Road Trip – Days 4-8 (Joplin, MO; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Rochester, NY; Pittsburgh, PA)

23 12 2010

I suppose this would have been way more effective had I actually reported this as it was happening, but it somewhat seems appropriate to revisit this road trip four months later as I will be taking the return trip back to California tomorrow. Although this time around, it will only be from Dallas to California.

I distinctly remember leaving Dallas much later than I planned and driving through the night as far as possible through Oklahoma. Boy was it dark as hell with bright beaming lights darting at me on the opposite side with every turn of the road. I had horrible images of the worst things that could happen…like my car breaking down at 3 am and crazies coming out of the wild to attack us. Paranoia hit when a police car was following me until I finally won that game of cat and mouse. Enough was enough when my droopy eyelids could stand it no more. I finally pulled into a Days Inn at 5 am in Joplin, Missouri. This was of course AFTER making a few stops to check prices at other hotels (Mama taught me well). My co-driver was out cold until I parked the car in front of the bright lobby. The cheerful woman behind the desk thankfully made the process as painless as possible and the lobby actually looked quite welcoming. No continental breakfast? No problem! Waffle House was next door and was my incentive to wake up in a few hours.

Breakfast with our green Starbucks mugs

Waffle House in Joplin, MO

Unfortunately, when we did arrive to breakfast hours later, we were greeted with thick smoke and thick accents! If I could pinpoint any city during my whole road trip as being as far from my San Diegan life as possible, it’d be Joplin. Who knew that restaurants STILL allowed smoking in restaurants?! Literally right at the counter blowing smoke into the cooks’ area (if you’ve never been to a Waffle House, the entire restaurant is usually visible from all corners, so we’re talking open floor plan here). I was so shocked. Needless to say, we stayed as our hungry bellies overruled our lungs. We ordered our simple breakfasts and took a seat at the run-down bar sandwiched between two elderly folks both smoking cigarettes. Every corner there was a smoker, an old one. We were the only colored people. I seriously had to stop for a second and wonder if we went back in time. A booth opened up in the back where we quickly relocated from the chatty smokers, though the air was not any better. Our friendly waitress came around and served us our lovely jalapeno-smothered hash browns, pancakes, and eggs. We had carried our nifty green Starbucks mugs in with us to fill with water for the road, but little did we know, these were a rarity in Joplin! Well, to our waitress at least, who innocently asked with a gaping smile revealing her missing teeth:

“Where’d you get them cups? They cool!”

“Umm, we got them at Starbucks!”

“Oh you don’t say! I’ve never been inside one of those before…just the drive-thru!”

We smiled politely telling her how convenient they are, but not sure whether or not we’d appear too pretentious. She let us carry on as we finish our breakfasts, we said goodbye to the chatty regulars, and dashed out of the building for a gasp of fresh air.

Chicago from a view!

Later that night, Day 5, we arrived in Chicago, IL. Hugging the lake shore tightly, we found our destination: a friend’s downtown high-rise condo. Breathtaking views of the beautifully lit city and skyline at an incredible elevation (thank you so much Katelyn and Bill for putting us up — we are thankful till this day!). We were able to have one of the best meals of the trip at an Italian tapas restaurant, Quartino’s. Loved the bustling atmosphere, the wine, the waiter…everything was just so welcoming and perfect! We decided to make it a low-key night in and coincidentally watched the prequel to the movie we saw in Dallas, “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” While it was just as action packed as its sequel, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” I have to say the latter was filled with more…how do I say…girl kickassery?! (Note: the original title of this Swedish film translates to “Men Who Hate Women”) It was a solid night overall and we were well-rested to continue our trip the next day.

