Almost everyone on the Internet has heard of Twitter, a micro-blogging (a mini or small blogging) service where you are able to send short, 140–characters–or–less messages to people who “follow” you on the service. (We talked about it briefly here.) You can follow people by using a web browser and going to www.twitter.com or by using a piece of software on your phone or computer. I first started using Twitter a few months after it began in 2006, although it really didn’t become popular until a few years later. Now, some people credit Twitter (say it caused or is responsible for) with helping spread both good news and bad about politics, culture, and even earthquakes.

Twitter, however, has its own particular language that you need to understand if you’re going to use it successfully. Everyone has a username (a screen name; a name that identifies you), but the special character @ is used before your username. So, for example, English as a Second Language Podcast has the username @eslpod.  When you use software for Twitter, clicking on a username will take you to that person’s page. Then you can read that person’s tweets (messages) if they are public, or request to follow that person so that you can read what they say.

A more interesting feature (characteristic) of Twitter is the use of the hashtag, a special character that looks like this: #. Similar to the tags that are used on regular blogs, a hashtag usually indicates a broader category or topic that the message is related to. So, for example, if I am writing about the city of Santa Monica, I would add to my tweet: #SantaMonica (notice that it is all spelled as one word). The advantage of this system is that when you click on something that has been “hashtag-ed,” you can see all the other messages on that same topic that have been tweeted.

Many people, however, have begun using hashtags to add humor (comedy) or additional commentary on their own messages. This often involves irony, where you say one thing but really mean another. If my tweet is, “Just saw a dog inside of a car with no owner,” I might add the hashtag: #ReallyBadIdea. The hashtag is what I really think about the situation, what some people referred to as meta-commentary or commentary about the commentary. Somewhat bizarrely (strangely; oddly), some people have begun to talk this way, using the word hashtag in front of words or phrases to provide a meta-commentary in real life. Earlier this year, a Canadian politician attacked the prime minister of Canada’s policies (ideas and actions) on crime, calling them “a hashtag fail.”

The ultimate (best or greatest example) in hashtag use is to cross the fingers of your hand together to form what looks like a hashtag before something that you say (see photo). I love Twitter, and I think hashtags are very useful, but I can’t see (I don’t think I will be) using them with my fingers.


P.S. Follow us on twitter at @eslpod.

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13 Responses to #SortofInteresting

  1. Talal says:

    hehe , interesting article my dear lovely teacher, i would like to point out that i couldnt stop laughing in English cafe 314 , when u sang Kumbaya ,hahaha , that was really really funny Dr.Jeff, it made me want to grab a gun and point it to my head and pull the triger as u said in the cafe, cuz it was meaningless …

    in any case , thank u so much for ur humor Dr.Jeff , and take into consideration that we listen to ur recordings and appreciate them more than u think we are !!!

  2. Andre Flaeschen says:

    Hi Dr. Jeff, great article. it’s amazing how the Internet tools can change our habits to communicate and live. The creativity is the limit.


  3. elcomandant says:

    I usually use facebook. It’s really useful for people who have something in common. They can be in touch at the same second, watching their pictures, reading what they are writing or even chatting. A piece of news is known by all of them instantly.

    I have heard about Twitter, but I don’t know very well what it is used for. Although, after I read what Jeff said in his post, I’m thinking seriously to use Twitter. I’ve made a decision. I’m going to find out what Twitter is used for.


  4. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    You got too thecnical on this post. Thanks for spreading it ,but It is hard to follow for a illiterate like me:)
    I have never been to twitter
    Well,there is a first time for everything:)
    However,good to know some info about it.
    But,I have to say ,I have enough complications learning English terms. No room in my brain for some other terms.
    They don’t take my interest.

  5. Peter says:

    Hi Boss,
    On the last comment I gave two thumbs down to “twitter”
    Well ,I am backpedaling a tad here.
    You know what,Tweeter is not all bad. I can give you that. But,the thing is the format is too complicated for a simple man like me.
    It goes way over my head.
    On second thought,I stick with Eslpod and Facebook.
    Thanks boss for bringing it to my attention ,though.
    You know what,My hands are clamy.I have butterflies in my stomach ,and my legs feel like Jelly(Lucy’s script) because I have a presentation today.
    It is hanging over my head(bothering me all the time because I m nervous)
    Jeff my man,
    Now that I think of it ,you never gave us some pointers in regards to going up in front of a group of people and present. I m one high-maintenance student,aren’t I ?
    Seriously,Any pointers chief?
    What ever you say goes.
    After all,you are at the top of the game.
    All of sudden ,I am totally aware of my heart:)
    Like,when you wanna talk with a girl for the fist time and you are totally aware of your tongue:)

    Just imagine folks.
    In 20 minutes, I should go up in front of the class and talk about eye complications.
    Picture me addressing a bunch English people with this thick accent. I will be the laughing stock of the entire college. I can never live it down.I don’t know what they did in their life that they should suffer like that. Poor my audience. If it is not a karma ,then what it is.
    I must get going.
    I m late already for the presentation.
    Here goes nothing!( Lucy’s script) thanks Lucy.
    P.S. Jeff ,
    If you don’t mind I m using some of your sentence structures on English caffe. In fact,you are all over my notes:)
    I m trying to mimick your way of talking.
    I know you are saying ” You wish,Pall.”
    Well,clinging to the genius of your words is my way of reassuring my self. You know how clingy I am when it comes to Eslpod.
    Wish me luck!
    Trust me ,I really need it.


