whaleDo you ever find yourself thinking that you might like to start a blog?

If your answer is “I don’t have enough time to write wonderful blog entries all the time,” you should check out microblogging!

Microblogging is blogging, but much smaller. We think of blog entries as having several paragraphs. But not all updates need to be the length of a Tolstoy novel. What about just a few sentences every few hours or days?

Plus, microblogs let you add new posts from your mobile phone. You can blog at the bus stop, in the grocery store checkout line, or during intermission at the theater.

Check out these great apps that let you keep folks in the loop without signing over all of your free time.

Maybe you’ve heard of a little thing called Twitter?

Twitter is a microblogging service that allows updates up to 140 characters in length. Updates are called “tweets.” It sounds a lot like texting but it is different – texting is person-to-person. Twitter is like a blog – anyone can read your tweets.

Here’s how Twitter works:

Create an account. Tell you friends so they can “follow you” if they want to. Follow just means that they’ll get any of the things that you write in your microblog. Your friends can comment on the things that you write.

My favorite Twitter account is the National History Whale. You know, the whale that hangs from the ceiling of the American Museum of National History in New York? He tweets.

Twitter isn’t just about telling everyone your moment-to-moment activities – it’s about communication. Imagine being able to ask all of your colleagues a question with one tweet! That’s what the folks at Skokie Public Library are doing.

Check out this quick video explanation of Twitter:

Like Twitter but more visual: Plurk

Plurk is similar to Twitter in that members post messages that are no longer than 140 characters. But it feels very different from Twitter, from the design to the social network terminology.

Plurk is meant to be a cross between a blog and a social network. If you’ve ever looked at a Twitter page, the design differnce will be obvious. Plurk displays updates in a timeline.

After using Plurk, you’ll find the other design difference: all the plurks that are part of a conversation are grouped together. If you want to follow a conversation on Twitter, you have to dig around for all the related tweeks.

Plurk certainly looks more fun, with the pretty colors and the headless whatever-that-is in the pictures. If you’re intriegued, check out this comparison of Twitter and Plurk.


Easiset to set up and use: Posterous

Send Posterous an email and they’ll send you a microblog. No registration needed. You’ll get a confirmation email – click on the link and you can create your own Posterous web address. I like that you get to use the service without signing up. But if you want to set a password after your first post, it is really easy to do.

The best part? When you want to post something to your microblog at Posterous, just send an email to post@posterous.com. It’s that simple – just make sure you use the same email address you used to sign up.

Here’s the one I set up: http://gracie.posterous.com

Design your Microblog: Tumblr

Tumblr is a lot like Posterous. Set up an account and start posting photos, text, audio – whatever you want. You can update your Tumblr by emailing your posts to 10trivoill@tumblr.com or by going directly to your Tumblr page. You can even phone in an audio post!

What makes it different from Posterous is that you can customize the look of your page.

Here’s the one I set up: http://gracemonkey.tumblr.com

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1. Take a look at some existing microblogs:

Twitter | Plurk | Tumblr | Posterous

2. In the comments, tell us interesting things libraries could do with a microblog. What do you think of Skokie Public Library’s use of Twitter?