This is not intended as a guide to Twitter as a whole. I started using Twitter about a year ago, covering the Republican presidential primary, and I still have trouble explaining it to people so if you're new to Twitter I recommend just diving in. At this point, it's a relatively supportive community and there's no "wrong" way to Twitter as long as you're not trying to sell stuff, which tends to annoy.
This is simply a hyper-specific guide for those who've decided that 140-character messages about my decision to wear pants to the White House, my take on Hill Republicans' negotiating skills, the odd bit of wonkish breaking news, and -- very occasionally -- pictures of my pets dressed in silly outfits is exactly what they want spicing up their day. I am pretty consistently humbled and amazed that people pay attention to what is essentially a long-running but short-form commentary on what it is like to be me. -- amc, 2/13/09
Which brings us to our first question:
- Who are you? So glad you asked. I often ask myself, and I've answered myself here.
Now that that's out of the way:
- What exactly am I getting myself into? Expect a lot of updates. I am chagrined to note that TweetStats charts my output at over 100 day. I probably should just blog but I find the 140-character limit of Twitter reassuringly confining. If you're at a desk most of the day, just checking my user page at your leisure is the most passive way to stay up-to-date. You also might think about getting a desktop client for Twitter -- I like Tweetdeck -- which will make easier for you to participate in Twitter as well as read what others are saying. If you want to get my Twitter feed on your phone, probably best not to get it in the form of "device updates," which are text messages and you'll get charged however it is that your provider charges for texts. There are numerous applications and clients for Blackberry and other smart phones that you will have to ask someone else about. I use an iPhone and Tweetie.
- That's awfully technical. I mean, what will I be getting from you? I cover Washington and am somewhat obsessive about politics in general so you'll be getting what is a basically a live feed from inside my head regarding whatever I'm doing that day: Attending a White House briefing, going up to the Senate, watching C-SPAN, trying to figure out why that small man from Alabama is so angry... (Here I am referring to Sen. Jeff Sessions, aka, "the littlest Senator," aka "the Southern leprechaun.") Because I also have a "blue" streak (not talking politics here) you will also get hopefully funny interpolations of wonkspeak into what I like to call "sexytalk." See here, for examples, for what happens when congressmen start talking about how a "stimulus" requires a "big package." And if you are amused by that, you might also be interested in #wonkpickuplines.
- What's up with that tiny little tic-tac-toe sign? I noticed it on the "#stimpaksexytalk" search too. That's a symbol that tells Twitter what you're talking about is part of a larger conversation (you could also say "meme" but then I would never speak to you again). It makes it easier for Twitter to gather together posts about a topic even if you're not still in the same back-and-forth. I also have tried to get people to use #journotwits to spread the news about working reporters who Twitter about their stories and themselves. I.e, "Welcome @chrismatthews! You're now one of the #journotwits. Though that hasn't happened yet which makes me very sad.
- What's the deal with you and pants? Oh, pants and I go back a ways, and we've always fought, though I don't really blame PANTS. I blame society for making pants necessary.
- Seriously: Have you ever left the house not wearing pants? Oh, okay, "seriously," then: I have never left the house not wearing pants (counting skirts/dresses here as a form of the lower-body-covering that society deems appropriate). But because working at home does allow me to get away with often skipping/improvising on other, almost as vital, parts of the grown-up costume, I have on occasion left the house wearing a pajama top instead of a shirt. Recently, I went on an errand and was in my car before I looked down and realized I had on my fuzzy slippers. But I fit right in once I got to the liquor store.
- YOU OFTEN SEEM TO SHOUT ARE YOU ANGRY OR IS YOUR CAPS LOCK KEY BROKEN OR WHAT? I can't believe you didn't know that EVERYTHING IS FUNNIER IF YOU YELL IT. Ask Bobcat Goldthwait, right? Though he is less of a journalistic influence than Sockington, and, like Sockington, I think I tend to use the caps key less to imply anger than confusion/frustration/excitement, often all at once. And because of the character limits on Twitter and to express A SUPER WHOLE LOT OF EXCITEMENT, I will run the words together. As in, "GAHOKIT'SAVILLAGE."
- Please explain what the following words (I think they're words...) mean: MoC, GAH, RT, FTW, WH, ZOMG and anything else that would confuse even people with average level of internet experience and a normal level of intelligence. Oh, ha, yes sometimes I don't make sense.
- MoC: Member of Congress
- GAH: Expression of frustration, probably derived from "God," but also just meant to be inarticulate rage.
- RT: "Re-tweet," a way to indicate that what follows is a quote from another Twitterer.
- FTW: "For the win!" Expression of joy, cheering someone on, yay go you.
- WH: White House
- ZOMG: Like "OMG" but with added oomph. Also sort of mistyping joke along the lines of using "TEH" rather than "THE" when excited or mocking excitement.
I am sure there will be others. Do not hesitate to ask.
