I have had a Twitter account (@jmmv) for several years already but I have never leveraged its power. Why? Well... basically because I have never known how.

The Twitterville book by Shel Israel (@shelisrael), which I have been reading lately, has opened my mind quite a bit. Twitter is not so much about posting status updates, but more about sharing content and starting/joining conversations with other people. Today I like to think of Twitter as a world-wide chat-room.

Twitterville mentions many times that the key in Twitter usage is to search for content. But finding content among all the junk that floats in Twitter is hard. I had seen that it is possible to actually do searches in the Twitter web page, but that is not really usable. Yes, you can search once for something you are interested in... but you know what, you can do the same in any search engine and get more relevant results.

To me, what has made a difference is to switch to a client that does actually support live searches (TweetDeck in my case). With such a client, all you have to do is create a search for any given topic you may be remotely interested in and status updates will just pop up in your client as soon as someone posts about that particular topic. Easy, huh? See, it's like joining your favorite #topic chat-room.

With this in mind, you can, for example, create a search such as "#netbsd OR #freebsd OR #openbsd" to get real-time tweets about these BSD operating systems. It is a fact that you will see loads of junk (disable popup notifications recommended), but you will catch some interesting content. And the best of it, you can reply to that content. This is particularly useful because you can (try to) fix misconceptions that people have before they spread out too much.

That said, the value you see in Twitter and how you use it, is fully up to you. Different people will find different use cases, all of them interesting on their own.

And to conclude, I have to confess that while the above may seem obvious to many, it is something that has escaped my mind until last week.