Sep 26, 2012

So, What is this Twitter?!

This article is an attempt to introduce Twitter, and I must admit that it is at least 6 years late. Started as a small project in 2006 by Jack Dorsey and his friends, with an intent to create a web-based real-time status update service, Twitter went on to become one of the world's 10 most visited website by 2010. Twitter's simple concept of "exchanging short text messages with friends and strangers" was made available to the outside world with a "brilliantly simple" design. As on today, 500 Million users across the globe "tweet" actively.

So what is this all about?
Twitter is all about a short message that cannot exceed 140 characters. This short message is called as a tweet, and the activity carried out is referred to as Tweeting. A person (or organization) shares a message, and it is instantly delivered to his "followers". An user can follow (and be followed by) other users. This remarkably simple mode of communication turned out a huge success, as different people used it for different purpose. While any sort of message can be posted, Twitter is used mostly to update what is happening "right now". From that Last-Ball-Six IPL win to Aishwarya Rai's new born baby - everything was shared right after the moment it happened. Current US President Barrack Obama was spreading words across, using his Twitter page, during his presidential election campaign. News channels made right use of it, sharing "Breaking News" via their Twitter accounts. Anyone with a valid e-mail Id can create a twitter account, and it is totally FREE. The following pie chart shows the global usage of tweets. It appears that most of the content (Brown ones) are "meaning less" and "fun". (You can click on the image to see an enlarged view) 
A Graph that demonstrates Twitter usage
If you know what # and @ mean, then you know Twitter!

Tweeting can't get any more exciting, if you know the usage of two symbols: # and @. HASH is used to represent (often shortly) a topic you are tweeting about. A hash tag is simply a combination of letters (and/or) numbers. Twitter allows an user to filter tweets based on a particular hash tag. Here is a tweet I wrote an hour ago. It has a hash tag - SlowThingsIHate
A simple tweet, with a #tag on it
The concept of "Trending Topics" is Twitter's most distinct feature. More than 340 Million tweets are posted in a day, and with the help of hash tags, Twitter identifies the "most discussed topic of the day". It can be the 2012 Olympics, or the Royal Wedding or otherwise a funny one. As Wikipedia puts it, "A word, phrase or topic that is hash tagged at a greater rate than other tags is said to be a trending topic".

As I write this blog, the following topics are listed as "trending" right now. (You can click on the image to see a bigger view). 
Trending Topics
If you observe closely, you can see a list of topics on your left that are frequently tweeted right now. It starts with Imran Nazir (An hour ago, he got the fastest half century in this year's T20 world cup) and since the match is played between Pakistan and Bangladesh, you see these countries being listed as well. There is also a funny one that reads, #SlowThingsIHate. Whoever started it, triggered a global outburst of frustration as everyone started to write their thoughts on the things they hate for being slow. This keeps bubbling up, going on and on, until someone else starts another tag. This is when #fun begins with Twitter :-)

The next symbol is @, which means, "mentions". You can tag a twitter user in your tweet, and it will be displayed in that user's Mentions section. A mention is used to attract someone's attention. While it is mostly a tweet from one friend to another, @ is often used to address a celebrity you revere. I know one young boy  who kept tweeting more than a thousand times on his birthday, mentioning Sachin Tendulkar (@Sachin_rt), hoping that he will see atleast one of them and wish him. He indeed received a wish. Well done Sachin! but you tempted more youngsters to repeat what he did. 

Here is a mention that I received few mins ago. My friend, who is (assumably) very active on Twitter, was surprised to see a tweet from a rare tweeter, which is me!
A mention, represented by the @symbol
@ is also used to represent a twitter user account in general. When you see a @ symbol followed by a name, like @VikiTweets, it is the user profile of a person. You can access his tweets by typing www.twitter.com/<username> on your browser. Mine is www.twitter.com/vikitweets

Tweeting is fun and I suggest you try it. These days, many mobile devices come with a built-in Twitter client which allows you to read/write tweets right from your phone. The word tweet is voted as the most famous word that was added in Oxford Dictionary in 2009 (both as a Verb and Noun). Twitter is cutely designed. Its error page is the cutest "server busy" screen I have ever seen. Referred to as "Fail Whale" (See image here), it was designed by a girl named Yiying Lu. 

Sep 6, 2012

Shape Collage - Software Review

I was looking for Collage Creation softwares, and stumbled upon this one: Shape Collage that just blew me away. It had exactly what I was looking for - take a bunch of images as input, shape it in the way I want it, and arrange as nice as possible in such a way that all the images are 'almost visible'. All the more impressive is the size of this software: Less than a MB. Yeah, it's less than a mega byte of software code that ships in with insanely written algorithms, ending up creating a cool collection of photos within a moment. Thumps up! to this software, for the kind of possibilities it has. The options are kept as customizable as possible, and the best part is it being a FREEWARE. So many nice things in the world are free, and this had to be one of the nicest.

You can download it from here: http://www.shapecollage.com/download/windows

And here is a nicely recorded video that pretty much explains the gist of what can be done with this.

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