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starmag

Sunday 3 May 2009

The
people's
paper

thestar.com.my/lifestyle

fit4life Butterfly kisses, not

variety Balancing act

All the
worlds
Twittering
Get into the act! >SM4

SM4

INSIGHT

STARMAG, SUNDAY 3 MAY 2009

Learn how Twitterers and tweets and Twitterati are


making connections in the Twitterverse by sharing their
lives.
By NIKI CHEONG
starmag-feedback@thestar.com.my

HERES a popular catch phrase on the


Internet but its not a buzz. Its a Twitter.
Even if you have never used it before,
chances are you have heard it crop up in conversations. Dont think you can get away with
just dropping that term casually during discussions, though, because Twitter is not just a buzzword, its an action.
Twitter is a social networking tool that
allows users to send messages in 140 keystrokes or fewer to individuals or a network
of followers, and to receive them in turn from
people they follow. These tweets, as the messages are known, answer the simple question:
What are you doing now?
Tweets allow you to throw open the minutiae of your life for all the world to see, or to follow the activities of your favourite sender (or
senders).
Yes, other social networks, like Facebook or
MySpace, do the same, as do online blogs, but
tweets have a sense of immediacy thats downright addictive.
Blogging about your experience at Annie
Lennoxs Hong Kong showcase 10 minutes after
its over is interesting. But using your cell phone
to tweet Annie Lennox rocks! along with a
picture of the moment is so much more exciting for the people who follow your tweets. And
youll get a kick out of it too, believe me especially if you have a lot of followers.

Feeding celebrity mania


In the voyeuristic society we live in today,
Twitter, along with all those other social networking tools, has thrown the human web concept of six degrees of separation out of the
window. Were all so much closer now, not only
to each other but also celebrities. We can now
communicate directly with the rich and the
famous, even with huge names like pop star
Britney Spears (twitter.com/britneyspears) and
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest (twitter.com/
ryanseacrest).
Actor Ashton Kutcher (twitter.com/aplusk)
has the highest numbers of followers on

The Stars tweets


TWITTER is not only used by individuals; the social networking tool has proven to be very useful for organisations to
engage with their customers.
And that includes The Star. You can
receive the papers frequent updates on
the latest news locally and abroad by following twitter.com/staronline. For those
of you who would like your updates in
Bahasa Malaysia, The Stars BM portal,
mStar Online also tweets regularly; follow twitter.com/mstaronline.
Recently, The Stars youth portal
R.AGE (twitter.com/thestar_rage) gathered loads of followers when its team
members followed American Idol runner-up David Archuleta during the singers visit to Malaysia.
The team of reporters was able to
keep fans updated almost instantly with
pictures and updates from the school
the singer visited, SMK Sri KDU, as well
as pose questions tweeted by @thestar_
rage followers and instantly tweet
Archuletas answers!
If youre interested in updates on contests, youth-related events, and getting
some inside information on how R.
AGEs team of young reporters work
(and who theyre interviewing!), twitter.
com/
thestar_rage is well worth following.
If youre a travel buff, then you might
want to follow twitter.com/allmalaysia,
which tweets information from The
Stars travel and information portal
AllMalaysia.info, including information
on travel-related events, activities, and
packages.

Twitter more than 1.5 million as of last week!


One reason for that could be, unlike some
celebrities tweets, Kutchers tweets are obviously personal and are not sent by a faceless PA or ghost Twitterer. You certainly
cant get much more personal than his
recent riot-in-cyberspace-causing tweet:
using the TwitPic program, Kutcher
attached a picture of his wife, actress
Demi Moore (twitter.com/mrskutcher),
bending over in a bikini to a post that read,
Watching my wife steam my suit while
wearing a bikini. I love God!
It is, arguably, Kutcher who is partially
responsible for the rise of Twitterers recently. Last month, the self-proclaimed King of
Twitter challenged news network CNN
(twitter.com/cnnbrk) to a race to see who
could get one million followers first. (The contest wasnt quite as pointless as it seemed: the
winner was to donate 10,000 insecticide-treated bed nets to one of Kutchers causes, Malaria
No More, on World Malaria Day on April 25.)
CNN accepted the challenge and went on the
offensive, giving Twitter a tremendous amount
of publicity.
One of its more popular anchors,
Larry King, even released a video on
YouTube addressed to Kutcher asking: Do you really think you can
take on a network? Do you know
how big we are? It must say
something about the society we
live in today that, on April 17,
Kutcher was declared the winner.
Even more recently, talk
show queen Oprah introduced
a whole new audience to
Twitter when she sent out her
first Tweet: Hi Twitters.
Thank you, for a warm welcome. Feeling really 21st
century.
With her clout, Oprah will
probably overtake Kutcher in the number of
followers soon even before that first tweet,
she had more than 73,000 followers, according
to the news magazine, victoriaadvocate.com.
Why would hundreds of thousands of people
want to know the mundane fact that Kutcher is
at a production meeting (an April 26 tweet) or
that rapper MC Hammer is watching sea turtles
(an April 15 tweet)?
Well, the glory of Twitter is in the details,
says veteran television producer and writer Lee
Goldberg at victoriaadvocate.com: ... it seems
that the more mundanity there is in the tweets,
the more personal and intimate the experience
is for those involved. Its like, Hey, Madonnas
having her period, and I know about it!
And why do celebrities bother to tweet these
mundane things? A small-time star might be
glad for the publicity, but why would Kutcher
or Madonna bother?
To connect: It seems Twitter allows celebrities to sidestep media outlets, even their own
public relations people, and go straight to their
fans: Stars can use it to not only build their
brand, but to control their brand, says Rodney
Rumford, a new media expert who has written
a book on Twitter (Twitter as a Business Tool) at
victoriaadvocate.com. They dont have to wait
to be written up in People magazine. They can
make their own news.

