Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5 Favorite Types of Tweets

Now a confirmed Twitter addict, I feel qualified to weigh in on the now age old question of, "What kind of Tweets are appropriate on Twitter and which are just messin' up the place?" (Note: I assume a Twitter "age" to be 140 days, so "age old" is appropriate.) The answer is, "Everything is appropriate!"

The geniuses at Twitter, who I'm convinced built the thing as a joke figuring it would never catch on, put in the ultimate content justifier. If you don't like what somebody tweets, then don't follow them! As a venue where a Twitter account hooked up to an office chair that measures flatulence has 3615 followers, there is obviously something for everybody on Twitter, and not every Twitterer is going to be your cup of tea. How wonderful!

Having now answered the requisite Twitter philosophical question, here are my 5 personal favorite types of Tweets.

  1. Informative - Teach me something. Point me at an article dissecting a news story. Give me a link to a CSS tutorial. Introduce me to a 93-year old lady that cooks depression era recipes on video. I'm an information junky. Be part of my supply chain.
  2. Funny AND Informative - Have a sense of humor and also feed my info habit. I like Twitterers like @annamariecox, irreverant, able to get into White House press briefings, and willing to tweet about the color of Robert Gibbs' tie.
  3. News - I find myself getting more and more of my news through Twitter. No, I haven't abandoned the ancient news sources of yesterday. You know: RSS, iGoogle, AllTop, etc. No. Far from it. I've been known to watch old-fashioned cable news, and even pick up some oddly formatted news medium printed on paper of all things! But with my local paper and television news channels having Twitter accounts, as well as many major national and international media Twitterers, and with increasingly good Twitter organizational tools like TweetDeck, I find 140 characters just about perfect to tell me about a news item and give me a link I can follow if I'm interested.
  4. Inspirational - OK. I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a good inspirational quote or positive affirmation. Power of intention thinking and mystic wisdom and spirituality pique my interest. BUT, and this is a big but, for all you people posting spammy and questionable business promotions buried in the same dozen or two stale old quotes, be forewarned. If I think I've heard the same quote recently, and I go to your profile and find an identical quote on your front page, I'll unfollow you fast as I can click.
  5. Personality Tweets - A big criticism of Twitter is, "I don't want to know what someone had for lunch, or that they're waiting in a movie theater line." Well, sometimes I do. I'm sure it's a total mistake to think you actually "know" somone you've only met through Twitter, but there are Twitterers who I think really do give you a peak into their personalities through Twitter, and sometimes that can be interesting. @McCainBlogette is a good example. Politically, we're not very alike, John McCain's daughter and I, but I enjoy her prolific tweets and I appreciate the ability to gain some insight into another intelligent human being. There are thousands of interesting people on Twitter who I would not be likely to meet and talk to outside of that enviroment. How cool is that?
So that's my 5 favorite types of tweets. What are yours?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's "Teacher Appreciation Day," and since I don't have time to write something new, I'd like to recycle this piece I wrote a long time ago, when I was writing a web column called AppleBits. AppleBits focused mostly on Apple Computer related news and opinion, but from my own unique (some would say warped) perspective. Sometimes, as in this case, the columns had little to do with computing.

I had never heard the term blog, but I guess blogging was what I was doing. AppleBits had thousands of readers around the world. Over the years this article has bounced around the Internet, and on occasion I'll get an email from someone who was touched by it. Seems a good day to reconstitute it here on Kestrel's Keep. I promise. New original content sometime soon.

Fred Giuffrida, May 5, 1998

I was a senior in high school. It was a good place to be in life. Lots of things were on my mind, but whether I was going to make it through senior English wasn't one of them. I hadn't had too many problems academically in the prior eleven years and I didn't expect this year to be any different, but here I was, sitting, waiting to get my first writing assignment of the year back from a teacher I didn't know very well. I thought I could write fairly well and this guy, Mr. Perreault, seemed pretty decent, so I'd just get this paper back and get on with enjoying senior year.

Then the assignment came back. Scrawled across the top was a grade and three words, "D - This is CRAP!". So went my introduction to John Perreault. He had my attention. Many of us in that class did poorly on that first assignment. It might have seemed excessive, even an indictment of all those English classes that came before, if Perreault hadn't proceeded then to teach us to write, and could that guy ever teach.

I remember him as being a real "guy" who had a tough aspect, but could speak quite emotionally, particularly about literature. He didn't pull any punches and you always knew where you stood with him. I grew to respect that. He loved to force us to think, and grinned as if lost in a private joke whenever we'd make some new discovery that he'd all but laid in front of us. It definitely didn't turn out to be an easy class.

We were supposed to learn about American literature, and he was a great guide. He helped us wade through Melville and put ourselves in Ahab's shoes. He made me see so much value in Thoreau's Walden that I later read it again, and then again, and occasionally I still pick up that book to this day. In the process of our tour of American authors he managed to teach us a little about life as well.

I still remember him confiding to us what he thought might be his favorite line in literature. It was the last line of Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises, spoken between the lovers that can never be, as she tells him how nice it could have been. He simply replies "Isn't it pretty to think so." Perreault thought so much of life was expressed in that line. I think I needed to be older to appreciate that quote the way he did.

He also taught us to write. I waived out of a semester of freshman college English because of him, and I never had trouble with any writing assignment during those years. Later when I became a software engineer, I found that many people couldn't write a coherent technical specification. I could. I credit Perreault. Today, I write AppleBits, and a few thousand people find it interesting enough to read it every day. If not for John Perreault, I'm quite certain that AppleBits would not exist.

Over the years, many times I've thought about going back and saying "Thank you." The first time was probably when I came back from college, then when my career started working out, then probably once every few years to this day. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I might be able to get in touch with John Perreault via the web. I found that my high school now had a web site, and it was being run by the gentleman who used to be principal at my Junior High, Richard Griffin.

I sent Mr. Griffin email explaining how much I had appreciated Mr. Perreault and asking if he could put me in touch with him, so that I could say thanks. A few hours later, he sent me a reply. He explained as kindly as possible that John Perreault had passed away from cancer about five years ago.

So this story has a couple of embedded lessons, a little gift from Mr. Perreault to me through two decades of time. The first is about the importance of teachers. They're undervalued, underpaid, and taken for granted. The best of them affect their students' lives forever. Every student should have one John Perreault in their lives; that teacher who challenges you, guides you and leaves you better prepared for life than when you met.

The second lesson is, of course, about saying thanks. There are probably people in your life who've exerted a particularly positive influence on you. Maybe it's a parent, a friend, a spouse, or maybe even a teacher. Don't wait too long to say thanks. I'd like to think that John Perreault knew the profound effect he had on his students' lives. I hope his family knows that there are probably hundreds of former students just like me whose lives are better for having ended up in his classroom. Isn't it pretty to think so?

Copyright © Fred Giuffrida, 1998
All rights reserved.