20 cool things you didn't know Twitter could do

Daily brainteasers in 140 characters or fewer. You can hit Google, but you won't get in first if you do...

Twitter isn't just about telling the world what you had for lunch, any more than the phone is just a way of calling Mum.

It's a communications platform in its own right now, and you can do amazing things with those 140 characters – automatically generating content, serving up data on demand, sharing photos and much more.

But what if you're not feeling inspired? We've gathered together some projects people have put together through the medium of Twitter. Some are funny, some are useful and some are plain odd – but all are more interesting than a simple status update.

1. Read (or write) a book

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." One of the best known lines in all of literature, and there's still 89 characters left. Twitter novels are served up in bite-size portions, and you don't need any special software to do one yourself – just a manuscript and the ability to copy and paste.

Get an intriguing introduction to a book by signing up for nothing but first lines at www.twitterlit.com, or if you fancy getting involved with an original Twitter story, check out www.wetellstories.co.uk.

Some people have found another slant on the idea of Twitter books by serialising existing diaries. You can sign up for daily time-shifted entries from the likes of John Quincy Adams and a farm girl from 1937 and watch their lives unfold in quasi real-time.

2. Track the weather

As the winter chill froze the country earlier this year, many people were tweeting messages like 'BA1 8/10 #uksnow'. What was that? It was a collaborative weather map, found here, that harnessed Twitter's power to keep track of the UK's current snow conditions.

With everyone knowing that 2/10 meant 'a few flakes' and anything over 7/10 translated as 'blizzard', the map built up piece by piece as more and more people tweeted, giving a realtime picture of which areas in the UK were experiencing snow.

It may not have been entirely accurate, but neither was the official weather forecast, and this at least had the advantage of being interactive.

3. Kick the habit

Any diet or attempt to break an addiction benefits from keeping notes on your progress, and Twitter offers an easy way of reinforcing good behaviour. Get into the habit of tweeting important information on what you're doing, and sneaking that chocolate bar/cigarette/entire black forest gateau becomes a much more public affair.

Having an electronic copy of your intake also makes it much easier to work out how well you're doing, especially if you need to count calories.

For dieting, there's Tweet What You Eat and for smokers there's Qwitter. Compulsive autotweeters may want to avoid these services, though: the only real hope for such Twitter addicts is for someone to sneak in and cut their internet connection.

4. Expand your brain

Twrivia is a daily Twitter-based trivia quiz. Follow @twrivia to receive a trivia question every day; each one is preceded by a 15-minute warning. The first five people to answer the question correctly score more points.

There aren't any prizes – it's all about climbing the leaderboard and the fun of challenging your brain with a good trivia question.

5. Change the world

As anyone who's seen a hashtag spreading out and reaching people all across the world knows, Twitter excels at generating memes. Why not try putting that to good use by creating a Twitter-based petition?


With Act.ly, you can pass around a URL and let people register their support in seconds. It won't have the weight of a full postal campaign, but it should still work as a way of politely registering opposition to something you're concerned about.

6. Monitor your friends

The dubious story of a best man rigging a newlywed couple's bed with a weight monitor and tweeting their bedtime activities complete with stats on duration and frenzy may have rung every BS alarm ever created, but there's no reason it couldn't be done.

Read the story and its claimed ending at www.twitter.com/newlywedsontjob. If you're unconvinced, why not break out a soldering iron and build something similar?

7. Become a spy/gangster/assassin

OK, not literally. MI5, Don Corleone and the Hashshashin may be on Twitter, but we don't have their usernames. Instead, we're talking about social games.


Spymaster was the first game to make it big, with 140 Mafia and SNODS (currently offline) following later. These games add a fictional layer to your existing contacts, which isn't always popular with the people following you.

8. Give your household appliances a voice

Plants that tweet at you when they're thirsty? Doable – www.botanicalls.com. Toasters that report when the toast is done? Old news – www.bit.ly/dvX2ug.

While the idea may sound silly, these ideas are a great example of Twitter moving beyond messaging. If you fancy doing something like this, you can even set up your appliance's account to send you text messages.

plant twitter

This means you don't need to be at your PC to see what requires your attention, so the whole system should fit right into your daily life and existing phone systems. Handy!

9. Warn your loved ones

When disaster strikes, Twitter is becoming a vital communications system – as we've seen during the earthquakes in Haiti and the shootings in Mumbai. It's also been used to warn friends about arrests in other countries and to get help to the top of a mountain. Might it save your life someday?

10. Kick up a fuss

Twitter has the world's attention right now, and word spreads fast. If you're a celebrity, it's the perfect unfiltered platform, as film director Kevin Smith demonstrated when he complained about Southwest Air kicking him off a flight because of his weight.

But the great thing about Twitter is that it doesn't just give famous faces a chance to air their grievances to a wide audience – we all have a shot too.

London blogger Robert Loch's complaints about one club caught the attention of the tabloids, and stationery company Paperchase found itself in trouble after one artist found their work being used without permission and posted about it on the site.