Gino's Deep Dish Pizza

Wicker Park

After sight-seeing a bit down by the Navy Pier, we let food dominate our day and followed our taste buds to Gino’s East Pizza — best deep dish pizza ever, hands down! Shortly after window shopping, we asked some locals what spots to check out from which we headed to Wicker Park to grab some refreshing watermelon drinks and fresh guacamole. Content with our meals, we pack up and hit the road again. Destination: Detroit, MI. A cool 5 hours later, we arrived in rainy Detroit, but at least to a place that felt closer to home, specifically, my co-driver’s cousin’s house. After hanging out with the kids, shooting some pool, and carelessly dancing and singing along to old-school Laotian karaoke songs in a living room, we crashed for the night only to realize we stayed up way too late and could not continue our road trip the next day due to built-up exhaustion. We responsibly took the “day off” (Day 6) and spent a second night in Detroit to recuperate, but at Thip’s aunt’s house this time. Wise decision as we were able to get a full night’s rest, plus got treated to dim sum and pho. What can we say…we like to eat!

Garbage Plate

Day 7, we finally arrived in Rochester, NY, my home for 23 years since birth. It was bittersweet dropping off my co-driver and friend, but we made seven days of memories to last us a lifetime! While in Rochester, I was able to catch up with a professor, some friends, and spend some quality time with my nieces and sister’s family. It’s strange being in Rochester…you hate it yet kind of feel this comfort in a way too. The clouds, the small highways, potholes, Tahou’s garbage plates, MacGregor’s with its 70+ beers on tap. Man, it was all I knew for quite some time but it’s just one of those cities where you feel destined to escape in search of more. Better weather, better jobs, more night life, lower crime rate, more intelligent people, etc. Regardless of the nostalgia, I always snap back to it and a couple days is all I need to remind myself of why I left in the first place.

Downtown Pittsburgh and that famous yellow bridge

Day 8: off to Pittsburgh where a new home awaited me! While I knew Pittsburgh wasn’t anything glamorous, I was not ready for the even worse roads and industrial landscapes “Stillers” town had to offer. I was surprised to see so many bridges too. Not to mention, my GPS was definitely off with the way the exits were renumbered. I just reminded myself though, if I could bear Rochester for 23 years, then one semester in Pitt would be nothing. Plus, I was there to study, not to live permanently. Little did I know, I left with a wealth of knowledge, an incredible experience meeting so many driven and talented folks, and even kept my appetite satisfied! Pittsburgh: while I will probably never call you my permanent home, it’s been fun but I’m glad I left before the real winter hit. More on my academic and Pittsburgh adventures soon.


Road Trip – Day 3 (Dallas)

9 08 2010

Dallas skyline

Dallas was awesome as always. We arrived late Saturday night hoping to surprise my sister and her husband by using FaceTime on Thip’s new iPhone 4 but instead, sat in their driveway for 20 minutes waiting for a signal and texting them questions about their wifi network. Epic fail. Worse off, we were so late to the sushi restaurant they planned on taking us to that they were no longer serving. We decided to settle for mediocre sushi in a different part of town, until we stumbled across an even better sushi restaurant thanks to the UrbanSpoon app! Teppo sushi had delicious, fresh sushi and…a bidet! Definitely was my first time using one and I’m not sure if I like it, especially with warm water.

Teppo Sushi

Fresh sashimi!

Bidet in bathroom!

Moving on…Sunday was really our first chance to unwind for half a day. We started off with one of the best brunches ever at the Place at Perry’s known for its naturally raised Niman Ranch steaks. With our bellies happy and full, we ventured to Mockingbird Station to window shop and catch an Indie film at Angelika Film Center. We decided on “The Girl Who Played With Fire” – a suspenseful Swedish film about sex trafficking-related murders. Little did we know, we watched the prequel two days later in Chicago. Absolutely amazing movies.

