The first time I tweeted (and why I still do)

This was back in March, 2009—a lifetime ago in Twitter time.  This was back before Oprah, before Ashton vs. CNN, before Alice Hoffman lost her mind.  This was an innocent time.  When getting a new follower wasn’t automatically met with cynicism.  When the 3 rolled tacos meal at Chico’s Tacos was still only $1.99.

My boss (at the time) asked me to live blog the Microsoft Mix conference we were about to attend… in two days.  The problem was we had no blog set up to live blog on, so I quickly offered her an alternative:  Let’s tweet the conference, instead.

Although at the time I was by no means a twitterer, I was fully aware of Twitter’s growing popularity.  I first signed up for an account a while ago right after the whole Sarah Lacy incident at #SXSW08.  A friend of mine attending the conference called me as it was happening:  “Dude, go to Twitter and search hash-tag sxswi.”

I remember the excitement of watching the mob’s digital rumbles in real time.  And I remember the realization that this little micro-blogging website would one day change the way we experience events as they happened.  So, I signed up for a Twitter account and followed the rest of the SXSW conference.

But, like many people still do today, I quickly abandoned it.  I forgot about it.  I didn’t know what to do with it.  I occasionally tried following certain events, but participating—and participating effectively—was another animal. I didn’t fully understand the syntax.  It was a mystery.  I had nothing worthwhile to say.

So two days before #MIX09, I signed up for a another Twitter account (I had already forgotten my old password, of course), and quickly learned (or so I thought) what I needed to know—the Twitter basics.  I filled my colleagues in as well, and we set off to Vegas.

I still remember my very first tweet:  @vegas, baby!

You see that?  I used an “@” instead of “#.”  I was such a rookie.

But Twitter completely changed the conference experience.  Everyone in attendance was tweeting.  At the keynote, people clapped or cheered at an announcement, then quickly looked down into their laps to tweet about what they had just clapped or cheered about.   I ran into people I was following, and in a creepy way it was like we all already knew each other.  We even coordinated happy hour via Twitter and had a great turn out.

Today, twitter-years into the future, I’m still actively on Twitter, although I don’t participate—or add to the narrative—as much as I would probably like to (oh, the guilt!).  I tweet links on interesting articles.  I occasionally tweet about something I’m messing with (“Installed the new SEO toolkit beta on my IIS7 box”).

For me, Twitter has become my preferred portal for information.  It is my news aggregator.  It’s how I keep up with friends (more so than Facebook these days).  It’s how I stay up to date on the ups and downs of the publishing industry (a personal interest of mine).  And when I first heard rumors of DJ AM’s death, I checked Twitter.  My new-world instinct wasn’t to go straight to traditional media sources, like CNN or the Arizona Republic, or even TMZ.  It was Twitter.  The voices, in mass, will tell me what’s up.

I like to call it Flash Flood aggregation.

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