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In the past, human beings spoke to each other, now we stoop over handheld devices sending messages to friends and followers around the globe. A colleague in Outer Mongolia will receive a quicker response than your wife on the next sofa. First was text messaging which allows a one-to-one conversation, now Twitter enables simultaneous conversations between thousands of friends, or ‘followers’ as Twitter describes them.
For the uninitiated, twitter.com is a website where anybody can set up an online account. The account can be personal or corporate. You can have as many accounts as the number of email addresses you possess. Once set up on Twitter you can broadcast your thoughts or ‘tweets’ to the world, provided that you can stick to a limit of 140 characters. Any one of Twitter's 100 million plus users can read what you have to say. If they are attracted to the inner workings of your mind they might start ‘following’ you, by which they will be automatically updated every time you post a comment. In turn, you can follow others.
What's the point, you might wonder? Well, there are several. You might consider yourself a thought leader in a particular subject. If so, you can pick up a dedicated following that allows you to update your knowledge, share expertise, and exchange views by communicating with your followers. You might wish to remain abreast of a range of topics from the latest announcements from the Department of Health to the latest gossip about your favourite football club. You might have something to sell or market, a product or an idea. You might just be curious about how others live their lives, be they celebrities or the great unwashed. You might simply view it as fun – people make fools of themselves on Twitter every second.
I might not have sold it to you but Twitter is a phenomenon in social media. It has tapped the rich seam of increasing sophistication of mobile devices, which have greater global penetration than personal computers. People want to communicate and others want to listen, but in our busy lives the briefer the conversation the better. The importance of Twitter is such that the United States government has decided to archive every single tweet. This is some undertaking as the number of users and tweets is rising fast.
Inevitably, the JRSM has decided to enter this virtual Aladdin's cave. If you have a Twitter account you can stay informed about the JRSM and our new online open-access journal, JRSM Short Reports. All you need to do is go to http://twitter.com/EditorJRSM and follow my tweets. Both journals have moved to a system of continuous online publication and Twitter is the easiest way to let the world know.