Make a complete Twit of yourself . . . and reap the benefits.
It needn't be a bad thing to make a complete twit of yourself. Especially when all your friends are doing it too.
A site called Twitter (twitter.com) is the latest web craze, combining text message technology with the immediacy of weblogs and the fun of keeping in touch with your friends.
Twitter is the product of some very talented minds who have made plenty of smart web services before. Most prominent among them is Evan Williams, the guy who co-wrote the original Blogger, sold it to Google for a small fortune, then came up with ingenious web-based audio recording and sharing site Odeo (odeo.com).
Odeo hasn't been that successful (surprising, given how downright wonderful it is), but the shiny newness of Twitter has much brighter promise for the future.
Twitter works like this. You sign up for your free account, and tell Twitter a few things about yourself. Most importantly, you give Twitter your mobile phone number. Yes, it's an American service but it works for UK mobiles.
You use Twitter to tell the world (or just your mates) what you're doing right now. You can post messages (maximum of 144 characters, txt msg style) to Twitter from the website, from your Instant Message account, or from your phone. If your texting to Twitter, you only pay the normal UK rate for a message - in the region of 10p.
So far, so nothing special, but here's the clever bit. All your friends can sign up for Twitter accounts too, and everyone in your gang can add each other as friends at Twitter.
Once you've built up a list of friends, you see their posted Twitter updates on your Twitter page - and, if you wish, they all get texted to you in real time.
This is when Twitter comes into its own.
Suddenly, you've got all your pals in your pocket.
You can be strolling along and your phone will buzz with updates from friends' obvious things like "fancy a drink tonight?" to random thoughts and quirky observations like "Tea count: 3" and "verbs are the new nouns".
To be honest, once you have a half dozen or more Twitter friends and you have mobile alerts switched on, your phone probably won't stop buzzing all day long.
Posting thoughts to Twitter only costs money if you send an SMS' using the web or IM interface costs nothing, and there's no limit to the number of twitterings you can send.
It all sounds like just a bit of fun and for the most part, it is, but there's something special about Twitter.
It allows a kind of group conversation that e-mail, forums, IM and good old internet relay chat don't encourage.
Your Twitter space is where you can electronically glance around at your mates, no matter where they are in the world, just to see if they're OK, and you can ping them every now and then with a reassuring message of your own.
If that doesn't capture your imagination, how about this - get your loved ones to sign up for Twitter accounts, and you have an instant means of sending them SMS messages for free, via your paired Twitter accounts.