The Place at Perry's

Prime Filet Benedict

Prime Filet Benedict

Angelika Film Center

Angelika Film Center

After we topped off on Pluckers wings and apps, we found ourselves packing up and heading off before we knew it. We left much later than anticipated and this time, did not reach our ambitious destination of St. Louis. 6 hours of driving in pitch black roads where semis are coming toward me with nothing but a yellow, double line separating us. Highways turned into local streets and then back to highways repeatedly. I was even sandwiched between two cop cars and then later followed by another. The accents of gas station attendants seemed to be getting thicker as we headed further north oddly. My lack of sleep was hitting me fast and the most horrible things came to mind of “crazies” that live in rural areas. I finally let my paranoia and tiredness get the best of me and settled for a hotel in Joplin, Missouri for some much needed rest.

Road trip – Day 1 and 2 (San Diego to Las Cruces to Dallas)

7 08 2010
Point Loma, San Diego

Point Loma, San Diego

“I’m so sorry, but I really gotta go again. Nothing came out the first time.” After hearing that from my co-driver, I knew it would be a while until we actually hit the road. Two bathroom trips at Starbucks later, we then had to stop for Immodium. Might as well throw in an air freshener too. For the gas…oline that is. Boy did that spare gas in the trunk get bothersome fast! I’m sure we got somewhat high from that.

6:30 pm we finally start the long drive on Interstate Highway 8-East to El Centro. Although it was late, I was determined to get through the mountains before sunset and hopefully skip all the hotel benchmarks I had planned for backup and just get to our hotel reservation in Las Cruces, NM. At the rate we were going, we were looking at an ETA of 4:20 am PDT. Good thing I was heavily buzzed on caffeine. The mountain driving was over before we knew it and well before sunset thankfully as there were no lights, no signal on our phones, and no gas stations. Surprisingly, many people were on the road though so it didn’t feel so lonesome.

The Thip & Syp duo!

The Thip & Syp duo!

Abandoned gas station

Abandoned gas station

One of many semis

One of many semis

The stretch to New Mexico is really just barren nothingness as I imagine much of this trip to be until we reach the bigger cities. We peed in empty gas station lots. Got stopped at two border patrol checkpoints with dogs that sniffed our car and asked if we were citizens. Drove into a crazy swarm of bugs that stretched for miles; it felt like we were driving through a quiet hail storm. At our first gas stop, we immediately noticed how hot it was even at night! It felt as if a hair dryer was blowing all over my body. As we drove along 10-East, we began noticing bursts of light in the far distance and in between the bushes. We weren’t sure if we were just seeing things. Fireworks? Little men shooting in bushes? Sure enough, we were surrounded by lightning on all sides. No rain, just mother nature doing its thing. Two hours later, rain. Awesome. By 2 am, I could feel my eyes straining and my arm twitching, yet I was still dancing in my seat while my co-driver was fast asleep. During the last two hours, I pushed to 100 mph until we finally got to Las Cruces at 5:00 am MDT, 20 minutes ahead of schedule. All we wanted was a bed at that point but of course Murphy’s Law didn’t pass up this opportunity. Our receptionist, an old-fashioned, chatty fellow thought we were no-shows and had to figure out how to “re-instate” the reservation as it had been a while since he last had to. I refrained from ripping his head off. After receiving the key and heading to the car, we get chased after to sign a different paper because I was given the wrong one to sign. After all mistakes were corrected, we arrive at our room and crash for what seemed like an hour.

Day 2, we switched off driving and experienced even more desert and nothingness. Fast forward 9 hours and here we are in Dallas!

Pedal to the metal!

Pedal to the metal!

7 Cities in 7 Days!!

6 08 2010

Today I begin my week long road trip across the country! Just soaked up the last of the ocean with my co-driver and filled our bellies with carne asada fries. After several flight delays and 6 hours behind schedule, we will attempt to reach our first destination in Las Cruces, NM. Till then…stay classy San Diego!

