Nov 30, 2009

What is Twitter and Why Should I Care?


You may have found yourself asking this question lately when you hear about Twitter.  Or, perhaps, you've already answered the question with a resounding "this is pointless!"  It is true that there is a great deal of pointless chatter on Twitter but is there any value there for NASA?

Twitter is a "microblogging" social network.  Not very clear, huh?  Basically Twitter asks users to answer the question "What are you doing?" and limits your response to 140 characters (hence the "micro" blogging).  What could you possibly say of any importance in 140 characters?  Well, the brevity of Twitter makes it very useful for real time communication and generating "buzz."  Where it would normally take weeks to produce a publication or a few days to present new material on a website - Twitter lets you quickly inform the internet world that something new is happening right now.  As a result Twitter is very conversational and often has the type of information you might get from talking to a colleague on the phone or at a conference.

So how can you use Twitter to stay up-to-date on this type of information?  Here are 3 different methods for using Twitter productively:

  1. Twitter Search - Twitter Search allows you to search for the most current information on your topic and to set up alerts for searches that you may want to monitor continuously.  For example, if you are interested in Biofuels you could create a search for biofuels at Twitter Search and subscribe to the RSS feed.  Now, every time someone tweets and includes the term "biofuels" you will be updated via RSS (If you've never used RSS, you might want to read our post on using Google Reader). 
  2. Hashtags - Hashtags are a kind of key wording used to group tweets.  Because the person who tweets with a hashtag has to intentionally type the hashtag this method can be much more precise than the Twitter Search.  Hashtags always begin with a "#' and then the key term, usually abreviated.  Hashtags are often linked to an event or a specific group.  Twubs is a good place to look for common hashtags.  Some that you might find interesting:  #nasa, #space, and #hubble.
  3. Create your own Twitter account - whether you plan to tweet or not, creating an account allows you to easily follow other Twitter users.  You can sign up for Twitter here.  It is easy and free.  Once you have an account you can find other Twitter users you want to follow.  

Who to follow? NASA has many Twitter accounts where NASA project or individual employees tweet. Follow our Center Deputy Director, Ray Lugo!

Here are some other NASA Twitter accounts:


AstrobiologyNAI

NASA Astrobiology Institute: we study life in the Universe!
965,839 FOLLOWERS | 

Asteroid Watch

JPL's Near Earth Object Office coordinates NASA's efforts to detect, track & characterize potentially hazardous asteroids & comets that could approach Earth.
581,350 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA

News from NASA
195,431 FOLLOWERS | 

MarsPhoenix

I dig Mars!
45,531 FOLLOWERS | 

Spirit and Oppy

Roaming the Red Planet on six wheels. The official mission Twitter of Spirit and Opportunity
17,839 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Astronauts

13,331 FOLLOWERS | 

LCROSS_NASA

NASA mission to explore the Moon and see if there is water ice near one of the lunar poles!
13,318 FOLLOWERS | 

CassiniSaturn

Cruising around Saturn, its moons and the magnificent rings
12,234 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Kennedy / KSC

Official PAO Tweets from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
11,431 FOLLOWERS | 

Curiosity Rover

The next mission to Mars. I launch in 2011!
10,979 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Kepler I am

Starting the search for other Earth-like planets in our Milky Way Galaxy
10,313 FOLLOWERS | 

Hubble PAO

9,421 FOLLOWERS | 

LRO_NASA

I am NASA's 1st step back to the Moon! I am being built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center & # 3 on Times Best Inventions of 2008 : http://www.time.com/
9,257 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA JPL

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages many of NASA's robotic missions exploring Earth, the solar system and our universe. Tweets from JPL's News Office.
7,307 FOLLOWERS | 

NASAEyesOnTheEarth

Being rocket scientists isn't enough...we're climate scientists too! News from NASA on all things climate.
6,002 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA_EDGE

The show that takes an inside and outside look at all things NASA!
5,573 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Ares

America's next generation rocket
5,296 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Goddard

Check out all the latest in NASA Goddard news and video!
4,749 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Ames

Weaving space into the fabric of the (real-time) web...
4,615 FOLLOWERS | 

Ares I-X

First flight test for America's Next Generation Rocket
4,236 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Wallops

3,820 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Lunar Science

Moon science rocks.
3,763 FOLLOWERS | 

JPL PlanetQuest

Keep track of the latest exoplanet news!
3,266 FOLLOWERS | 

Johnson Space Center

JSC is the lead center for space shuttle and International Space Station activities, and is home of Mission Control Center and the NASA astronaut corps.
3,117 FOLLOWERS | 

LADEE_NASA

Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer - NASA Science Mission to the Moon under development; set for launch 2011!
3,054 FOLLOWERS | 

U.S. HSF Committee

The Committee will conduct an independent review of ongoing U.S. human space flight plans and programs, as well as alternatives.
2,896 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Desert RATS

The NASA Desert RATS consists of multiple groups from NASA centers, universities, and other organizations. Goal: human-robotic systems for lunar exploration!
2,751 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA CoLab

NASA CoLab connects communities inside and outside NASA to collaborate.
2,547 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Dryden

The Dryden Flight Research Center is NASA's primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations.
2,444 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA

NASA Earth Science's multi-year airborne campaign to track changes in Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets & sea ice.
2,421 FOLLOWERS | 

Chandra Observatory

Chandra's ongoing mission is to study the X-ray Universe, including black holes, new stars, and clusters of galaxies
2,396 FOLLOWERS | 

TESS_NASA

looking at all the closest and brightest stars for transiting planets
2,387 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA SDO

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is NASA's newest eye on the sun!
2,331 FOLLOWERS | 

Earth Observatory

NASA images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment.
2,115 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Constellation

Building America’s next spacecraft
1,704 FOLLOWERS | 

Webb Telescope

Launching in 2014, the James Webb Space Telescope will give us an amazing look at the universe!
1,588 FOLLOWERS | 

NASAHurricane

NASA does Hurricane Research! Keep up with ALL storms worldwide
1,297 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA_MAAT

1,115 FOLLOWERS | 

APPEL

APPEL provides leadership and support for the development of the NASA program/project management and engineering community.
1,056 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Blueshift

Blueshift: Bringing the Universe down to Earth with podcasts, blogs, and more!
708 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA Spinoff

Since 1976, NASA's Spinoff publication has featured over 1,600 NASA-derived technologies that improve your life.
659 FOLLOWERS | 

SOFIAtelescope

Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy
468 FOLLOWERS | 

PharmaSat

The PharmaSat experiment and flight system are designed to measure the influence of microgravity upon yeast resistance to an antifungal agent.
414 FOLLOWERS | 

Stennis Space Center

332 FOLLOWERS | 

Steve Roy

249 FOLLOWERS | 

SDO for Educators

Supporting Science Teachers through social media
248 FOLLOWERS | 

NASAJPL Education

Space-related educational activities and resources for teachers and families.
225 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA CORE

The NASA-sponsored Central Operations of Resources for Educators (CORE) is a world-wide distribution center for NASA's educational multi-media materials.
224 FOLLOWERS | 

Rick Smith

NASA's 16th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, April 3-4, 2009
164 FOLLOWERS | 

NASA CASI

The NASA Center for AeroSpace Information is a contractor-operated facility that supports the NASA STI Program by providing access to NASA and worldwide STI.
154 FOLLOWERS | 

Steve Roy

96 FOLLOWERS |