Hip-Hop Tech: Twitter 201 – Intermediate (Part 2.0/3)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series about using Twitter. This article assumes that you know the basics of Twitter. If you don’t know what Twitter is or how to use it, I suggest reading the first part before continuing.

At first, I was going to write only one intermediate level post. However, there’s too much good stuff to digest in just one post. So I broke it all down into two parts. In this first part, we will cover:

  • How to carry a Twitter conversation
  • Twitter Lingo (What is “Retweet” and the uses of @replies)
  • How to shorten URLs (aka links)
  • Why Twitter seems to “not work at times” (or why there’s a whale being carried by birds)

Welcome back. I hope that you find the basics of Twitter easy for you. As you are using the website, you may notice that there’s more to Twitter than just updating your status and telling people what’s really good with you. For some people, it’s a community, complete with conversations and sharing of information. So, now that you have the hang of Twitter, it’s time to cover some of the things you’ll run into, starting with this…

How does one carry a conversation?

One way or another, you’re going to find yourself carrying a conversation with other users. You need a way to let them know “hey, I’m talking to you or about you” to the public. And that’s when the @ symbol comes into play.

For this example, I looked for someone to start a conversation with (on purpose). Check it out:

artofconvoPlease note that this is an edited conversation. (You’ll get a chance to see the real time line later) Now, there are two ways to start and keep a conversation going. One way is to type “@” and the name of the user as is without typos and then the message. The other way is to use the “reply to arrow.” Let’s revisit an earlier graphic:


artofconvo2When you scroll over an update, it will be highlighted and you’ll see two options: one to add the update to your favorites and the other to reply to the update. Just click on the “reply to user” and it will automatically put in the @ and user name for you. Now that you got a hang of that, let’s make the conversation a bit more… interesting. Remember when I said I cut up the earlier graphic? Well, here’s the same graphic, only with the additional updates thrown in for good measure. Feel free to click on the graphic, because I’m trying to keep this post “short” (yeah, right…)

So, how does one keep track of such a conversation? Here are some pointers:

  • You can click on “@Replies” to see the last person you conversed with, however, you may encounter some problems tracking what subject the person was referring to. So, the next best thing is to:
  • Click on “in reply to _____” link (if on the web) to see what the person was talking about. Twitter automatically links the conversations. However, don’t always depend on this option because the system can sometimes get it wrong. (Computers still cannot think like humans…yet)
  • If you really want to see how a conversation was started and carried over, then you may want to try the search feature @ http://search.twitter.com and look up the conversation by typing in your user name and the person you want to keep track of. You will see a “view conversation” link. However, there’s one problem… I was having a conversation with someone who locked their profile and therefore, it will not appear in the public timeline. Keep that in mind before you start pulling your hair out.

Before I go to the next step, I want to thank @Queensonly for the example and make sure to check out her Queens Only Connects Myspace page.

What’s a “Retweet” and those other slang words?

Other than @replies, there’s a few things to keep in mind when tweeting.

RT – ReTweet
This is a tweet that someone shares with people in their own timelines.If you experience “déjà vu” and see someone retweeting something that someone else already said in your timeline, remember, everyone is not following the same users. To use this, simply put “RT” in front of the tweet you want to copy and paste. Just make sure when you RT to give credit where credit is due.

If you see a word with a # before it, this is known as a “hashtag”. It a way to tag data and help organize it. For more information on this, check out a post I’ve done in the past.

Most other expressions such as emoticons  : ), : (, : $, and shorthand (LOL, ROLF) are universally accepted. While some people may not totally understand it, if you have been texting or using IM for a good minute, you are already familiar with most of the slang. If you are not, then check out this site and search for the shorthand. Or, you can always ask.

How to Shorten That Link!

Let’s say you are reading a web site and you want to share the link with your followers. Since every character counts, you will want to shorten the link so that it not only takes up less characters, but will not break the link. To shorten the link, just visit one of the following “URL shortners” sites and copy the whole URL.

  • TinyUrlwww.tinyurl.com
    TinyUrl is one of the most popular “URL shortners.” You can also copy the link into the Twitter “what you are doing” box and Twitter will use TinyURL by default. However, if your link is really long, it’s best to shorten it to prevent breaking the link.
  • Bit.lywww.bit.ly
    In addition to shortening your URL, you can see the number of clickthrus as well as where they are clicking from. It’s great if you run a blog or want to keep track of the topics you cover so that they will also list who retweeted your link.
  • Adjixwww.adjix.com
    Like Bit.ly, it can track the number of clickthrus (but not from where). The bonus here is that if you sign up, you possibly make money from ads that will be on top of the page in a frame.
  • Budurlwww.budurl.com
    BudURL works just like Bit.ly. However, more people seem to prefer BudURL over bit.ly because the clickthrus reports are a bit more on point. Plus, they have plans for even more detailed reporting, which makes it great for links you absolutely need to keep track of.

There’s a lot more URL shorteners, but these are the primary ones I use. If you see a link shortener you would like to use, just look at the domain name of the link and type it in another window to find out more information. (Since some domain names don’t include “.com” these days, just type in what you find between http:// and the first / if you really want to look up that service)

Now, let’s say you log onto Twitter and you are asking yourself the following question:

Why do we see a whale and an entourage of birds?


If you have ever seen this picture when you log onto Twitter or even before you log on, this means that you have been served. Nah… it doesn’t mean that.

This is what people refer to as “The Fail Whale.” It’s basically Twitter’s unique way of saying “we got too many tweets so just slow your role and breathe easy.”When you see this, there’s really nothing you can do at the moment except wait for it to clear. However, this does not mean that you did something wrong and it’s your fault. Patience is key.

The good news is that this downtime period only happens sporadically and the people  behind Twitter have taken steps to ensure that you won’t see this whale too often.

However, the best way to check on the status of Twitter is to go to http://status.twitter.com. There, you will find out the current status of Twitter. You can also follow @twitter for details from the twitter team.


In the next intermediate level posting, I will cover Twitter applications as an alternative to using the main website to get the most out of Twitter.

And finally, in the advanced level section, we will cover the following topics:

Twitter 301 (Advanced)

  • How to make the most out of Twitter
  • “Twitter Etiquette”
  • Customizing Your Twitter Profile
  • Hooking up your blog (or whatever you want to update) to Twitter.
  • Explaining “Twitter Bots”
Be Sociable, Share!
  • Michelle

    Didn't realize you could go to a URL shortener site to shorten URLS. Spoiled by tweetdeck and itweet. Will look forward to part 3 and retweet