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For being a supposedly simple application, it is taking me some time to figure out the various features of Twitter.  The one I’ve had the most difficulty with is the @Reply.  The basis of Twitter is to answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less.  These are called tweets.  When you sign up for Twitter, you get a Profile page that allows you to see all of your tweets.  (Here’s my Profile page.  You can decorate the background with your own photos, like I’ve done.)

Being as how it’s no fun to tweet at yourself (okay, maybe it is a little fun), Twitter allows you to follow other people’s tweets and it gives you a way to send other people tweets, or to reply to the tweets of others.  This is where the @Reply comes in.  When you want to send someone a tweet that shows up publicly, you use the @ symbol, followed by the person’s profile name in the Twitter box and then type your message.  The @ and profile name count toward your 140 character limit.  The @Reply shows up in your Home window, where you can see both your tweets and the tweets of those you are following.  It also shows up in the @Reply box of the person you’ve @Replied to.

This last bit of info was something I didn’t catch onto right away, but worked out after following Dave Matthews’ Twitter Profile page.  I sent a few @Replies his way, but they didn’t appear on his public Profile page.  Instead, I was seeing his @Replies to other Twitterers.  I noticed that I had an @Reply link in the sidebar of my Twitter Home page, where I could see my @Replies, plus those others had sent me.  After thinking about this for a while, I realized that giving each person an @Reply page and not allowing every @Reply to show up on a person’s Profile page was a wise move.  Dave has 8,864 (and counting) followers, which would make for a ton of @Replies on his Profile page, a situation that would rapidly get overwhelming.  In case you’re wondering, you can’t see another Twitterer’s @Reply page.

Aside from sending a direct @Reply to another Twitterer, you can also reply directly to a person’s tweet.  On the right-hand side of each tweet on a Twitter Home page are two icons that can’t be seen until you hover over them.  The top icon is a star, which allows you to save a tweet to your Favorites page.  The bottom icon is a curved arrow that looks like it’s peering over its back.  Clicking this arrow allows you to reply directly to a particular tweet.  It will automatically put @ plus the the respondent’s name in the tweet box.  Then you can type your reply.

When I used the curved arrow to reply back to a specific tweet, at first I didn’t know how the respondent would know which tweet I was replying to.  I believed some of my replies might be too cryptic to figure out, so I’d be sure to make a reference in my reply that made the original tweet apparent.  I finally discovered, thanks once again to Dave Matthews’ Profile page, how to find the original tweet within an @Reply tweet.  If you look at the very end of an @Reply tweet, you’ll find the words “in reply to [profile name]”.  This is a link and if you click it, you will find yourself on a page that contains the original tweet.  Sweet, huh?

Twitter’s FAQ and @Reply help pages don’t discuss any of this, so hopefully this explanation keeps you from having to randomly happen upon these features.

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