Funny story.

When I read about Twitter a year or so ago, it was called a “presence based application.” Meaning it was about what you were doing (where you were present) rather than what you were thinking or about conversation. I was consulting at the time, having just sold my company, and I was working with a company that was focused on hyper-local content.

“Have you heard about presence based applications?” I mentioned to the CEO, trying to sound “with it.”

“No,” he replied.

So, I started to explain the idea of an instant messaging system that allowed one to announce where and what they were doing, and how well that concept worked with local content.

“I think its called Twatter.”

As we pulled it up on the CEO’s 30″ monitor, I chuckled as a loud, blinking male gay porn site loaded.

“I guess thats not it.”

Soon there after, I learned the proper URL and signed up. My early tweets answered the question “What Are You Doing?” as laid out by the site. But soon, that just wasnt enough. I did what I always do: I did what I wanted to do.

And, strangely, Twitter changed with me (not because of me). It became more of a communication medium. Please started putting an @ sign in front of other people’s usernames to directly reply. Twitter soon added support for both direct messages and @replies. And, usage grew.

Even more interestingly, people started added me. I had added 50 or 60 people to start, mostly from the public timeline or people that I had heard of or were friends, but with little thought. I just added people.

After a couple of months, I had a 100 people following me. Wow! I was pretty impressed with myself. 100 people are interested in what I say. Pretty cool.

I started to watch what I tweeted. Tried to make it interesting, and quickly became bored. I went back to what I do in real life, just saying what I am thinking. And my following list grew.

I continued to evolve my Twitter usage. I would tweet out blog posts I had written and had read. I interacted with other people on Twitter. I tweeted random thoughts and things that made me laugh. But, mostly, I participated in what was clearly becoming a community.

In college, I studied philosophy. I did it, because I thought philosophy was easy. Like most things in college, I was disappointed in the difficulty of the course. It was really hard. Like REALLY HARD.

But, I do remember one thing. John Locke spoke about society and laws. His analogy was that society was like a horse corral and that laws were the corral itself. People could do what they wanted within the corral (free will), but were bound by laws (which were decided on by the society itself). Jump the corral, you were outside the law and no longer protected.

Groups define their own laws and characteristics.

I read many blog posts about “Twitter Etiquette” and laughed. The proper way for people to interact within the accidental community that Twitter built was to conform to the laws and rules defined by the community itself. People could relay those rules in a post, but they couldnt create them.

I wondered if there were content laws. Could I say something that would get me booted from the community? Lose followers en masse? I tend to be a person that says anything in real life, so I started to do the same on Twitter.

I swore. I said shocking things. I wrote about things most people dont discuss (bodily functions for example). Yet, my follower list continued to grow.

There was only two rules that I abide by: “First, judge only what I have written. If it made me laugh, it was good enough. If it made me think, it worked. If it felt real and honest to me, it was publicly consumable. Second, be unafraid. People are people. Life is life. If said with honesty and conviction, then no bad could come from my words.”

People began to interact with me more and more. I, sometimes, find the level of interaction overwhelming. I want to talk to everyone, but since its a public forum, dont want to overload those that are not interested in the conversation. But, I try.

And, now, after following hundreds and being followed by thousands, I have finally distilled how and why I use Twitter.

Why?

Its the people stupid. Its also the stupid people. (I always wanted to blog that!)

I like being part of the Twitter community and hearing so many different thoughts and viewpoints. I dont really use Twitter much for work, but I guess the image people have for me trickles over and into the image people have for Lijit.

How?

The people I follow (yes it number in the hundreds) are people I personally know, like and respect. The rest are people I like and respect and would like to get to know. If you fall into one of those two camps, I will follow you (and enjoy it).

Technically, when I am in front of a computer, I have two tabs open: The main Twitter page and a Search page. I read periodically what the front page is doing, but mostly I search on people I know have stuff to say that I will react to. I also check to see if people have @replied to me outside of the standard way (putting the @reply in the beginning of the tweet.)

When I am away from my computer, I use Tweetie on my iPhone, and have a bunch of pre-saved searches, which I check periodically. Because I am not using Lijit for work, I dont feel a need to be up to the minute with it, and will often check it at night or in the mornings.

At the end of the day, Twitter is much like everything we do in life. It is what it is, and will only change or shift based upon the efforts of the individual and collectively the group. Because Twitter is so new, individuals can change the basic ways the community interacts. Check out how Chris Brogan or Laura Fitton or Guy Kawasaki or Fred Wilson use Twitter. Each is very different, and very much the same.

I will continue to be part of the Twitter community as long as I am accepted as a contributing member, even if I occasionally tweet about masturbation. (*snicker* I used the words member and masturbation in the same sentence. *snicker*)

How do you use Twitter?

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