25 and Renewed: From Quarter Life Crisis to My Next Chapter

18 07 2010

From GMATs back in March 2009 to July 2010, much has changed in the Syposphere!  If you’d like to skip all the details, I suggest you scroll down to the TLDR — Too Long; Didn’t Read — section.  Proceeding…

2010 has been a big year for my fellow high school classmates — the year most of us turn(ed) 25. I’ve wished countless Happy 25th Birthdays on Facebook and received my share of quarter-century birthday love last month.  Frankly, it’s been kind of weird. Not to be mistaken with “old” as I’m aware many of my friends who are past 25 are reading this! It’s true though: 25 is the year it hits you where you start to wonder, “Am I where I imagined I would be at this age?” When we were 21, it was fun and games still. Most of us were in college and knew our goal at the time was just to find a full-time job once we were out. But once you get past that, work for a few years, what’s next? We are at a point in our lives where we have so much freedom and unknowns, that it becomes frustrating. Restless almost as we’re continuously reflecting on whether we are heading in the right direction.

All of our lives we had a next step that was pretty clearly defined. From elementary, you move on to middle school, then off to high school with the big kids. Graduate and get a piece of paper. Find a job. Some of us got married, some went on to graduate school.  We start to branch off and truly have the freedom to decide nearly every aspect of our lives.  We ask and re-ask ourselves, “Am I happy and if not, what am I doing wrong?”  It can drive you up the wall because there really are no solid answers.  You begin to question your job, your career, relationships, friends, hobbies.  You can’t help but compare yourself to your peers because they’re not ranting on about their issues so they must be doing something right.  However, I’ve found that this has been fairly common among my peers and learned through reading the Quarter Life Crisis, that a majority of 20-some adults experience this anxiety, but they just don’t openly discuss it.  There are different degrees of it as well.  Calling it a “crisis” is a tad extreme, but it can certainly consume you.

I started feeling this way for almost a year.  Becoming antsy with my daily routine and really wondering what I have to do to say I love my job and I love my life.  While I don’t believe a job should define who you are, it is a huge part of life obviously since you’re spending more time at your job than home during the week, so you better damn well enjoy it or you’re in it for the long haul!  I see our 20s as an exploratory time where we live mainly for ourselves.  It’s time to be selfish and pursue those things you’ve always wanted to, especially those hobbies we are so passionate about (READ: Paul Graham’s “How to Do What You Love.”)  While we do have our day job to feed our mouths and provide a roof over our heads, there is plenty of time outside to devote at least an evening or two to get excited about something.  For me, it is dance.

This past year and a half has been such a re-defining year for me.  I didn’t ever think I would join a female dance group, attend dance class twice a week at a community college, try out at dance auditions, or even professionally perform in front of huge audiences.  It’s been a humbling and also very educational experience.  Pursuing this hobby as actively as I did was enough for me to get myself out of the emotional rut I was in to feel alive and happy enough to consider the different parts of my life with a level head.

I discovered that while dance makes me feel renewed, it is not a career I envisioned myself ending up in.  Dance scratches my creative itch.  It challenges my brain in such a way that software engineering just can’t even come close and of course, dance physically keeps me well.  However, I couldn’t fathom giving up the comforts of my life that I’ve worked so hard to earn: a steady paycheck and copious amounts of free time after work.  Not to mention, the prestige of working in the fairly respectable software development industry.  So if not dance and if not coding, then what?  Initially, I thought I would shift into the business side while still staying in a technical company, hence my GMAT pursuit.  Though after 8 months of serious introspection, I realized an MBA was not for me (at least not this early in my career).  This deserves a post on its own simply because I’ve repeatedly explained my point of view to those considering the MBA, but in a nutshell: MBAs were a thing of the 90s.  It does not hold the same value as it once has and quite frankly, I couldn’t see myself managing anything without a solid background in a certain discipline.  After all, don’t we naturally judge our own managers by their backgrounds and experience?  Why would any technical subordinate trust a 20-some that has only had two years of professional software experience and a degree that’s purely for networking?  What do I have to prove myself?  Sure, I could have pursued a corporate leadership development program, but at the end of it all, I’d gain knowledge very specific to the processes of one company.  Let’s face it: I was not looking to be a lifer in my current company, nor the defense industry.

