Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Twestival-goers meet face-to-face

By Julie Broadfoot
BBC Scotland

On 12 February, fans of social media website Twitter partied at nearly 200 venues worldwide in aid of Charity:Water.

Edinburgh Twestival
The Twestival gathering created a warm, friendly, trusting atmosphere
Edinburgh's Twestival at Hawke and Hunter attracted about 250 people for live music and some intriguing interactivity.

Twitter is a rapidly growing network of micro-bloggers who post updates (tweets) online using only 140 characters.

It provides instant interaction between friends, colleagues, associates and celebrities. There are no social barriers.

Phillip Schofield (@schofe) and Chris Moyles (@chrisdjmoyles) are the latest showbiz Twitterers and their exposure has drawn in thousands of newcomers, and masses of media attention over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, old school Twitter enthusiasts across the world were organising Twestivals to raise the profile of their charity.

Big screen

Web entrepreneur Jim Wolff (@jimwolffman) answered the tweet to start the Edinburgh event after a one-off London Twestival attracted about 200 people, and pulled everything together in about a month.

Some of us feared we'd be surrounded by quiet geeks in corners, tweeting from their iPhones.

Instead, we found a warm, trusting atmosphere, and a great crowd of friendly individuals. Name badges displayed Twitter usernames; real names were neither here nor there.

Edinburgh Twestival
Music act Plum said the Twestival momentum has just kept going
Edtwestival-related tweets were farmed from the web and projected onto a big screen - watching my @BBCScot updates appear was initially surreal but soon the screen became the room's natural hub.

Some clever wizardry allowed everyone to track who'd met whom at the event and there was excited talk of trending but there was no geek snobbery if this failed to enthuse you.

Most people wanted to put faces to names they see on their monitors every day but some had signed up to Twitter just to join in the party.

Contemporary cellist Peter Gregson, 22, (@petergregson) was the first to take to the stage and admitted his mum joined Twitter to attend the evening. He's found social networking invaluable for his career.

He encourages interaction interfaces at concerts, lets bloggers rather than press promote his work, and his use of Twitter and Facebook helped him win the Spirit of Scotland Award 2008.

He said: "People say more interesting things when they're limited to 140 characters. Twitter allows a constant connection with the audience and some users can reach more followers than the press."

Edinburgh Twestival
Best dressed winners Andrew Neil(@nelstrom) and Mags McGeever (@smiledancelove)
Aberdonian Pete Cashmore is a good example. In San Francisco he goes by the mantle @mashable, and has become a social media legend, reaching more than 77,000 fascinated followers every day.

Plum (@plumtunes) is 27, and signed up to Twitter after agreeing to perform her acoustic electronica at Edtwestival.

Since then she's heard about it everywhere she's been! She observed that once started on something like this, it's impossible to pull the plug.

Edtwestival's best dressed female, Mags McGeever, 30, is a life and business coach.

She started on Twitter for work but now uses it simply for enjoyment. She ventured along just to have a new experience and loved it.

Some people still don't 'get' Twitter but its interactivity has become fundamental to some people's lives.

Host Ewan Spence (@ewanspence) put it well: "I just use it in the same way someone uses e-mail. It's like 10 years ago when someone would ask 'what do you use e-mail for?'. Humans love to tell stories and interact wth other humans."

It was satisfying to know that as the doors close on Edtwestival, Twitter fans were just starting to celebrate in the States.

The event surpassed everyone's expectations and raised about 3,500. Let's hope the Twitter fad hangs around long enough for many more Twestivals!

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