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On Twitter

In Toronto Magazine #1, How Tweet It Is 01

In Toronto Magazine: How Tweet It Is

By now, everybody has heard of Twitter.com, and in the last three years (as of May 2010), social media has become part of our daily vernacular. Those who belittle Twitter generally don’t understand its power to inform.

Twitter is a global democratic information network free-for-all, a never ending stream of curated content sent to you just by following other users who share common interests. One can find pertinent and timely information about a range of subjects—anything really—and from myriad perspectives. News often breaks first globally on Twitter.

However, if your news feed only updates what your ex had for breakfast or your girlfriend’s tennis match, you’re not accessing its potential. It’s all in who you follow. Interested in financial planning, marketing or global media? With a keen eye, one can find knowledgeable experts in virtually any field. Of course, like any network, trust builds over time. Try these for starters.

Social media: @jaimewoo A relentless tweeter, Gamercamp.ca co-creator Jaime Woo is opinionated, gets the power of social media, and shares his stories and adventures in a really interactive way.

Technology: @hashwordpress Want to build a WordPress blog? To learn how, follow this automated Twitter news feed that collects tweets globally from users who include the hashtag #wordpress in their tweets.

Sustainability: @inhabitat A Twitter page (and website) proposing that good design will save the world.

Learning: @TorontoLibrary Toronto Public Library has 99 branches, and their Twitter page stays connected to the community by alerting them about author events, branch re-openings, etc.

Cinema and Television: @metacritic A place that links back to a website that collates the best critics movie, television and music reviews from all over the web.

Fashion: @JakandJilBlog Much like New York’s @Sartorialist, Torontonian Tommy Ton developed a very respectable international following because of his discerning eye and great photographs of urban street fashion.

Politics: @UnionSt A passionate civil rights advocate, local communications guy Justin Stayshyn has no qualms asking those in power positions important questions. Twitter is the grand leveler of power; further democratizing interactive societal dialogue on a level playing field. that allows truly equal, socially democratic communication to take place.

Queer power: @brucelabruce Smart-ass, bad boy, provocateur — all compliments. Toronto filmmaker and arthouse pornographer Bruce LaBruce is an astute, cool, culture eyeballer. He finds and posts links to the kookiest, forgotten movies on YouTube, and quotes Jonathan Harris’ Dr Smith freely. Oh the pain, the pain.

Music: @hypem The music industry has changed considerably in the first decade of the 21st century. The Hype Machine is an enormously popular MP3 blog aggregator. Searching for your favourite song? The Hype Machine will find blogs where people have written about the song, and posted that tune to share. Does it help or hinder the industry? Answers vary, depending on which side of the argument you’re on.

Arts: @drawn An extension of the Drawn.ca illustration and cartooning blog, @drawn interacts regularly with artists, contributors and fans of the form.

Comics: @fantagraphics Home of Love And Rockets, The Comics Journal, and The Complete Peanuts, Fantagraphics engages regularly with comic nerds on Twitter.

Literature: @MargaretAtwood This Canadian literary icon not only fully understands but and has quickly embraced the power of Twitter, reaching out to her sizeable, eager global audience. She’s got a great sense of humour too.

Design: @chipkidd Out and proud book cover designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd shares links to lots of cool design world treats.

Travel: @thailandbuzz Linked to socialapproach.com , the aggregated content network, Thailand Buzz tweets about hot travel tips for prospective travelers to the region.

Theatre: @Toronto_Fringe Here’s an unabashed plug from a board member: the very enthusiastic and lively Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival staff engages daily with the indie theatre community and their fellow audience. [Addendum: I was on the board of directors for the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival from 2005-2011.]

Media: @CNNGo As old-world media continues to shift online, most have taken advantage of what Twitter can offer them, in terms of platform exposure. The relatively new beta site CNNGo.com focuses on news from Asia, but whoever runs their Twitter page surprisingly engages and creates an ongoing dialogue with its followers, something from which other old-world media conglomerates could learn a thing or two. [Addendum: Sadly, CNNGo.com was subsequently consolidated into CNN Travel, and became less interesting.]

Celebrities: @Cloris_Leachman, @SandraBernhard, @WilliamShatner, @Dolly__Parton, they’re all there. Who knows, they might even respond to your tweet!

Elizabeth Taylor: @dameelizabeth She’s a screen legend, she’s 78, and she tweets, for crying out loud. Who cares if she goes on and on about Kathy Ireland? It’s Liz effing Taylor! On Twitter! Don’t call her Liz. She hates that. [Addendum: Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23, 2011. May she rest in peace.]

Follow Michael Thorner on Twitter: @michaelthorner

This is an expanded version of my column for IN Toronto Magazine, the original appearing in the May 2010 issue.