You’ll find some real “tweets” in “The Twitter Book,” by Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein; $20 from


For instance, Shaquille O’Neal, the famous professional basketball player, has over 1.2 million followers of his “tweets” and gives away free game tickets at his site: Here’s an example: “People n phoenix have 5 min to touch me I have 2 laker tickets n my hand I’m on a corner at a bus stop.” (At seven feet, one inch, he should be fairly easy to spot.) Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation, users tend to omit full spelling, common articles and conjunctions, and pay little attention to capitals.

Go to to read tweets. You have to register to send tweets, but not to read them. Twitter allows you to communicate with the world in short bursts. News of remarkable events and people are often transmitted within seconds. The safe landing of a jet liner in the Hudson River close to New York was tweeted within seconds. Though the box you type into says “what are you doing now,” people use Twitter for all kinds of things, including business.

Some of the top tips from “The Twitter Book” include:

  • Use to shorten a long website address. It lets visitors see where they’re going, by using the original name in the new address. For example, we shortened a link to a column item at our web site, from “,” to: Twitter will shorten your link for you if you don’t, but lets you include the real website name.
  • You may be following 3000 people but you really only have time for three; Tweetdeck lets you look at the key ones first. (Use the “group” feature to set it up.)
  • Use this to ask questions of the whole Twitter community. Somewhere, somebody has an answer for anything. New York Times columnist David Pogue recently tweeted for a hiccup cure and got dozens of replies in seconds.   

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