"We need an article ASAP," Jim said some time (and several thousand tweets) ago, "about our new Twitter-based instant alerting service."
"Sounds cool," I replied. "So... what on Earth is Twitter?"
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the most techno-savvy staffer at ANN. I'm typing this on a two-year old Dell desktop that's hardly state-of-the-art, but at least it can run Flight Simulator 2004 (but not FSX, too slow.) Heck, I didn't even buy my first computer until 2004... which makes my current line of work incredibly ironic, if nothing else.
So, it was off to the Internet for me, to find out what Twitter was. As it turns out, it's pretty neat. Most ANN readers probably know already that Twitter is an online service that enables you to broadcast short messages to your friends or "followers" -- in this case, allowing us to share breaking news with ANN readers.
Twitter is designed to work on a mobile phone as well as on a computer (and can be accessed via your IM clients). All Twitter messages (called "Tweets", naturally) are limited to 140 characters, so each message can be sent as a single SMS alert. Brevity is a virtue when using Twitter, since you can't say much in 140 characters (then again, the world would probably be a better place if people spent less time reading their cell-phones, anyway).
A completely free service, Twitter is useful for close-knit groups, to quickly communicate group-related items. It's something of a mini-blogging tool -- 140 characters at a time. For example, on July 3rd, ANN used our Aero-Twitter application to update the status of the first flight of Cirrus Design's "The-Jet." Subscribers to ANN's Aero-Twitter were able to receive these notices instantly on their computers, or via their cell phones, hours before any other aero-reporting outfit could convey the news.
We're not planning to go nuts with Aero-Twitter. It's meant to let you know of important programs or news alerts. Rest assured, we won't send instant alerts every time NATCA accuses the FAA of... well, anything... nor will we burden the service with such earthshaking news as a certain aircraft manufacturer making minor changes to its logo. But, if there's a major event in the aero-world -- first flights, significant product announcements, really cool new programs on Aero-TV, that sort of thing -- of course, we want the ANN audience to know about it, and know about it first.
So... check it out... it's the latest in an aggressive series of upgrades that we'll be rolling out in the next few weeks!