Translate Twitter Slang and Jargon

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Discussions on and about Twitter are rife with all sorts of abbreviations and jargon that can confuse new Twitter users. What are people talking (and tweeting) about? The following glossary defines some of the confusing abbreviations and Twitter lingo you might come across.

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AFAIK: As Far as I Know.

bot: An account run by an automated program. You can find good bots, such as the ones that pull in all breaking news headlines from a media outlet. But you also can find bad bots, which put out only generic tweets, usually filled with links to Internet marketing sites or porn.

You can often spot these bots by a generic "hot chick" avatar or their uneven follower/following ratio (meaning that they're following hundreds or thousands of people but have only a few following them back).

DIAF: Die in a Fire; expresses extreme anger with a person or about an idea.

direct messages (DMs): Private messages sent to specific Twitter users in your network.

dweet: A tweet sent while under the influence. Drunken tweeting can be amusing for your Twitter stream, but it can have lasting consequences for you because Google indexes all tweets. Be careful with dweeting!

early adopter: The enthusiastic people, often closely tied to the Silicon Valley digital-media community, who tend to be the first to use a new gadget or technology. Twitter's early adopters, for example, are the ones who joined before or during the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference in March 2007, when Twitter made its first big splash.

FailWhale: The cartoon whale that appears when you try to load a page on the Twitter.com domain when the domain's servers are overloaded. In Twitter's early days, the tiny startup was known for unreliability because its rapid growth had outpaced its server power.

Back then, the FailWhale made an appearance as often as several times a day, and many Twitter users casually use the expression FailWhale to show disapproval of anything on or off Twitter that isn't working properly. But don't get too worried: The days of the FailWhale's rampant appearances on Twitter have been over for months.

FTL: For the Loss. The opposite of FTW, FTL is a quick way to show disappointment or dissatisfaction.

FTW: For the Win; a quick way to show appreciation or enthusiasm. The term comes from gamer and hacker speak. Many of the shorthand abbreviations on Twitter have their roots in the vernacular that arose in video games, hacker forums, or instant-message programs as far back as the 1980s.

FWIW: For What It's Worth.

hashtag: Words preceded by the # symbol. Basically, hashtags flag something as a keyword for searches. They're surprisingly powerful, as real-time (but virtual) events, and even communities can (and do) form around them. At the time of writing, #journchat is a community of PR pros and journalists who discuss their trade every Monday evening.

IMO or IMHO: In My Opinion or In My Humble Opinion.

metrics: A way to measure what the service means for business and individuals as it relates to return on the time invested. Because Twitter has so many analytical applications built on its API, you can find tons of Twitter metrics out there.

After using Twitter for a little while, check out your Twitter grade at TwitterGrader.com.

microfunding or microgiving: A means of using microblogging to raise charity donations. Several Twitter apps, such as TipJoy, specialize in microfunding, and nonprofits, such as charity: water, have made Twitter microfunding a priority.

microsharing or microblogging: The niche of social media that encompasses Twitter. Other services — such as Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk — have also specialized in microblogging, but none of them has achieved anywhere close to the following that Twitter has. Several microsharing services have already been shut down by their creators.

mistweet: A tweet that you send in error, either because you send it to the wrong person or you accidentally send a public tweet that you intended as a DM. Either way, it's a tweet you regret sending.

OH: Overheard. Used to anonymously quote something funny that you heard, usually in real life. OHs look like this: "OH: 'Did somebody smell bacon? Because I sure did.'"

To see all tweets that are prefaced with OH, follow @overheard on Twitter.

@replies: Public tweets directed at specific people — anyone can see them and jump into the conversation.

RT or R/T: Stands for retweet, Twitter's equivalent of quoting. If you come across a tweet that you want to quote, giving credit to the original user, hover over a tweet and click the Retweet link that appears.

A retweet looks like this: "RT @pistachio Boston - outdoor skating party this weekend, Sunday at 1pm. DM me if interested?" By putting RT at the front of the retweet, you also make sure that everyone can see your tweet because some members choose to turn off @replies that are not directed at them.

Keep in mind, however, that retweeting adds characters to a tweet and may force it over the 140-character limit. If that's the case, you might just want to link to it directly, instead. When prolific Twitter users put out a tweet that they want people in their network to retweet (for example, when they announce an event or charitable cause), many of them conscientiously keep it short to prevent that problem.

spammers: Spammers clutter up your Twitter stream and, just like with e-mail and other Internet tools, they send you useless content, usually trying to sell you something. Luckily, spamming on Twitter is hard because you don't have to follow anyone, and because Twitter works hard to remove accounts that are trying to take advantage of others and violating their terms of service (TOS).

tweeple or tweeps: Some Twitter users say tweeps to refer to the Twitter community overall, whereas others use it to refer only to those in their networks.

tweet: Either a noun or a verb. Your 140-character updates on Twitter are called tweets, and you can also say, "I tweeted."

tweetaholic or twitterholic: Someone who's addicted to Twitter. Many avid users toss this term about in a self-deprecating way if they find themselves using Twitter more often than seems normal. Also, the term twitterholic can refer to Twitterholic.com, a Twitter metrics application that measures the relative popularity of Twitter users.

tweetup: A pun on meet-up, tweetup refers to a gathering of Twitter users organized through Twitter. Tweetups can take many forms: a get-together for Twitter users who happen to be in the same town for a concert or festival, locals who want to try out a new restaurant or bar, or even a late-night meeting of karaoke enthusiasts.

twinfluence: Short for twitter influence. Can be based on criteria such as number of followers, how often they're retweeted, how many people @reply to them, or any other variety of metrics. An actual site at www.twinfluence.com uses social network analysis to approximate the influence of different Twitter accounts.

TwitPic: One of the most popular third-party applications built on Twitter's API. TwitPic lets you upload a photo, often from the camera on your cellphone, to TwitPic, which automatically sends a tweet that links to the picture and provides the caption of your choice.

twitter: Can be used as a verb ("I twittered that") but not a noun. Note: Don't say twit ("send a twit" is never correct, for example) because of that word's negative connotations in some parts of the world.

Twitter squatter: Much like a domain squatter on the rest of the Web, someone who claims the Twitter username that corresponds to a popular brand name or the name of a famous person, often in hopes of some kind of personal gain or monetary profit.

Luckily, the guys behind Twitter deal with these people quickly if the person or brand in question wants that name back (William Shatner, Steve Wozniak, and others have been victims of squatters). You're also not allowed to squat on any account name without using it as an active account. New users can request (and frequently receive) usernames abandoned for more than six to nine months.

Twitter stream: The constantly updating and flowing timeline of everyone that you choose to follow on Twitter; also called a feed.

Twitterati: A pun on literati and glitterati, these are Twitter's perceived A-listers whom users want to follow or be followed by. It's a lot beside the point of Twitter, which is to connect to the people that interest you the most, not just the most popular. Fortunately, bona-fide celebrities are starting to tweet, and with time, this word won't mean very much.

twitterverse: The universe of people, tools, applications, and services on Twitter, meaning the entire Twitter community and ecosystem of other related things.


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