.

As a way to deliver news, Twitter reminds me of my days on the wire desk when The Associated Press would send news alerts. These would just be a sentence or two about breaking news, with a full story to follow later. Twitter messages from people and organizations that I follow are like that, with a mix of personal updates along with what journalists would describe as news.

I’m not so sure of Twitter’s usefulness as a way to follow a complicated event for a longer period. During the attacks in Mumbai, people in the city posted updates to Twitter. Reading that feed would be like listening to a police scanner: somewhat informative, but fragmentary. It takes a writer and editor to put all of those fragments into a coherent story.

A recent Webinar at NewsU offered some guidance for journalists who use Twitter. Perhaps I will try the replay of that session as I explore Twitter’s possibilities. In the meantime, you are welcome to follow me.

NOTE: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that Twitter messages have a 140-word limit. The limit is 140 characters. I regret the error.