This is my final post to this blog because all good things must come to an end. Coincidentally, this is also my 42nd post to this blog. Forty-two, a significant number in its own right. It is a number that stirred some Deep Thoughts inside my mind. Thoughts about the ultimate answer to the question “why do we tweet?”. So, for a few months or so, I have observed how people use Twitter and what their motivations for tweeting could be. Of course, I have also put google to work and also picked some use cases from here, here and here. The result of all this is a list of 42 Twitter use cases. which are listed in the table below.
But, before you jump to my list, I should explain that I have rather simplified the notion of “Use Case” for my purpose. You will see no pre- and postconditions for example, let alone actors. You could argue that the “intended result(s)” are the postconditions, so feel free. This post isn’t about the nits and grits of writing use cases (you should jump to Alistair Cockburn’s website for that in stead).

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description

intended result(s)

1

assess a new follower: check bio, check activity, read some of that user’s latest updates, check who else is following this user

knowing whether this user is worth following back

2

reply to another twitter user’s update

have that user follow you
(back), strengthen your connection with that user, increase the
level of interaction you get on twitter

3

acknowledge another twitter user’s update (retweet)

strengthen your current
connections, gain some more followers

4

comment on another user’s blog post (modern blogging systems allow you to tweet comments you leave behind)

strengthen your current
connections, gain some more followers

5

share a link to your latest blog post 

have people visit your blog

6

share a link to an
interesting article you came accross

strengthen your current
connections, gain some more followers

7

tag an update (using a
hashtag)

reach people outside your
current group of followers, gain some more followers

8

share conference impressions
(live conference feedback tweets, usually tagged with the hashtag
for that conference)

have people know you are at
the conference, gain more followers

9

submit live comment while
watching a talk (or webinar)

let other people who
couldn’t attend about the talk know what they are missing (or not)

10

share pointless babble such
as “going to walk the dog” or “good night”

An sense of enormous well
being (citation from “Park Life” by Blur). Supposedly,
people love to read snack-sized content so you will entertain lots
of people.

11

share your impressions and
experiences with a gadget you recently purchased

other people buying the same
gadget, get interaction with people who also bought that gadget,
gain more followers

12

report news you are
witnessing (e.g. tweet about a plane you see crashing with a link
to a picture or video  you shot on the spot)

feel like a news reporter,
get people to retweet the news, gain more followers

13

take polls (e.g. what mobile
twitter client do you use most often?)

whatever
results/answers/stats you are aiming for

14

store a thought so you won’t
forget it

an online memory of your
thoughts for later recovery and use, provoke thoughts in other
people’s heads, start interaction

15

post your resume (using
http://www.twitres.com)

get job offers

16

get live feedback throughout
a conference (often now, live conference feedback tweets are
projected on a wall encouraging more people to tweet their
impressions)

see early feedback allowing
you to change/adjust things while the conference is taking place,
potentially have lots of people promote the conference 
through their follower network

17

report a problem you are
having with an application you are using

get support, either directly
from the vendor, or from other users

18

wish for a feature in your
favorite twitter client

get a response telling you
the feature you are wishing for is a splendid idea and that it
will be implemented in the next release, or that the feature is
already implemented but you simply didn’t look for it (duh)

19

publish news updates around
your open source project

have people know the
existence of your project, have people download/try the latest
binaries, get feedback for the latest release

20

ask people to join your open
source project

more project participants,
ultimately improved project activity and productivity

21

inform your followers about
a talk you are going to do on a certain conference/symposium 

get a larger audience, gain
more followers

22

post job/career oportunities
at your company

job candidates

23

share details of your
presidential election campaign

increased popularity, votes,
become president of the US

24

find free beer (simply by
searching twitter for those two words)

get drunk at someone else’s
expense

25

share your current
whereabouts through services like brightkite
(this a very popular use of Twitter and led to this popular online
game: http://playfoursquare.com

get into contact with people
that are  in your vicinity, become the mayor (FourSquare) of
a location

26

track someone’s whereabouts
and status

knowing where someone is and
if he/she is okay

27

Submit status (“come on
rockets!!!!”) of the Mars lander of the Mars Phoenix project
(NASA, May 2008)

share a very cool thing with
the world in a very cool way

28

thank a new follower for
following you using a direct message

interaction, based on a
response decide whether to follow back

29

semi-urgently reach someone
(twitter users often respond quicker to direct messages than to
e-mails: “d mnankman check your e-mail, I sent you something
important”)

almost guaranteed and quick
delivery of semi-urgent messages or requests

30

find out what people are
saying right now about something you are thinking to purchase

reassurance about the
purchase, or advice against the purchase, advice on alternative
products

31

find out what other people’s
experience are with a certain new technology you are thinking to
adopt

reassurance about using the
technology, hints on the use of and problems with the technology,
or advice against using it, suggestions for alternative
technologies

32

find names for your unborn
child

suggestions for names,
interaction with other (to be) parents

33

search for a topic of your
interest (such as the safety of flying with a certain airline
company)

real-time news about that
topic, reassurance (or not) of your plans, 

34

solve Ajax programming
problems

tips and suggestions on how
to solve the problem

35

submit the next step in the
washing program (your washing machine being the actor that
initiates this use case)

set an interesting example
on how Twitter could be used. Many innovations  begin at a
crazy starting point.

36

submit the state – open or
closed – of a bridge (@towerbridge)

set an interesting example
on how Twitter could be used. Many innovations  begin at a
crazy starting point.

37

sell your twittername (via
http://tweexchange.com/)

a comfortable sum of money

38

Recommend nice people to
follow (using the #NPF hashtag)

gain more followers

39

Promote obscure sites that promise you loads of followers within weeks

get people to visit a site
that is stuffed with ads, ergo: earn money through people’s
gullability

40

Promote supposedly easy ways to become rich

get people to visit a site
that is stuffed with ads, ergo: earn money through people’s
gullability

41

Contribute to an opera
(Twitterdammerung)

Being part of a crazy but
amazing project, hearing lines you contributed actually sung at
the performance of the opera

42

Fight a mobster
(http://playmobsterworld.com)

Virtual respect, gain more
members in your own mob, joy

My personal favorites are number 27 and 41. The latter especially for its collaborative nature. I also found that for roughly a quarter of the above use cases, gaining more followers is one of the intended results. Based on that I can only conclude that the ultimate answer to the question “why do we tweet?”, is “mostly out of vanity, but we like the interaction too”. Myself, I tweet because I hope to get interaction with interesting people and use Twitter as a tool to know what is going on right now in my fields of interest and my network (and don’t dare to pollute it!).

Mark Nankman is no longer a UX Architect and Web 2.0 thought leader at Capgemini, but his public brain waves can still be followed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mnankman