The Twitter Book, by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein


Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein are two of my favorite tweeters, and they've just written The Twitter Book, a pleasingly-designed 240-page guide to making the most out of Twitter. The hard copy won't be out for a little while, but you can buy the PDF right now for $15.99. As Cory says on the cover blurb, "This book delivers a bunch of sensible, down-to-earth material on using and enjoying Twitter.: I couldn't agree more.

This colorful guide will teach you everything you need to know to quickly become a Twitter power user, including strategies and tactics for using Twitter's 140-character messages as a serious--and effective--way to boost your business. Co-written by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein, widely followed and highly respected Twitterers, the practical information in The Twitter Book is presented in a fun, full-color format that's packed with helpful examples and clear explanations.
The Twitter Book, by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein


  1. I don’t mean any disrespect here, but isn’t this book rather pointless (at least at $16 for a PDF)? I and most of my friends ignore businesses trying to contact us, and followbots are nothing more than spam.

    Also: what do you need to know about using twitter other than “be nice, say interesting things, keep it short?”

  2. I have to agree with Phil- and I need to be snarky while I am doing so.

    This is an excellent sign that either:

    The masses don’t deserve technology because a one-trick pony like Twitter requires 240 pages of instruction.


    Tim doesn’t have enough money yet…

    I am sure the Burger King cross-marketing happy meal toys are not far behind.

  3. Here comes the avalanche of Twitter books. David Pogue just announced his new Twitter book, being written by tweeple while he asks questions.

    Isn’t print dead?

    Also, Twitter is changing so quickly, that any book will be very out of date. Having a PDF file now just doesn’t interest me.

    Although maybe a book talking about real-world business uses of Twitter might be something people will pay for.

    Any book agents out there, please contact me!

  4. I hope that they wrote their 240 pages of advice 140 characters at a time.

    (240 pages of advice? About Twitter? Man, I’m glad they didn’t try to write the manual for Microsoft Word or something)

  5. @jalvear: There’s still a significant market for print books of this kind, but as you suggest, it takes some work to keep them relevant. So we’re doing an interesting print experiment with this book. In addition to offering it as a PDF and eBook (both easily updateable), we wrote the book in a way that will let us make changes with each reprint (i.e., every couple of months, which is about the speed at which Twitter is changing).

    Also, every page of the book shows a real-world example, and about half are businesses uses.

    @angusm: I was an O’Reilly editor for a number of years; my longest book was “Excel: The Missing Manual.” 768 pages. :)

  6. I too think that a Twitter Book is a bit of a strange concept. What is there to learn that you cannot learn in 20 minutes by just poking around on Twitter? It reminds me of this:

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything everyone above has written.

  7. If anyone should write a book about Twitter it should be Xeni: it sure would be more than just a howto-tip-n-tricks-easter-eggs collection. It would have some real insight and a bit of reflection.

  8. “…quickly become a Twitter power user, including strategies and tactics for using Twitter’s 140-character messages as a serious–and effective–way to boost your business.”

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  9. I think Tim’s time and energy would have been better spent teaching someone how to hold a camera steady. WTH?

  10. Oh come on, don’t be naiive: it’s the app du jour and anyone who can will try to pull some gravy off the latest bandwagon as it trundles by.

    If publishers levelled a deal-breaking “what’s the point?” at every bandwagon-jumping book that was pitched, not only would bookshops would be less full, but publishers would be less busy and the hapless punters who just sit around waiting to be bilked out the next $/£/€15.99 would have a few bob left in their pockets for no good reason.

  11. @last, the needless knowledge I didn’t think I needed. It better be under 140 characters in length. #pointless

  12. OK, this running joke about Twitter is getting a bit old.

    It is a joke, right? Please tell me it’s a joke.

  13. Well, I for one could use it. I spent a good chunk of time in the Coop today looking for a Twitter book and there was zilch. So thanks to the authors!

  14. Great, so now I’ll have even more followbots and multi level/pyramid scheme idiots to block.

  15. When I wrote my book on streaming media back in 1998, I knew it would be instantly out of date. It took about 4 months to write it, and by the time it was out in print the market changed dramatically.

    So I think every tech publisher/author has to deal with freshness. I like the idea of updating the PDF copy, however still not sure if I would buy the book.

    Maybe there should be a Twitter for Dummies book.

  16. Look, I don’t mean to be too big a jerk about it, but come on, 240 pages for a medium that only allows 140 character messages, and to be readable some portion of those characters are white space (UnlessYouWantToCamelCapAllYourWordsButThatGetsAnnoyingFast,EspeciallyOnAMobileDeviceLikeAnIphoneOrTheGoogleAndroidOneWhichSeemsQuitePopularAmongTheTwitterCognescenti – but of course, that line is too long for twitter ;^).