A little bird

The Prime Ministers Twitter page at twitter.com/najibrazak. He


tweeted his impromptu walkabout (inset, photo by MOHD
FOIZAL / The Star) in a congested KL area just three minutes
before he arrived there.

More than just fun


Still, Twitter is more
than just
about connecting with
famous people. In the three years since its
inception, Twitter has proved unexpectedly
useful in cases when urgent information is
needed, and fast like during the November
2008 bombings and siege in Mumbai, India.
The Guardian newspapers technology editor,
Charles Arthur, points out how the photo-sharing site Flickr and Twitter provided a kaleidoscope of what was going on minutes after the
attacks began (guardian.co.uk/
technology/2008/nov/27/mumbaiterror-attacks-twitter-flickr).
While accurate information about who had
been killed, injured, or taken hostage was better handled by the more conventional channels,
Twitters strength lay in passing on details of
what was happening that minutiae we mentioned earlier. Twitter, Arthur also says, has
been used to great effect during natural disasters such as fires.
Timeliness is definitely one of Twitters
strengths. In January this year, when an US
Airways plane had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York, the news
was first broken on Twitter. Twitterer Janis
Krums (twitter.com/jkrums) has been credited
as the source of the first tweet (and image)
about the incident that read: Theres a plane in

The April 17
Larry King
Live show on
which Ashton
Kutcher was
declared the
first Twitterer
to get one
million
followers.
AP

the Hudson. Im on the ferry going to pick up


the people. Crazy.
In April 2008, then-journalism student James
Karl Buck was arrested in Egypt while covering
an anti-government protest. On the way to the
police station, Buck managed to tweet one
word, Arrested. It was not long before his followers alerted his university, the US Embassy,
and international press organisations, and
efforts were soon made to secure his release.
From the time when it was introduced in
2006, and especially since late last year when
membership to the site spiked tremendously,
Tweeple (people on Twitter) have found many
different ways of using the tool.
These days, it is used as a medium for information dissemination and sharing, a log of
daily happenings and activities as well as a
communication tool, among others.
While there are no official statistics from
Twitter, analysts such as international research
conglomerate Neilsen Company pegged
Twitters growth rate at an astounding 1,382%
year on year. The company noted that total
Twitter users in February 2009 numbered
seven million, compared to 475,000 in the
same month last year.

Malaysias tweeting too


In December last year, blog Twitter Facts
(twitterfacts.blogspot.com) reported that there
were 3,429 Malaysians on Twitter, based on
location information of users on the website.
Taking into consideration the upward trend
of new users worldwide (in the United States,
there was a 131% increase between February
and March this year, reports ComScore) and
that many users do not disclose their location,
it is a safe assumption that tens of thousands
Malaysians are currently Twittering.
Many local users, myself included, who have
been Twittering pre-2009 have noticed the
sudden explosion of Malaysians in the
Twitterverse. (Yes, puns like these are aplenty!).
On his blog (davidlian.com or twitter.com/
davidlian), PR consultant David Lian says: Ive
been on the service for more than a year and I
think I mustve seen double the activity on
Twitter in just this very short period of time.

STARMAG, SUNDAY 3 MAY 2009

SM5

told me...
alak
@SazzyF k, Actress

@tonyferna

la
Sazzy Fa up to,
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.
heading

If you are new to Twitter and


are looking for local people to
follow, check out some of these
Malaysian personalities.
@NajibRazak

Datuk Seri Naj


ib Tun
Razak, Prime
Minister
Mostly his sc
hedule,
but sometim
es he
springs surpri
ses.

chan
@kid an,

@yyusuff
Datuk Yasmin Yusuff,
Personality
Lots of conversations.

@saiwanstar
Wong Sai Wan, The
Star Senior News
Editor.
Breaking news with
some commentary.

