I've sifted, collated, alphabetized and arithmetically shifted to the right the
hundreds thousands 5 comments I received on my last post when I asked for what people didn't get about Twitter. Ok, that last post wasn't even close to one of my best. Chalk it up to this late winter crud I'm selling, cheap. I've been feeling like something much worse then garbage but only slightly better then a zombie
Hashtags. I just looked up the definition on Wikipedia. You don't want to read it. It's really confusing. Actually it was so technical, it sucked. I think the best way to help you understand them is to tell you a little about why Twitter is much more then a web page. It's a communication platform in the same way as Instant Messengers are a service much more then a program.
A bit of clarification for you. The Internet is more then a bunch of web pages. There is a whole hidden side to this system that users just never see. Just like you can use a fax machine over your phone lines, programmers can use tools that communicate in a way that is not visible in your web browser. Twitter has a whole menu of services that it offers to programmers to create a rich collection of tools to do Twittery stuff.
Let's be perfectly honest, the Twitter web page sucks. It's usually broken, it's pretty slow and it's quite ugly. Using a different program to access Twitter is the only way to go.
For me there are 3 main programs in my Twitterverse for reading and post my personal tweets: Twhirl, TweetDeck and Twitterrific. For pushing my blog posts to Twitter, I use a tool called TwtitterFeed. There are few other services I use, but they aren't as visible. Twitteraholic compares your stats with other users, sort of a vanity thing. (Like me, I'm the most prolific tweeter in my town...go figure!)
Why would you want to use these tools? Ease. Terri, you were wondering why or how you can be alerted to replies? These tools make that far easier then hitting the reply tab on the web site. Let's look at the pros and cons of each of my 3 favorite tools.
Pros: It's very easy to use. To spot your replies, you simply scroll looking for tweets that are brown instead of dark grey. This tool is WAY to convenient. I do a lot of my tweeting from here. I use this to tweet from the bus stop, on the bus, waiting in line, while shopping with the Mrs, traveling, you name I'll tweet during it. Well, maybe not anything. I like being married and like cell phones, should never be used while sitting on the throne.
It's got a built in tool for posting pictures to TwitPic and posting the tweet associated with it. Extremely handy.
Cons: The version I use runs on the iPhone. You don't have one? There's a for money version for the Mac. I don't have a Mac, so I've never used it. Other cons are its limited in it's history. I will only go back so far.
Overall: This is your Twitter connection on the road and away from the computer. I love this tool. It's one of the most used apps on my iPhone. I'd feel lost without it.
These next two tools are a toss in some ways to me. There are definite pros and cons against each one. The truth is, I use both and haven't really settled on either.
Pros: This is by far the most popular Twitter client available. It's also free as in beer and offers the most functionality. If you click the picture to see the bigger version, you will see that you know have an entire treasure chest of Twitter tools.
What makes TweetDeck so cool is you get all these columns. I usually choose to display my stream (what you see on the web page), my replies and my direct messages, but you could choose to create a custom column that displays your selected group. You chose only those Tweeters you want to see special. Pretty handy. You can also create a column based on a filter, such as a hash tag (#hashtag). During #snowmageddon, this was really handy. This tool is also integrated with TwitPic for quick uploading of pictures.
Another feature I really like about this is the ability to quickly retweet something. Hovering over a users picture gives that option with one click. It also has a built in tool for handy URL shrinking.
Cons: My biggest con for this tool is it's a memory hog. This thing sucks up RAM like sailors on the seaside bar in Manila. When I'm sitting here editing photos, my computer just can't keep up with this and Adobe at the same time.
Pros: Extremely light weight. It's quick and fast and can be set to sit transparently on your desktop. It gives you a nice linear view just like the web, but it does highlight the replies and direct messages as a different color.