Twitter.com is a free social networking site that allows you to send 140 character messages to anyone prepared to listen. These posts are called "tweets". You can "follow" organisations or people to receive their messages. Think of it as a public SMS.
Why are OxMUG using it?
Twitter came into being to help people stay in touch. The OxMUG Committee use Twitter to advise of forthcoming meetings and to underscore official announcements like the AGM. It's use was inspired by the snow of January 2010 which left some members literally out in the cold!
How does it improve my life?
The service is now well and truly mainstream thanks to the likes of Simon Mayo (twitter.com/wittertainment) and Stephen Fry (twitter.com/stephenfry).
Like any social networking site, the quality of information imparted depends who you follow. Users writing on a particular topic can insert a "hashtag" beginning with # (Alt + 3 on a UK keyboard) - so searching for #iPad will return all tweets with that tag in the content, for example. Twitter's by-line is now "What's happening?" and it is a way of seeing what is top of mind for a broad cross-section of the tech community at any given time
As well as accessing it through its own website, there are many great iPhone clients such as Twitterific - you can even tweet by SMS from your phone, although there is no good reason if you have an iPhone to go to the expense of SMS.
"The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful," says Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School and certainly it is lower-maintenance than keeping a full-blown blog - some people find the limited number of characters helpful in refining thoughts they want to share.
While often mocked as self-regarding drivel, the impulse to keep a diary is as old as Samuel Pepys. Many people find the mild narcissism therapeutic, but as with all social networking, be mindful that your thoughts may persist on the interweb forever …