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Living the Tweet life

Josh Carrico was ahead of the curve by about two years.

When the Wesley Chapel man signed up for Twitter.com on Aug. 9, 2006, he couldn't exactly use the site to keep up with his friends. They weren't on it.

Instead, Carrico followed messages from Adobe and Fast Company.

"I started finding a lot of people who were prominent figures in the tech community and saying, 'Wow, I have this one-to-one relationship with them that I never would've had before,' " said Carrico.

Carrico, 32, is what's called an early adopter. As a Web developer, he's forever trying to sell his friends on the latest Internet sites and gadgets. He told them they could use Twitter to send instant messages without being chained to a computer. He told them they could vent to the masses. He told them they could keep tabs on their favorite celebrities and athletes.

"Then again, I couldn't get anyone to use it," Carrico said.

That was then.

So, what are you doing?

Twitter, in case you haven't heard, is a microblogging site that asks users to answer the question "What are you doing?" Users post updates, or "tweets," of 140 characters or fewer, which can be seen by all the "followers" who sign up to view the user's feed. They can also send public or private messages to individual Twitter users, or "tweeters." To reply to someone's message, followers use @username. Even with its add-on applications and widgets — for instance, a program that allows you to sync your Twitter and Facebook statuses — the site remains relatively uncluttered.

But that hasn't stopped more than 7 million unique visitors from logging on to Twitter since it launched in March 2006, says Silicon Valley Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang. But why do we care? According to USF sociology professor John Skvoretz, the explanation is simple: "To interact with people takes time, so it's a way of passively keeping up with people." But why do we ourselves tweet our every move for others to read?

"It gives you a sense of self-worth," said Skvoretz, who specializes in social network analysis. "You sort of say, 'If I find what they're doing interesting, then maybe they'll find what I'm doing interesting. Maybe, therefore, it is interesting.'" And once you start tweeting, Skvoretz said, you can't stop. "You now have an audience, and now you have to perform for that audience."

Two guys who know this well are deejays Ratboy and Staypuff from 93.3 WFLZ-FM. The evening show co-hosts got a Twitter account (@ratandpuff) three weeks ago and already have more than 750 followers.

"We only talked about it one time on our show, and then out of nowhere we had like 100 people following us," Staypuff said. Now they interact with listeners, post photos of the crowd during a live broadcast at Green Iguana or Shephard's Beach Resort, and take pictures of themselves when fans tweet to ask if it's really them.

Ratboy called their following an "ego boost" but added, "You feel more pressure to update it more often, 'cause you know people are looking and paying attention now."

People like Soulja Boy (@souljaboytellem), Dane Cook (@danecook) and Tony Danza (@tonydanza) have all responded to Rat and Puff's mass tweets, even though they don't know each other personally. And whenever a celebrity writes or follows them, it leads to even more followers.

Tweet and meet

Eventually, all this online interaction makes people want to meet in person. Last March, Carrico, the Web developer, attended his first Twitter meet-up, or "Tweetup." Owyang (@jowyang), the California Web strategist, had tweeted that he was coming to Tampa and invited his local followers to have dinner with him in SoHo. About 18 people showed up that night, tweeting, blogging, texting and shooting video of the dinner. When Carrico realized how many like-minded techies lived in Tampa Bay, he founded tampabloggers.com to aggregate their Twitter feeds.

Since the dinner, Carrico has also organized informal Tweetups nearly every month. In December, 48 people squeezed into The Bunker coffee and wine bar in Ybor City.

"It was just packed," Carrico says of the small shop. "It looked like you walked into the most popular club on a Saturday night." He's held other gatherings at Starbucks, Channelside and MOSI, which attracted his biggest turnout with 118 Tweeters. Tweetups are also a growing trend in Orlando and Sarasota.

It may seem pointless: a bunch of strangers getting together to ignore each other while they play with their gadgets. But Carrico says Tweetups can be productive. Participants bring laptops to share their Web sites and blogs. Some get job leads.

"I hate to use the term networking because we have the idea that it's just people handing out business cards," Carrico said. "It's not that at all."

Contributing: Luis Santana

celebs in cyberspace

The stars are all atwitter. Here are some of our faves.

Ashton Kutcher @aplusk
Political tirades, book recs, plugs for True Beauty, a birthday shout-out to Bruce Willis, a photo of Demi Moore's bum. You'll find it all here.

Rainn Wilson @rainnwilson
To keep us laughing between episodes of The Office, the actor doles out hilarious tidbits all week long.

Jordin Sparks @therealjordin
Tbt* photog Luis Santana helped the American Idol winner set up a Twitter account when she was in town for the Super Bowl. Now she sends out messages on everything from her dog to her famous friends.

Taylor Swift @taylorswift13
The country starlet tweets about her recording sessions and whirlwind schedule, including a shout-out to Plant City when she headed to town for the Strawberry Festival.

Perez Hilton @perezhilton
The gossipmonger shows love for his favorite celebs and sends out zingers aimed at the rest.

George Stephanopoulos @gstephanopoulos
The This Week host took flak for interviewing Sen. John McCain via Twitter earlier this month.

Shaquille O'Neal @the_real_shaq
Food is a favorite topic for this baller, who tweets about Taco Bell commercials, his pre-game salads and his cravings for Dairy Queen.

Lance Armstrong @lancearmstrong
The seven-time Tour de France winner/cancer survivor/superhuman shares his favorite products (Nutella, anyone?), clears up rumors and updates the world on his broken collarbone.

tampa tweetup

Local Twitter users will congregate from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Walker Brands, 1810 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Now the bad news: Event capacity is 60 people, and there's already a waiting list. But Josh Carrico is planning future Tweetups for Florida Aquarium and Tampa Theatre. For more info, call Carrico at (813) 477-1403 or go to tampabloggers.com.

tampa bay tweets

Follow these interesting Twitter feeds from local users.

Name: bn9

Bio: Get the latest headlines every 10 minutes or so from Bay News 9.

Sample tweet: "Accused baby abductor being held on $750,000 bond http://bn9.com/tw/?452501"

3124342,612*

followingfollowersupdates

Name: genitorturers

Bio: Gen, the front woman for the shock-rock band Genitorturers, rants and raves.

Sample tweet: "watching for 1st time a travesty called american idol, secure that my life has been better for not experiencing this horrorshow thus prior!"

97431291

followingfollowersupdates

Name: charlestrippy

Bio: The recent USF grad and Web reality star Charles Trippy makes zany YouTube videos and posts the links on Twitter.

Sample tweet: "ever wonder what dog treats tasted like? well, so did i... http://tinyurl.com/cxafbz"

85922,9741,939

followingfollowersupdates

Name: drmommy

Bio: Former chiropractor Daisy Sutherland home-schools her five kids and still finds time to offer encouragement and parenting tips.

Sample tweet: "Do you have a teen at home who doesn't like to read? Here are some tips: http://tinyurl.com/dctmrj"

4,5535,53311,206

followingfollowersupdates

Name: israellagares

Bio: Israel Lagares' tag line says it all: "Just a fat man trying to get healthy."

Sample tweet: "Went to Clearwater Beach and ran sprints up a sand hill. I was dying!!!!"

3555281,027

followingfollowersupdates

*as of Thursday afternoon

yes, tbt* is on twitter, too

Once you get the hang of Twitter, check us out:

The Juice* @tbtjuice

Dalia Colón @tbtreporter

Luis Santana @tbtphotog

Lisa Haiss @tbtdesigner

Living the Tweet life 03/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 9:41am]

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