Unlike many other professions, software engineers don’t require a professional exam or some kind of residency to prove you are capable and certified to perform on a job, so really all we have to rely on is a portfolio and hands-on past experience.  RIT co-ops were a great start, but not enough.  Eventually, I would like to work as an entrepreneur or at least a fairly young company and most startups will not hire a candidate without an incredible portfolio or proven experience.  I could try to teach myself the skills necessary to build a portfolio, but if I were to do this, I’d want to completely devote my attention to it and come out a rockstar.  Honestly, I don’t have that much self-discipline while working a full-time job.  So I sought a field and degree that still remained technical enough to keep my Computer Science background valuable but would allow me to tap into my creative juices.  Enter: Master’s Program in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at Carnegie Mellon University.  Let’s go down the checklist here:

  • Could potentially lead to a job where I can be more creative than I am now: CHECK!
  • Allows me to work with and learn from others with diverse backgrounds, both peers and experienced professors: CHECK!
  • Work with real clients on real hands-on projects that could result in an impressive portfolio: CHECK!
  • Offers enough change of scenery to keep things interesting (moving cross-country and across the world!) and a short enough investment period (1.5 years) that doesn’t lead me astray from my goal: CHECK!

It appeared to be the perfect program.  Plus, I was lucky to have been introduced to this program by a friend/ex-coworker of mine who quit his job to pursue this degree.  It couldn’t seem more attainable.  After vicariously living through my friend’s experience thus far, it became clear that it was the path I wanted to take.  Two GRE attempts later + countless drafts of my Statement of Purpose + nagging a professor to submit my last recommendation earned me a seat in Carnegie Mellon’s MHCI dual-degree program with the University of Madeira in Portugal.  It was official: I found my next step in life and naturally, it has felt like the right decision rather than trying to mold myself into a cookie cutter MBA student.  EUREKA!

TLDR: Life will take on a new chapter in the upcoming weeks. I will embark on a week-long cross-country road trip, a bucket-list item I can soon cross off. I will temporarily retire my software developer hat here in San Diego and hope to transition into becoming a designer after my graduate studies. And finally, I will leave behind all I’ve known in San Diego for a completely different lifestyle to renew myself as a student. It’s exciting, scary, and overwhelming all in one, but I am ready. My goodbyes are in queue and boxes are being packed. Time to look forward and embrace a new challenge!

* * * *

Not to get all “Chicken Soup for the Soul” on you, but I feel that every post should have some kind of takeaway.  Now that I’ve shed some light on my own life, I encourage those who have felt similar anxiety to really allow yourself time to understand who you truly are, minus the opinions of everyone in your life.  It took me about a year and I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely figure myself out, but obviously there is no defined time limit.  Proactively create new, exciting experiences for yourself.  You best believe opportunities won’t just come knocking.  Seeking and achieving even small feats that are not related to your end goal will help to empower yourself and can lead to accomplishing even bigger things.  Most importantly, don’t limit yourself unnecessarily.

Finally, I’ve included in this post inline links to recommended reads, but the following is a semi-complete list of literature that has inspired me to write this post. I hope they can be of help to others who have experienced similar anxiety (did I just turn into a Prozac commercial?!) :

GMAT Defeat

14 03 2009

I was defeated by the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) yesterday

It sucks to admit defeat when all your life, you’ve come out on top or close to it.   Sharing this with the world somehow makes me feel paranoid that some potential business school admissions officer is going to find this and judge me on it, but I think and hope it will at least help others who have been in my shoes or will be soon.

The wound is still fairly fresh; it’s been only about 12 hours since I had left the testing facility, yet the remaining adrenaline has continued to keep me restless.  Where was this energy when I was studying?!

