Simple explanation of Twitter for those that don’t understand.

ticker tape machineLooking out at the older crowd I asked “so who knows what Twitter is and how it works?” A single hand went up from a 19 year old who just finished presenting. Oh boy. So began my impromptu presentation about Twitter.

“Who knows what a ticker tape machine is?” All hands went up (other than the 19 year olds). “Imagine you had 2 ticker tape machines, one follows the NY stock exchange the other follows London. A typist located at each stock market location feeds in the information at their end and each machine would simply stream out information from each stock market at your end.”

“Now before it gets from the typist to your ticker tape machine, imagine it flows through the main company called The Ticker Tape Corporation.”

“Is everyone following me?” Heads nod.

“Excellent! That’s Twitter. Twitter is simply the reinvention of the ticker tape company with some twists. And the typist is you.”

Eyes widened.

“But there are a couple of twists. Instead of having 2 machines, you have one that receives the aggregated streams from all the feeds you follow. The information you type in, or “tweet”, can only be 140 characters in length. And the only people that can be on the receiving end of your information are those that subscribe to your feed. “

“But why would they subscribe to your feed?” someone asked. “The same reason they would follow the stock exchange … they are interested in the information of the typist(tweeter)!” I replied. “They become a follower of your feed.“

“Now let’s say you wanted to not only tweet out information, you wanted to follow other typists(tweeters). They may have some great information that you could share with those that follow your feed. So you sign up to receive information from those typists(tweeters) who have information you care about.”

“So now you are a receiver(follower) of feeds and a typist(tweeter) of information. Some information you write about or share is original, other information is simply received from others and forwarded on to your followers.”

“Everyone with me?” I ask? They nod.

“Now, because Twitter is electronic and there are millions of people tweeting(typing), they needed an index system, so they created hash tags (#). Anyone wanting to discuss a certain topic could put a hash tag in front of the subject or word. Anyone interested in that subject could follow the subject using that particular hash tag.“

“Even if you weren’t following their feed?” someone asked. “Yes” I replied.

“Let’s say you are at a conference, maybe the International Dog Conference or IDC for short. At the beginning of the conference, the organizers inform you the conference hash tag is #IDC.“

“So, now people at the conference could tweet out interesting information that was going on like ‘#IDC just learned about online dog shaming, very funny.’ or ‘Open bar on level 2 by the men’s washroom. #IDC’. But it’s not only for conferences. It can be for anything including political movements. #egypt was the top hash tag in 2011.”

“You can also take pictures and upload them to Twitter from your smart phone adding a whole new dimension to Twitter. “

“So if you are interested in Twitter, go to and sign up for an account.”

“Having a ticker tape machine and service was expensive. How much does Twitter cost?” someone asked.”

“It’s currently free” I replied. “But, you may see some ads. The ads you see are based on your likes and searches on The Internet.”

“How do they know what we like?” asked someone.

“That”, I said, “is a whole other topic.”