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The truth about Twitter
Is micro-messaging service an evolved form of communication or an overhyped fad? Depends on who you ask

Seth Ponek is an elite Twitter user -- at least locally.

The Sebastopol resident has more than 800 followers on the free micro-messaging service, and that number is growing as Twitter.com becomes the hottest site online.

More Twitter users follow Ponek than subscribe to the Twitter accounts of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, the chief executive of Sonic.net, or any reporter at The Press Democrat.

But what does that mean? Why would almost 800 people be interested in the online musings of a manager at Hertz Rental Equipment in Rohnert Park?

"At the eye doc. Still 20/20," Ponek recently tweeted. And a few days later, "Light traffic in and out of Union City, ca...Everyone must be out with the flu...Hope not."

Ever since Twitter entered the global spotlight this year -- anointed by none other than Oprah last month -- online pundits have questioned the significance of Twitter and what it means to have lots of followers.

At the heart of the matter is whether Twitter is a passing fad or the harbinger of an evolved form of communication that forces people to express themselves succinctly, in 140 characters or less.

Only time will answer that question. But already interesting trends have emerged showing how people are using it -- and why it might be over-hyped.

Twitter: One-hit wonder?

One ongoing problem with Twitter is that people still use it like the site originally intended, posting answers to the question that greets you every time you log onto the site: What are you doing?

Frankly, most people don't care about the minutiae of other people's lives, and they don't want to know what a stranger ate for lunch or when they walked their dog.

The more appropriate question these days is: "What is a link to an interesting Web site, news story or online video, and how would you describe it in 140 characters or less?"

Twitter's explosive popularity has created a rift as people take opposing sides in the debate over its usefulness.

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