Most readers should have at least heard of Twitter by now. Twitter is one of many social networking micro-blogging tools which are available. Simply defined, micro-blogging is a form of blogging that allows individuals to publish brief text or multimedia updates.

If you are a Facebook user,  you become a micro-blogger every time you update your status, comment on someone elses status, or add stuff to a wall.

Micro-blogging messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, digital audio or via the Web. The content of a micro-blog is different from a traditional blog in that it is typically more topical and shorter in length and size. With Twitter, it’s all the news that’s fit to print – in 140 characters or less. The micro-blog is the same as the traditional blog in that it can be utilize it for both individual or work-related activities.

Some people are quick to write-off micro-blogging (e.g. Twittering) as simply a time drain. They argue they don’t care that people are eating their corn flakes or they are taking their pet to the vet. If one is only getting such updates they are simply either following the wrong people or not taking full advantage of the tool.

For example, the other week a service called CoverItLive allowed me to tap into a conference Twitter feed so that I could keep up with the happenings at Computers in Libraries. A professor in media studies used Twitter to replace at least three classroom technologies. Many libraries, including the Library of Congress,  are now using Twitter to communicate with their users.  Joe Murphy did a nice presentation about how to use Twitter in libraries at the 2009 ACRL Conference

The problem right now is that the micro-blogging landscape is very similar to that which existed of the early days of email.  Back then, proprietary dial-up entities like Prodigy and CompuServe were competitive and they didn’t do a good job connecting to one another. It was more likely than not that one could send only send messages to people inside the same service. Similarly, getting a micro-blog message published across multiple services is a challenge, although services like ping.fm help to syndicate messages across social networking sites.

There are too simply too many micro-blogging services than could possibly be listed in this post.  Yammer is touted as an enterprise version of Twitter. Plurk integrates video and picture sharing. Pownce integrates file sharing and event invitations.

-Eric Schnell