Breakdown of a GMAT

For those unfamiliar with the format of the GMAT:  it’s about 3.5 hours long, consists of typing two analytic essays, a 75-minute quantitative section, and a 75-minute verbal section.  It’s also a CAT,  a Computer Adaptive Test, which gives you questions based on the success of your previous answer.  A correct answer will give you a harder question next and vice versa.  No skipping allowed and unanswered questions count against you.

The Testing Experience

I had been warned that timing is the biggest problem for students with the GMAT and my case is no different.  What really disappoints me is that I’ve practiced with timing and had never had as serious of an issue until it was the actual exam.  I was fairly content with the scores I had been averaging, but of course I was always aiming to improve (to at least around 700 out of 800, I was getting around mid-600s).  When I had completed the exam and dreadfully clicked to the next screen to reveal my score, I had never felt more like a failure.  Let’s just say I would be embarrassed to accept it as a final score for my application.  $250 down the drain.  Hours of studying wasted it felt.  Countless “Good luck” texts and lots of confidence instilled by my cohorts and here I sat feeling like I let them down.  I let myself down.

So what exactly happened?

While many have tried to console me by telling me that “everyone has their off-days” or “it’s ok, you were sick,” only I know the thoughts running through my head, my approach to the exam, and what I can do better next time.  I don’t attribute my poor performance to anything other than discipline.  I think it was a change in mindset, perhaps from the heightened pressurized environment.  Not exactly nerves that got to me as I had felt pretty calm about the entire thing going into it, but rather the extreme urge for me to succeed and that I was not going to take a wrong answer in my first five questions (it’s been advised to ensure that you do as best as possible on the first few questions to set you on the track to as high of a score as possible).  The essays, which technically do not count towards the score out of 800, were a breeze to me and I was feeling quite good about the whole exam.  Heck, I was even having fun writing them!

It completely turned around once I began the math section.  I quickly worked to solve question 1, yet none of my answers were even close to any of the answer choices given.  I double and triple-checked and couldn’t understand where I could’ve gone wrong.  At that point, on a practice exam, I probably would have just taken an educated guess and moved on, as I had always come into the practice thinking, “let’s just see where I’m at.”  Being that it was the real deal and was only the first question, I had harped over it for what seemed like an eternity.  I could not bring myself to guess as I knew the consequences of an incorrect answer would immediately set me on the lower path.  Especially being from a math-intensive background, I was frustrated that I let a math question get the best of me!  This had set me off timing-wise for the rest of the section and left me selecting random answers as the clock ticked to its last second.  Mind you, bubbling answers on a scantron sheet at the last second is completely different from selecting random answers on a computer, as there are three clicks before getting to the next question (answer choice, “Next”, “Confirm”).

In the verbal section, I had done much better with timing and felt confident I could raise my score since I had taken a practice verbal test right before my exam and scored in the 96th percentile, with time to spare.  So I told myself, “Take your time.”  Well somehow, I stuck a little too closely to my advice and instead of performing the same way I had in the practice, I noticed my time per question was quickly dwindling to the point where I did not even have a minute per question remaining!  It came down to once again, bubbling random answers, but this time leaving less questions unanswered at the end.

At last, the exam was done.  I stared blankly at the screen in utter disappointment in myself thinking, “how did I let this happen?!”  I was certain I could at least score what I normally do.  If you look back at my approach, I’m sure it’s easy to pick out exactly where I went wrong.  Statistically, I’ve been told that answering every question could make a difference of 100 points.

Looking Forward

I’ll admit, after receiving my score, I questioned my ability and whether this — pursuing an MBA — is what I wanted.  That’s when I started to ask myself, “Why do I need to do this anyway?!” ” With enough drive, isn’t anything possible in life?”  “Why should a school base their decision on how well I scored on this exam?”  But after I exhausted all the questions that came to mind, it only made me want to work harder, to prove myself, if not to anyone else, that I can do this.  I know I am not alone in having to re-take the GMAT.  Perhaps I needed this to set a fire under me and really work to get my ideal score.

