Like most people, I’m up to my eyeballs in social networking — Facebook, MySpace (for about two weeks), Digg.com, Reddit.com, StumbleUpon.com, yadda yadda — and I don’t see the need to make my days more complex by adding new web habits that are being sold on their simplicity. To truly simplify, I’d visit fewer e-mail accounts/websites in a day.
But in the interest of this column, and my own insecure need to try to feel like I’m keeping up with the times, I signed on to Twitter last week.
Twitter is big, with almost a million members in about three months, and it’s incredibly simple to use. You know that “What are you doing now?” space on Facebook? It’s like that, only you’re supposed to update it several times a day, with a maximum of 140 characters, to let your friends know exactly what you’re doing. This is supposed to enhance social networking by A) letting you find common ground with your friends and associates (“I had no idea you were into macramé”), and B) making the things you do more social (“I’m also jogging after work — let’s jog together”).
You can enter Twitter updates using cell phones, PDAs, laptops, desktops, and all kinds of other devices, which is also why Twitter has become popular for businesses — you can use it to create an instant messaging system for your workplace, letting people know about meetings, or for office administrators to know where their employees are and what they’re doing — “He’s at lunch/on a sales call/working on the Linskey file/in Shanghai/weeping quietly in a bathroom stall.”
You get to pick exactly who you want to Twitter with — unlike Facebook.com where you may not be in regular contact with everybody on your list, or keep names like trophies.
Signing up was easy, although like anything it obviously paid to be in the first group to register because all of my usual user names were already taken. That forced me to pick something different, a jumble of letters and numbers that I’ve already forgotten — which is okay, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be a Twitter member, and in the meantime Firefox will remember all the details for me.
Right away I hit a snag — none of the friends currently in my Hotmail address book are actually signed up to Twitter, and Twitter won’t let me check names from Facebook. So I sent out a few e-mail invites, just to test the system, but haven’t heard back from anybody yet. I’m all signed up and there’s nobody to Twit.
So there you have it. All reviews suggest that Twitter is growing in popularity, that it’s a simple and useful tool for staying in close contact with the people in your life and at your work — but you probably need a few friends and associates on Twitter to get it to work.
While I’m jumping on bandwagons, I also found a Canadian site called Bitstrips (www.bitstrips.com) that was featured on CBC Currents recently. The site offers the ability for the artistically challenged to create and share their own comic strips simply by dragging and dropping characters onto the windows and adding text and context.
I have to say that I enjoyed my brief time on the site, perusing all the amateur comic strips.
Creating your own strip can be fairly time consuming, and — hats off to Charles Shulz, Jim Meddick, Bill Watterson, Scott Adams and company — it’s far more difficult than it looks. It took me an hour to come up with a lame, possibly offensive cartoon that I’m sure will get more frown-y faces than smiley faces from Bitstrips readers.
It’s funny and cathartic, and if I had more free time I could see myself becoming a regular submitter.
Wii Fit better than nothing
Last year I created the perfect situation when I merged two activities, riding a stationary bike while playing video games (Final Fantasy Tactics on my old Playstation) — one thing I love to do bundled with the one thing I need to do. I haven’t played/ridden recently, but that probably has something to do with the fact that my Xbox 360 is in front of the couch instead of the bike these day.
But while I enjoy combining activities it would be easier for me if the game I was playing had something to do with riding a bike.
I’ve played a horse racing game where you physically have to rock your horse, and a mountain bike game where you had to pedal and pull up on the bars from time to time. I’ve also sweated to a boxing game where you have to punch, kick, duck and dodge while sensors follow your every movement. All of those games have been in an arcade-style setting (e.g. Sony Palladium) and have never been offered to the home market.
All that changes with the release of Nintendo’s Wii Fit (www.nintendo.com), a pressure sensitive board and game that includes 48 activities from yoga to strength training to aerobics.
So far the reviews are mostly positive, although the reviewers suggest that the games at this point are generally geared towards seniors — already fans of the Wii — and people who need to ease back into exercise.
I probably won’t be getting one until Nintendo can mimic a stationary bike, but I appreciate the effort.