    Since Twitter is English-mainly (it doesn’t support Unicode does it, if it did, that would take you down to what, 35-70 characters max in your message? I am woefully ignorant of Unicode, but my 5 seconds of research on Wikipedia shows be that non-ASCII characters can occupy up to 4 bytes…), that means the sum total of all possible messages is actually quite finite (though certainly large). I just did a “twitter unicode” google search and turned up this poor fellow’s site, which leads me to believe Twitter does support unicode.

    If you ran every possible “tweet” through a “l33t” spell checker, you could randomly generate all possible tweets. An act that I would have thought would produce less than 240 pages if you printed out every possible “valid” tweet…

    In all honesty, this is a book has probaly a dozen pages (max) about actually using Twitter, and over 200 pages on e-Marketing, e-Advocacy, e-Communicating, e-etc., and that’s OK – but it is fun to poke fun at the heft of the book vs. the technology being covered.

    I don’t know, something about talking about Twitter makes me compelled to write run-on sentences…

  17. JALVEAR – I recently saw an O’Reilly book that was about half empty (by design!). It is their “Up-to-Date” series, and here is the book I found – Essential Silverlight 2 Up-to-Date.

    That struck as a very “ants-in-my-pants” way of dealing with the short shelf-life of tech books, and I don’t think I’d buy a book like that…

  18. should have been 140 pages, each of 140 characters, with at least one page saying: don’t join in #followfriday!!!!!

  19. Not to be negative or anything but I did the mistake in the beginning to follow one “telemarketer” spammer back and all of the sudden I had tons of the same people following me. Me beeing nosy I started to try to understand what they are on about – guess what? They ALL had an ebook ready on how to make money on twitter – that was one-two month ago – I have since unfollowed most of them – occasionally I a newb spammer that I can not identify as such right from the beginning (and me beeing a nice person follows back most people that follow me as I understand that is how twitter should work and that how the playing field is leveled and not some “stars” are born again that twist the balance like in old media or nowadays in blogs) pops up and the first thing they do is “write a book about how to make money on twitter or grow your business” so tim must bleed for money to sink so low as to go where the modern spammers and scammers are.
    Seriously – twitter is easy – just be nice – follow back – engage in conversations – answer question if you feel you can contribute – other then that use the medium – try things out – experiment – its the internet you can do hardly wrong – if you do it will be forgotten in less then 140 minutes.

  20. Oh come on, you all are just jealous that it wasn’t you who thought about writing this book. You have to have a special talent to write 240 pages about something tinny like Twitter. I can think only about Leo Tolstoy. :)

  21. Elements of Style by Strunk and White, guidebook for writing anything in English. 92 pages.

    The Twitter Book by O’Reilly and Milstein, guidebook for writing freeform haikus up to 140 char each instance. 240 pages.

    Go figure.

  22. What I really need is a $16 PDF book about how to use Twitter.

    I can print it out and mail it to my mom so that she can share it with her friends.

    A couple weeks later there would be a handful of tweets popping up around town, pretty much along the lines of:

    “how do i know if this is working? please tweet me back Anne if you can see this, sincerely Delores”

  23. After seeing this discussion, I now have a much lower opinion of the BoingBoing community than I once did. Are you guys really so prescient that you can have such strong opinions about something you’ve never seen?

    Yes, twitter itself is simple, but there are now hundreds, if not thousands of useful third-party applications and sites. And quite frankly, even standard features, like search, can be used with far more power than most people do. (I remember a talk that John Battelle once gave about Google, in which he pointed out that quotes are a power search feature beyond most people.)

    We’ll be putting some sample spreads up soon, and then you can decide for yourselves, with some information, rather than knee-jerk bloviating.

    If someone sees the book, and still has a bad opinion, I’m all for hearing it. But sharing opinions without knowledge – that’s merely sharing your prejudices.

    1. But sharing opinions without knowledge – that’s merely sharing your prejudices.

      Not to mention a concise definition of internet culture.