- That reminds me, since I'm following you on Twitter and can send you messages that means we're friends, right? Why haven't you followed me back? Oh dear. Well, I'm sure you're fabulous but we don't really know each other and, also, I gave up trying to follow everyone that follows me about 30,000 people ago; even I don't quite have that level of addiction to information. But that doesn't mean I don't care. I get every message that has an "@anamariecox" in it. I read all of them and respond to those that call for it, whether it's to clarify what I meant or thanking someone for a good tip/link/joke. That can actually lead to friendships, sometimes, just like in the real world.
- Is Twittering part of your job or do you do it for fun? I reject your binary choices, but I guess technically it's not in the sense that I don't have to, but it is in the sense that I see my job as providing people with information and insight and Twitter is just another place to do it. Getting paid to do what I do is something that, especially in this economy, I am incredibly grateful for. Honestly, I sometimes think I have the best job in the world.
- Okay that's two whole answers that seem, like, earnest and stuff. Are you okay? Running a fever? Or, more seriously, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH ANA? Ha ha. While, yes, you may have noticed a certain lack of reverence for Washington, its traditions, its residents, and its society, that doesn't mean I have contempt for it, or them. Washington is the sausage factory that produces democracy and while it can get ugly inside the end-product is both tasty and relatively good for you. I've never really understood why journalists get jaded about politics. Cynical, sure, but if you're jaded about covering THE FUCKING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES who, you know, HAPPENS TO BE BLACK THIS TIME, then go home. I'm excited to be here, and thank you, readers, for helping to make that possible.
- ANA??? WHERE IS SHE AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HER???? Oh, okay: Ass-fucking. There, I said it, do you believe it's me now?
- Whew. I was getting worried. I understand. And by the way, it's pronounced "ah-na."
- What's the deal with the puppy icon? I like the idea of being both cute and angry at the same time, not as in "you're cute when you're angry," but being both cute and angry, independently.
- Where can I read you? Besides Twitter, I mean. I contribute to the Air America blog, and I supposedly write weekly for The Daily Beast (it's, uhm, been awhile BUT I PROMISE I WILL GET BETTER). I also do a weekly chat with Tucker Carlson for the Washington Post every Monday at noon, except when we change it. And if you have, you know, AN INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR ALL THINGS AMC you can get a Twitter-esque feel for what I'm reading and enjoying from my "shared items" Google Reader page.
- Thanks. I swear I'm not a stalker. It's okay. I'm still getting used to the idea that anyone -- let alone tens of thousands of people GAH! -- are interested in my thoughts. (Though supposedly many of the followers are fake, which is strangely comforting)
- So are you and Rachel friends in real life? Not a stalker, riiiiiiight...
- Who else should I follow? (See! I can ask completely normal questions, too! NOT A STALKER.) Oh, gosh. Well, as involved and concerned citizen you should definitely check out TweetCongress and follow your elected representatives if they're Tweeting. (And bug them to get on Twitter if they're not!) Since I live in DC and am represented by no one, I just follow them all. Well, most. I particularly love @ChuckGrassley (Senator, R - Iowa) and @clairecmc (Sen. Claire McCaskill, D - MO), for entirely different reasons. As for less civic-minded recommendations, lots of pals are on Twitter and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and I follow pretty much anyone who's one of the Washington/politics #journotwits so I'm going to only name people who are not working journalists (as far as I know) and whom I don't personally know and/or are not famous (yet). Recommendations based almost entirely on whose Tweets have struck me as smart/interesting/funny. In other words, if you like the kind of thing I do, you may want to listen in on these people's streams of thought, too. (I have not received money or favors or even asked permission before listing these folks, so, uhm please don't blame them. For anything. Ever.):
- @RudytheParrot (a must for @Sockington fans who I have mentioned too much already but really was my first Twitter love)
- @pennycat (@Sockington's grumpy roommate)
- @pourmecoffee (sometimes I think this person is actually me)
- @notlarrysabato (if you get the joke of the name then you basically have to follow him, it is THE LAW)
- @mileskahn (Daily Show writer, apparently friends with the awesometastic @hodgman, so maybe he's a little famous?)
- @MichaelTurk (Who I have not actually MET, but I have emailed with and made plans to lunch with so...fuck, I'd better stop now before I break every single rule I have.)
- So, uh, that means you sometimes actually meet in real life the people you quote ("re-Tweet," you call it, I guess, still getting used to "the lingo") and mention on Twitter? Sure, sometimes. Like I said before, Twitter allows you browse a lot of people's thoughts -- at least a portion of them -- and when one of those people turns out to be smart and funny, it sort of follows that I want to be their friend. I like smart and funny people. Who are, generally, not really the friendliest people in the world but that is simply one of the ironies that makes life interesting. Also please don't use the word "lingo" as it makes you sound out of it and old.
- Ha! I'm actually really "with-it" and cool! And, uhm, I was kind of wondering, if you do meet people you find on Twitter... I'm just going to stop you there so you don't embarrass yourself any further and point you toward @lehmannchris, who is my husband. And smart and funny.