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A Bunch of Twits?

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009; 9:40 AM

Admit it: You're sick of reading about Twitter, aren't you?

You'd rather read another nine pieces about Kate Winslet or "Slumdog." Am I right?

Well, that's what people said about Facebook when I wrote about joining it two years ago, when it seemed like a pointless time-waster on which young people posted endless pictures of themselves. Now it's a time-waster that has sucked in just about everyone I know.

I'm not a Twitter evangelist. I don't see it achieving a huge mass audience like Facebook. It works for me as a journalist because there's a kind of rolling conversation that is not just interesting but provides me with a steady flow of links and media ideas. But most people have, um, lives.

In my column yesterday, I wrote about how such anchors as Terry Moran and David Gregory are using the Web site to communicate with viewers, provide behind-the-scenes color and try to boost their ratings. (It's a blabby world: Moran and Gregory promptly twittered about the interviews, thus blowing my cover.) And with its tight limit on message length, there are no filibusters.

Not surprisingly, I got plenty of reaction on the site. Pollster Frank Luntz said Twitter is "no gimmick, it's the future." Delrayser, an Alexandria "father, government lawyer, political junkie, causal gamer, beer snob, amateur geek," picked up on one of my descriptions: "Twitter is 'self-involved & incestuous.' Would comment but need to get back to thinking abt myself and sexting."

Members of Congress, pro athletes (Shaq) and CEOs (Steve Case) are among those who are active on the site. So maybe, despite the clunky software, it will get bigger. If not, I'll write the obit in 140 characters.

Politico's Patrick Gavin says: "When you talk about Twitter, you might as well be talking about the Snuggie: People around you swear that it's actually useful, but you can't help thinking it silly and declaring, 'I just don't get what all the buzz is about.' But in Washington, the social networking and microblogging service is quickly becoming part of the daily media diet -- and a powerful tool in the hands of those who are adept at making their points in 140 characters or fewer."

His top 10 D.C. twitterers: Karl Rove, Claire McCaskill, David Gregory, Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich, Ana Marie Cox, Chuck Grassley, Joe Trippi, Patrick Ruffini and Al Gore.

Gavin's Politico colleague Mike Allen says he wanted "less white noise" in his life, but . . . well, I have a minor cameo in this:

"On Wednesday, my bosses and I were taking Betsy Fischer, executive producer of NBC's 'Meet the Press,' to birthday lunch at BlackSalt on MacArthur Boulevard. While I was waiting for the cab, I hit the 'Meet the Press' page on MSNBC.com and saw that moderator David Gregory had started Twittering, big-time. 'Connect with David,' the page said, offering Twitter and FaceBook links. (Since then, he's added a blog.) In the 20 seconds I looked at his Twitter feed, one thought stuck with me. In one tweet, Gregory wrote: 'On the phone with Washpo's Howie Kurtz talking about Twitter. Is it me or is Twitter all anyone is talking about this week?' Then in the next, @davidgregory added: 'I told Howie what I believe: people like me have to reach people where THEY are instead of asking them.' "

But when Mike pitched the story, his boss John Harris replied: "My feeling is that it will probably be like double-knit pants and long sideburns in the 1970s . . . why did people do that?"


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