  24. 24 tweets

    24. Yeah, I went there to check it out, signed up, sat back, and waited. Within a day I had almost 50 followers even though I hadn’t twitted
    23. once. Every time I started something it ran too long, as I often do, and being an adherent to the beginning, middle, and ending theory of
    22. writing, I found no way of communicating I was happy with. I live with the dreaded red negative number outside the Twitter box. I
    21. considered posting cutesy sayings like “The early worm gets eaten by the bird.” Aren’t you glad I didn’t? I’m certainly not going to bother
    20. anyone with what I’m actually doing right now. I’m typing, obviously, and anyone who disagrees can meet me outside. But there’s a larger
    19. issue at stake here as social networks continue to take over our lives. If there were just one place, I could deal with it, but having to bop back
    18. and forth between Facebook and MySpace and Plaxo and Blogger and Skype and Twitter is just too fucking much. I’d rather not know
    17. anybody than have to face the mountain of blather, and I don’t mean you personally. All your postings are succinct and precise. You’re a
    16. genius. I’m talking about all that other crap out there. What am I doing? Right now? Twitter, do you really want to know? Wading through
    15. crap. That’s all I do. This is my first and last twit, though it may go on for a while. I say if you want to believe in evolution, just take a look at
    14. the human mind today compared to 20 years ago. Today, our PCs are an extension of our brains, which are intricately connected to everyone
    13. else’s brain. 20 years ago, if you wanted to be published, you had to find an editor at a publishing house or newspaper or magazine to reach
    12. an audience. Now all you need is a library card. The death of newspapers has less to do with Craig’s List and more to do with the death of the
    11. job of editor. In the reader’s quest for the uncensored and thoroughly enlightened version of whatever it is we like, we just Google and find it,
    10. whatever it is we’re looking for, it’s there, in abundance. We don’t need no stinking editor. Fuck editors, always telling you what they think
    9. you should read. We cut out the middleman and mainline the pure stuff. Like a sculptor who dreams of giant bronze statues, writers dream of
    8. expanding their horizons, moving from words, lots of words, to actual sentences that say something, upward to paragraphs that expand upon
    7. your every thought, adding up to complete pieces with themes that bind it all together, more than words and sentences and paragraphs, a
    6. fluidity of thought that leads to the novel, the final experiment for any budding wordsmith. The evolution of the writer is the constant
    5. expansion of your ability to string it along in a larger and larger forum where everything has a coherency that fulfills the reader’s desire for
    4. meaning, which is all we’re really looking for. Twitter is the opposite of that. Now that writers are personally involved with their readers,
    3. skipping the editor and the publisher, the words flowing directly from one computer to another, the job of middleman has become purely
    2. technological. What else is Twitter but a big bad editor telling you how many words you can use, so fuck Twitter too. I only write to size if
    1. someone is paying me. It costs to shut me up. Faced with Twitter, Charles Dickens would have a coronary. 140 characters? Bite me.

  25. not exactly: I’m only here to have my prejudices confirmed, I don’t care if any share them. Hum.

  26. Doug, Son of Vonnegut (not really wrote:

    A couple weeks later there would be a handful of tweets popping up around town, pretty much along the lines of:

    “how do i know if this is working? please tweet me back Anne if you can see this, sincerely Delores”

    It’s like the ’70s all over again:

    “Breaker one-nine for a radio check!

  27. timoreilly, April 25, 2009 8:30 AM wrote:

    We’ll be putting some sample spreads up soon, and then you can decide for yourselves, with some information, rather than knee-jerk bloviating.

    Um, what? Mark posted this at a time of his choosing. Is it the fault of the commenters (or ‘bloviators’, if you insist) that there is, as yet, nothing of substance to comment upon?

    Would you have been happier if everyone had just ignored the post, moved on and remembered to come back and comment after the pdf is actually available?

    And rather than apologize for the thing not being ready for prime time, you decide to come on here and insult this fine, upstanding Boing Boing community of commenters?

    As a certain Mr. Olbermann might say: “How DARE you, sir!”

  28. I’m surprised at how quickly everyone is jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

    News programmes aimed at older people, radio stations, newspapers – it seems that not only is information / communication tech expanding, but the speed at which it hits the mainstream is increasing, too.

    Considering how long it took facebook to invade everyone’s lives (and I mean almost literally everyone), the Twittolution (or whatever crap buzzword you want to use) is occuring at an alarming rate.

  29. TIMORELLY said:

    If someone sees the book, and still has a bad opinion, I’m all for hearing it. But sharing opinions without knowledge – that’s merely sharing your prejudices.

    I stand by my observation (not bloviation, almost a defense) that the majority of the book will likely be about general topics and discuss briefly how those areas are capable of being “twitter-ified”.

    (I remember working for a big consulting firm at the tail-end of the Napster-fiasco, and the best ideas everyone had involved the “Napster-ization” of their favorite pet industry, proving that sometimes the best idea in the room actually is to simply string together buzz words and call it a business plan!)

    Like a proud parent, I would expect Tim to want to defend his latest effort, but I am also suprised that he decided to personalize the discussion and respond here…

    Now, can I get him to respond to my “ants in the pants” comment above about his “up-to-date” series of books? ( Timothy Hutton, April 24, 2009 5:45 PM )

  30. The SMS character set has 128 chars.

    128 ^ 140 ~= 10^295
    The approx. number of possible tweets.

    I don’t think your spell checker is going to generate all those any time too soon.

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