@Khairykj
Khairy Jamaluddin,
Umno Youth Chief
Family,
football and
Umno Youth in
no particular
order.

gor14
@mbselan rahim,
d
li
ha Ib

Tan Sri K
ief Minister
la
Se ngor Ch rs, just no
we
Lots of follo
t.
ye
ts
Twee

And if the burst of tweets from local public personalities are anything to go by, this is just the
beginning.
Our graphic above offers suggestions of who
might be interesting to follow.
The most high profile Malaysian personality on
Twitter is none other than Prime Minister Datuk
Seri Najib Tun Razak (twitter.com/
najibrazak) himself, who uses the service to inform
the public about his daily agenda with the occasional surprise thrown in. For example, his stop at
Jalan Masjid India in Kuala Lumpur, which was
tweeted just three minutes before he showed up
with this simple post: 3pm Walkabout at Jalan
Masjid India and Puduraya.
Not everyone uses Twitter just as a means of
sharing schedules, however. IT analyst Nilesh Babu
(twitter.com/nileshbabu) says that he uses the
social networking tool to track local events and to
catch breaking news.
He also finds it to be a useful tool in discourse. I
use it to listen to and share opinions. Twitter allows
you to gather masses of opinions and feedback
really quickly, he shares.
Indeed, as Boston Globe reporter Hiawatha Bray
reports, It turns out Twitter is a superb way to
capture the wisdom of crowds.
Bray, who writes on technology, has several hundred followers, mostly from the technology industry: I realised I could put them to work. When
searching for a technical expert or the answer to a
question, I toss off a quick tweet and cross my fingers. More often than not, it produces useful replies
from people who know their stuff (boston.com/
business/technology/articles/2009/04/30/sorting_
out_the_chaos_of_twitter).
I myself sent a tweet to my followers asking their
opinion of Twitter for this article!
Popular blogger Suanie Tew (suanie.net or
twitter.com/suanie) responded, saying that she

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@JJhitz

JJ, Radio Person


ality
Ask lots of
questions abou
t
and beyond hi
s
radio show.

@limyh

Lim Yung-Hui,
Hes been around
the Net and he
knows his stuff.

@An

Datu warIbra
k
Ibrah Seri An him
war
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post
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discl , occasio s his blo
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stop ses his ally
next
.

ndes

Datuk Tony
Fernandes,
CEO AirAsia
He travels th
e world,
and he lets
you know.

ron
liaHa
@Ati songstress

,
Haron
is
Atilia ging out, s
n
,i
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singin

@star
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The St nline
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News r
updat
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w ith l
inks t s,
o full
s t or i e
s.

@davidlian

David Lian, PR
Consultant
Funny Tweets,
great
conversationa
list.

son
@glo Teh, 11,

@cziplee

op
ationery sh
Czip Lee, st
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respon
Has a team ies.
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Gloso r
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Ext
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extre lar.
popu

Jump on board

Twitter founders Biz Stone (left) and Evan


Williams. AP
uses Twitter for its more personal flavour.
I use Twitter to jot down fleeting emotions or
quick updates on my life the daily routine stuff
that I used to blog about before the emergence of
TW (Twitter), she explains.
I still blog about that stuff, but they tend to be
longer and more thoughtful instead of, Hey this
is a photo of what I ate for lunch.
There are lots of other social networking tools,
some of which have come and gone. So, is Twitter a
passing fad?
No, according to Tew: How important is it as a
communication tool in my life now? I can give up
Facebook, but Ill fight you before I give up Twitter. I
usually win.
Niki Cheong is contemplating therapy for his
Twitter addiction. You can follow him at twitter.com/
nikicheong.

TIPS on getting started:


1. Go to twitter.com and sign up for
an account.
Tip: Choose your user name carefully;
you can change it later, but changing too
frequently will confuse your followers and
friends.
2. Once you have signed on, you can
start Twittering. Type in your tweet
(remember to keep it under 140 keystrokes) in the text box and click
Update.
3. If youre directing your tweet to a
specific fellow Twitterer, use the @
symbol followed by the persons
Twitter user name so that he/she will
know that your tweet is addressed or
refers to him/her.
Tip: Many people use the @user name
at the start of their Tweets but you can
use it as part of your sentence. eg,
Wonders if @nikicheong knows I am
here.
4. Start following people. You can use
Twitters numerous search features or
look at the graphic above. To follow a
user, just visit their profiles (click on
their user names or head to twitter.
com/<theirusername>) and click on
Follow.
Tip: A good way to ensure that people
continue to follow your Twitter is to follow
them back.

General tips:
Twitterers like to re-tweet (RT)
interesting tweets. To facilitate this,
leave enough blank spaces (10-15 characters) in your tweet so that they can
add: RT @username before they retweet your tweet to their followers.
Numerous applications have
appeared for computer desktops
(TweetDeck) and cell phones (Gravity for
Nokia, Twitterberry for BlackBerry, and
Tweetie for iPhone) that can make your
Twitter experience more enjoyable.
If you would like to have a personal
conversation with someone or direct a
message to one person (all Tweets are
public unless you set your account to
private), you can type D<space><user
name><space><Message>. To do this,
the two of you have to be mutually following each other.
To attach a picture to your Tweets,
try using websites like TwitPic (twitpic.
com).
When you want to share a website
link, opt for URL shorteners like
TinyURL (tinyurl.com) to save on character spaces. At such sites, you can
enter the full address of a website and
it will be turned into a short form that
you can then copy into your tweet or email; it will not break and it will never
expire.