I recently mentioned in a post about Facebook that I rarely see the benefit of certain Web 2.0 technologies until I actually get in and use them. I've experienced the same thing with Twitter to a certain degree.
I haven't really started following a ton of people. I only have a small handful that I follow and a small handful who follow me. I have created several accounts. One is for work to send updates to our department website. Another one is a personal account, which updates my Facebook status. You'll also see a few of my latest tweets on my blog. It's really no big deal. Except...
The coolest thing that I've been involved with when it comes to Twitter is twhistory.com. The current project is following several people who were involved in the Civil War, leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg in real time over several months' time. I've been tweeting two Confederate soldiers and a Yankee newspaper.
Louis Leon is hilarious. I seriously laugh all the time reading his journal. You can find his journal online or take a look at his Twitter posts. He carries the flag for his regiment and provides such interesting daily insights as to how the soldiers really lived. I find myself pulling for him and his regiment to beat the Yankees, even though I know that's the final result of the war. I hope that's not a spoiler for anyone.
Future potential projects include the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK Assasination, and really anything else that people are interested in. The main thing that will really facilitate this project exploding is software, which we've got someone working on, to allow volunteers to put together the tweets for people and load them into a database so the system can automatically post everything at the appropriate times. I have a hard time keeping up with just three accounts. I don't know how Marion Jensen, the mastermind of the whole thing keeps up with the dozen accounts he's tweeting.
There are two main points that make Twitter such a great platform: the power of the masses and the API. Of course, that's the same for any Web 2.0 application, so it's not a huge surprise. But some of Twitter's detractors are still talking about how much of a time waster it is without paying attention to the power that Twitter holds. Hopefully the team that runs Twitter will be able to figure out how to make Twitter sustainable, since they're running on venture capital now. When they accomplish that, some of the limits they have had to put on the number of API calls that can be made for performance reasons should go away.
Assuming the API issues will go away and the timed tweet application ends up being as sweet as I hope it will be, piles of twhistory volunteers will really be able to put together some awesome projects.
As cool as this project is turning out to be, hopefully others in the Twitter community can come up with even more applications of the Twitter platform.