  6. Myo ko ko says:

    Imagining the situation in which our wondrous ESL podcasts are no longer available,
    you get the idea!! 🙂
    Just kidding!
    Thanks, Jeff for your praiseworthy note.

  7. emiliano says:

    It is funny as when I have opened Twitter to create an account
    I have one already.
    I could not remember when or why I have opened it but there
    it was my name and the pastword was the right one.

    I could see @eslpod. also another friend /Sergio/ from the Blog too.

    Too short for me, I tried once and again a short comment
    but it was not shorter enough to be admitted in the Twitter.

    It could be a good exercise to be brief and concise something
    I need to practice.

    As always a cultural good topic to talk about.

    Thank you very much Dr. Jeff McQuillan, it seems
    to me you stay up to date of nearly everything.

  8. Betty says:

    Thank you so much indeed, Jeff, for this #Sortofinteresting article.

    You know how hard it is for us to start using this new social networking tool, but you never give up on encouraging us.

    I have not twit yet , I probably never will. Might be it is better I spend my time on something else – quality sleeping time is what I need.

    Thank you again, Jeff, it is better we learn more about what is going on in the world nowadays.


    Dear Emiliano

    I wish I had written my message earlier so I would have had your message to read earlier. Then I might have stretched my flexible friend –my credit card – to buy a mac computer in the Apple Store in New York’s 5th Avenue, 59th Street at 6pm on Sunday 2 October, or at 6am on Monday 3rd October 2011.

    You might find it hard to believe me; I was in the New York City (NYC) on Friday 30 September to Monday 3 October 2011. I sent out my last message while I was in the beautiful NYC, and I am sending my message again now at the opposite side of the globe – Hong Kong.

    It is a long story. I had to accompany my nephew to New York because he was too young to travel on his own and his parents were unable to go with him. I had to help someone but at the same time I had a chance to go to New York free – all paid for as a Top Prize given by the film X-Men First Class and the chewing gum “5 Gum”. Well, all apart from the expenses like U.S. visa applications and lunch and dinner etc.

    I wish to thank everyone including God in making my dream of going to New York come true.

    The reason why I mention my New York trip is, you asked me to consider buying a mac computer, and coincidentally I really was considering buy a mac computer and thus went to the Apple store at the famous 5th Avenue of NYC at 5am in the morning of 3 October 2011 local time of New York.

    Me and my nephew walked 3 avenues and 25 streets from our hotel to the Apple store in the morning. I bought my nephew a donut from a food stall in the street to eat in order to give him some energy to walk such long distance. It took us one hour to walk there and then another hour to walk back to the hotel.

    We went to the shop about 12 hours earlier but it was packed with people and we did not have a chance to play with the computers. When we arrived there the second time – about 6am, it was almost empty. We tried the mac computer and we both love it.

    Yes, I will consider buying a mac computer in the near future. I really must work harder to learn English. I will be able to earn enough money to buy a mac computer once I start teaching.

    If I had not worked hard to learn English in the past, I would not be able to accompany my nephew to New York this time. I used my English language skill to plan this trip and to cope and get round the New York City.

    I would like to thank ESLPOD.com here as well because I searched the whole ESLPOD.com website to find everything related to New York before we went.
    There was not too much information about New York, but I was happy to find some and I studied them thoroughly before we set off for the Big Apple.

    Thank you again, Emiliano, you are very kind indeed in considering sending me your mac computer. You are so generous and so kind.

    All the Best wishes to you.


  9. Mimu says:

    Is the first time I read some information about twiter,
    good to now, last week I opened an acount on twiter
    but I didn’t know how to use it until now, THANKS for the tip.

  10. Øyvor says:

    Hi Jeff

    Haha, I totally agree..this song is terrible, but to use a gun?? When there are so many trees around??
    As for twitter, I`m there, so guess who I want to follow..

    Thanks..have a great time in your “beatiful” LA=)

  11. John says:

    I didn’t know anything about that, thank you for sharing this information!

    I’ve heard stuff about Twitter here and there but actually I’ve never given it a try – now I’ve got a reason why I should 😀

  12. emiliano says:

    Congratulations Betty, you have been in the capital of the world.
    Ana, my pupil and friend have been also in New York last September
    and she was amazed seeing the Big Apple.
    She bought in the Apple Store an I Pod Touch and now I am showing
    her the best use of it.

    So sorry today knowing that Steve Jobs has died.
    A great creative man who has change our usual world with his
    great ideas.
    Writing in the Mac my mind is with him and his family.
    My deeper condolences to all the Apple Staff and friends.


  13. Peter says:

    I forgot,
    I m totally sadened by the fact that Steve jobs the father and the founder of “Apple ” passed away at the age of 56 . He left the mega-cooporation with no
    I listened to his commencement speech at the Stanford University, once.
    He was one exceptional man.
    I can’t believe the the creater of ” IPhone”,”IPod” ,”IPad” and above of MAC has passed away.
    I m using “IPhone 4” communicating with you guys
    I download Jeff’s stuff using IPone
    I check your words here usin IPon
    I watched tvshows and read Lucy’s scripts using iPod.
    Guys ,
    If I have the luxury of having Eslpod at my finger tips,it is all because his beautiful mind.
    He pulled himself up with his bootstraps and later on in his life he managed to conquere the world of technology.
    Every where we go an image of a chipped apple remind us the fact that the world lost one of its icon!!!!
    He was huge guys
    He was an exceptional figure!

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