For the longest time, I figured Twitter was little more than a social toy. But after signing up two months ago, I’ve completely changed my view. Here are five lessons I’ve picked up.

1. There are many ways to use it.

Twitter asks the question, “What are you doing?” Some people answer that, and post things like, “eating dinner.” Some people ignore it and post other thoughts. Among the uses I’ve seen:

  • Running commentary throughout the day.
  • Random thoughts.
  • Announcements, particularly bloggers announcing new posts, or news sites announcing new articles.
  • Hey, look at this link I found. (The classic linkblogging post.)
  • Conversations with other users.
  • Even a story told one line at a time. (@Othar, a side story connected to Girl Genius)

It can replace a blog, or complement it.  Mine started out just as another feed for updates, but I quickly realized I could post small stuff on Twitter and save the blog for the long posts like this one.

I’ve seen some people who post 20 times a day, and others who post once or twice a month.

2. Writing short posts can be liberating.

You don’t need to think of a catchy title. You don’t need to worry about structure. You don’t need to worry about fully developing an idea. And the rapid-fire nature of the site gives you a sense that you’re only worrying about now. No one expects you to be profound. All you have to do is jot down your thought and fire it off.

3. Writing short posts can be frustrating.

One of my high school teachers used to quote this adage: “If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It’s easy to ramble. It’s hard to edit. And it’s really easy to run into that 140-character limit, especially if you’re including a link (even if you use a URL shortening service like

Sometimes I think what I want to say is short enough to fit, but I find myself spending several minutes trying to rephrase it, use shorter words, cut out unnecessary phrases, and, if I have to, abbreviate words just to cram it into that tiny space.

On the plus side, the result is usually very concise.

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Opera BrowserI’ve been away from the Opera community for a month or so, focusing on the upheaval in comics fandom with The Flash, so I don’t know if anyone’s tagged me for Opera Watch’s “5 things I’d like to see in Opera” meme.

So I’m just going to throw my hat in the ring before I head off to Comic-Con tomorrow.

1. Inline spell-check and other improvements. Yeah, on-demand spell-check is available, but it’s so much more convenient to have problem words highlighted as you type. I’d also like to see an "Ignore All" button, in case I don’t want to teach the spell checker a word that appears repeatedly in a post. And it would be great if it would recognize and skip URLs and HTML/BBCode tags. I get really tired of hitting "Ignore" on things like href and http, but I don’t want add them to the dictionary in case I accidentally type them in the body of a post.

2. Apt and Yum repositories for Linux. Opera’s Linux offerings break down to about half a dozen binaries, which are available in 3 forms: .rpm, .deb, and tar.gz. Opera doesn’t have to provide a separate repository for each distribution, just one yum repo for each .rpm, and one apt repo for each .deb. Once the user installs the repository, the OS’s own update system will be able to take care of updating Opera. (As an example, see what Adobe has started doing with its yum repository for Flash.)

3. Delete all cookies on close with site-specific exceptions. I’ve given up trying to figure out what overrides what in Opera’s cookie settings. What I’d like to do is just wipe everything on exit, with a list of sites that are allowed to keep cookies across sessions. Firefox does this with the "Keep until… I close Firefox" setting. I can sort of manage it in Opera by telling it to delete all new cookies when exiting, but it’s more of a pain to add a new site. Instead of just adding it to the list of exceptions, I have to disable the option, log in to the site, then re-enable it. And that’s assuming the site doesn’t have to update the cookie later on.

4. Experimental CSS3 properties, especially box-shadow and border-radius. I know Opera 9.5 is supposed to have a bunch of CSS3 capabilities, but so far they’ve been cagey on just what’s on the list.

5. Wii emulator mode for the desktop version. I’m not likely to pick up a Wii, but I’d like to make sure my websites look right. Small-screen rendering is great for simulating mobile devices, and the Opera Mini simulator takes care of that platform, but I can only go on descriptions for the Wii version.

I’m not big on the whole tagging thing, so I won’t tag anyone else. (Besides, most of the people I could think of have probably already posted by now.)

*This post originally appeared on Confessions of a Web Developer, my blog at the My Opera community.