My approach this time around though is that I won’t constrain myself to a test date.  Once I’ve been able to nail a solid score, I think I’ll schedule another exam and try it out again.  I had taken a prep course at USD, which was a good way to introduce me to the material, but for the amount of time spent in class, I think I would have benefited more from studying independently.  Studying techniques vary person to person, though I highly recommend purchasing the software on ($40 compared to a $1000 class!).

If you have taken the GMAT and would like to share your experience or tips, I would love to hear them!  Best of luck to those enduring this pursuit!

Drinking the Twitterade

14 03 2009

What is Twitter?

As promised, this is the follow-up post outlining my thoughts on Twitter. First and foremost, if you do not know what Twitter is, I highly recommend watching this 8-minute video of Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, giving a talk at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference:

(thanks for sharing this with me, @tonytv!)

In 10 words or less, Twitter is a social-networking and micro-blogging service.  I had learned of Twitter a couple years ago in college through a start-up friend, but could never be convinced to try it back then.  I avoided it at all costs.  It seemed like a hyperactive version of Facebook status updates and was making my paranoid half cringe.  Yet another trendy social network to join right?  I just could not see a clear value for publicizing my every move throughout the day.

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Fast-forward to January 2009 and suddenly, Twitter is the talk of town.  I did not want to become sucked into the masses, but I eventually gave in when my friend/co-worker, @worldlyjohn, showed me the power of  Rather than feeling like another bandwagon member, it feels more like, “Wow, this is what I’m missing out on!”

I had been shown how Twitter could organize information, such as for showing up-to-the minute comments about the presidential election, but it still hadn’t appealed to me until I started playing with myself.

Give it a whirl.  Type in anything and you will see the latest tweets that contain that keyword.  These are statements made from every day people (sometimes even celebrities).  They come in the form of opinions, replies (using the “@username” convention), and the sharing of content usually in the form of shortened links.  Here is an example of the results for “San Diego”:

Twitter Search results for "San Diego"

Twitter Search results for "San Diego"

You can see that results vary from people who have tweeted about pre-sale NIN tickets to the news of a skin infection outbreak at the San Diego Zoo (with a nice link to the article).  The more you use Twitter, the more fascinating it becomes with the number of uses for the application.  By “use,” I mean contributing to the Twitterverse through tweeting valuable information/opinions, replying to other Tweeps, re-tweeting, and growing your network by following interesting people (if you’re getting lost with all the Twitter vocab, see:

Just as we’ve learned from the video above, Twitter is sometimes the first source of information, as was the case for the San Diego fires last year.  People have started using Twitter for so many other reasons than to just blurt out to the world that they’re scratching their butt.

Types of Users

It’s been about a month and a half since I first joined Twitter and these are the types of users I’ve encountered:

1. Online marketing entrepreneurs — I mention this first because one of my first followers fell into this category.  I was extremely excited to know a stranger was interested in what I had to say.  Don’t be fooled — my hunch is that they’re looking for high follower counts.  You can easily spot them with any combination of the words “online viral marketing entrepreneur” in their profile or with their ridiculous numbers of followers/following (usually in the high 1,000’s).  It still boggles me how they claim they’ve reached success simply by using online marketing and can share their tips with you for just $600.00!

2. Companies/Services — Let’s face it:  Twitter is ideal for advertising since word spreads so fast, hence the large presence of the aforementioned users.  You’ll see anything from @Starbucks to @woot to San Diego’s Metro Transit System (@sdmts).  This category encompasses a huge amount of users from big-name corporations to free-lance artists.

3. Celebrities/High-Profile Tweeps — Pretty self-explanatory category. @BarackObama, @BritneySpears, @RyanSeacrest, @THE_REAL_SHAQ just to name a few.  These are often included in the Suggested Users section when finding people to start following.

