Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: The Twitter Book

Publishing info
Title: The Twitter Book
Author: Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein
ISBN: 9780596802813
Price: $19.99. US
Subjects: Web/Internet Application

Normally when I need to research a technology topic for a presentation or an article, I like to scour the Internet for my references and examples. I’ve always felt that I would be able to get the most up-to-date information that way. It just seems like published tech books would be too out-dated too quickly.

Recently I was supposed to facilitate a workshop on Social Media in Museums for the Arkansas Museum Association (it had to be canceled and we are working on rescheduling). Due to other work projects, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to search the Internet and figure out which references were reputable and which weren’t. I particularly needed to research Twitter since it was the newest (and hottest) of the social media apps, and although I use Twitter personally and professionally, I also realize I’m not an advanced user. I needed a trustworthy reference, a reference that would cover a lot of aspects about Twitter at once (particularly the parts I wasn’t familiar with), and I needed it all in one place. In short, I needed a book.

I’m familiar with O’Reilly Media Inc. because a lot of their books are in my house. I’ve never read any of these books; they’re my husband’s books. They are the books of a computer programmer and developer. Even with their cute black and white cover art of animals, they intimidate me. These are the books for REAL computer people, not a regular computer user like me. So when I first searched Amazon for Twitter books, I was apprehensive when O’Reilly’s ‘The Twitter Book” came up.

Knowing my husband holds O’Reilly in such high regard, I thought I could spare a few minutes to look over the Amazon page and see how much of it I might be able to understand. I was pleasantly surprised and added it to my list of possibilities, then a few weeks later while at my local bookstore, I took more time to peruse the pages and ultimately decided to get it.

The 234 page book is divided into 6 chapters covering how to get started, how to “listen in,” how to participate in conversations, how to share info, some advanced skills, and to finish it off a chapter devoted to how businesses should use Twitter. The book is indexed, and on many pages quick Twitter Tip balloons are included.

The formatting is great. The writing on every page is precise and gets straight to the point, and the authors do not fall into techie jargon. Every page includes words or phrases printed in color and bold text so you see the main points at a glance, while chapter references are in color so they are also able to see. Each facing page gives some type of artwork (i.e. screenshots or graphs) to further demonstrate authors’ points.

I can see where some readers may get intimidated by the shear number of third party URLs that are included in this book, but I appreciated all the information. I will say that it might have been helpful to have included a separate index of just the URLs that were included in the book. They also include the names of a number of Twitter users; however, I feel that they don’t always do a good job of explaining who these users are.

Overall I feel that this is an excellent book for those just jumping into Twitter or those looking to bolster their knowledge of this hot application.

Tim O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Sarah Milstein is the cofounder of and during her time on the senior editorial stuff at O’Reilly she developed the Missing Manuals series.

You can find The Twitter Book here:

Note: I purchased this book at my local bookstore.