4. Non-Profit Organizations — Users that leverage the power of Twitter to lend helping hands, receive donations, and spread the word of reaching out.  A couple I’ve been following are @Everywun and @volunteersd.

5. Friends/Family/People You Actually Know — A great reason to join Twitter is to keep in tune with the lives of others!  I’ve mainly reconnected with RIT alumni, which allows me to live my college life vicariously through them. 🙂

6. Ordinary Everyday Users — The category title does not necessarily generalize all others to being “ordinary” — in fact, some live quite impressive lives!  This is simply the umbrella category for random strangers that are willing to share and connect with others.  There are true gem users that are worth following, users who inspire us to learn and do more with ourselves, making this last category my favorite.  On the flipside, beware of people who have absolutely stagnant accounts with little to no tweets, perhaps just a dummy account to view protected tweets!

For a thorough list of categories and users, see

Overall Thoughts

I’m content with my decision to join Twitter as I’ve found it to be pretty useful and fun.  My usage has dramatically declined from when I first joined though.  It was initially an addiction.  I was very self-aware and conscious of what was being said and how I would say it.  I constantly checked if I had a reply or a direct message.  Now, I’ve come to learn that my life shouldn’t revolve around Twitter because I’ve definitely lived fine without it!  Thought it has enhanced certain aspects of daily activity:

I’ve used Twitter to find out what events are happening around town (including free giveaways!), post a job opening, link to my blog, scope out movie reviews, and share opinions on current events with people whose opinions I value.  It’s a great hub for finding intellectual conversations.  You can play it safe behind the scenes and observe all that is going on, but you may find you’ll get a lot more out of it by immersing yourself in the Twitter culture.  Below are some tips I’ve learned from other Twitter-holics that may help with getting started.

Tips on Tweeting

  • Use it. A lot of people don’t understand the power and value of Twitter because they don’t ever engage themselves in interesting conversations.  Yes, it’s overwhelming at first, but you will eventually find your groove and meet some cool people!
  • Share as much or as little of information as you please. I am a very paranoid person sometimes, especially when it comes to publishing updates about my whereabouts.  I try to tweet them after the fact and usually consider the value- factor.  Ask yourself, “Would someone actually find this interesting or valuable?”  But let yourself have those vent tweets too, like “Whoo! I just aced my interview!”  It feels a little vain, but hey, sometimes the recognition is nice right?  Do keep in mind how often you have back-and-forth public conversations.  This can get annoying sometimes to readers who have to sift through these!  That’s what DM’s (direct messages) are for, Tweeps!  Keep in mind, every tweet you post adds to your brand image!  So be careful!!  You never know who’s reading, like b-school recruiters!  Ahh!
  • Get a Twitter client. It seriously helps with the information overload, by allowing you to organize and manage incoming tweets.  There are clients for all platforms (iPhone, BlackBerry, G1, etc.). I’m currently using TweetDeck and am fairly pleased, though I’m open to experiencing other UIs.  Check out:
  • Don’t get discouraged by people who stop following you. Just as easily as you can stop following someone, they can also do the same to you.  It’s all fair in this culture and should not be taken to heart.  Not everyone says interesting things, so do yourself a favor by lightening up your tweetload and unfollowing boring tweeps!  If you’re curious to know who and at what point, users are unfollowing you, there is actually an app called Qwitter that provides this kind of info.  I’ve yet to get an email notifying me of my “qwitters” so I’m not sure about their uptime.  Either they’re overloaded or everyone who follows me is in it for the long haul!  (prob the former!)
  • Observe how others are doing it. You can learn a lot of the Twitter culture just by reading tweets.  There are plenty of other sites that go into depth about the syntax of tweets (@, RT, DM).  Also, remember you’re limited to 140 chars so keep it short, especially if you want people to re-tweet your stuff.

And that wraps up my exhaustingly long “Thoughts on Twitter” post!  I now pass the Twitter shot-glass to you.  It’s your turn.  Now, take a swig!