Newsgroups, forums, blogging, Facebook, Google+, etc are all things that I understand fairly well. Twitter less so for me, as it's not a service that I 'use'. Some people I know use Twitter but mostly it's just businesses and marketing, and I don't care about any of the businesses I like that much to listen; so I've little use for the service.
Viewing someone's tweets reads off like a list of short messages, similar to the blog model (e.g. like a Wall post on Facebook) which almost everyone understands these days. But it includes the users comments inline, along with their comments (replies) on other peoples posts (tweets). In a way, it is coser to the newgroup/forum model where in you have a node that fits into a 'thread', yet the head of the thread is just a normal post (node). In the blogging model, it's somewhat different because of the emphasis on the blog comment.
This makes it rather disconcerting to look at tweets for the initiated. From first glance, it's like listening to a twittering bird that not only talks to the open air (hello you Facebook mob!) but also to its imaginary friends. By clicking the tweet (look for the icon top right) you can see the thread and explore the relationship between tweets. It's a decentralized version of how forums work; instead of defaulting to viewing by topical thread, your default view is by the user.
If that last paragraph makes sense, particularlly the last sentence: you now understand Twitter. Or I'm missing something lol.
What remains to be seen until the course of history has advanced much further, is whether or not any given model (newsgroup, blog, twitter) will become the universally accepted model of communication on the internet. Twitter is a leg up over using a mail client that doesn't do threads (eww) but I personally prefer the newsgroup model, but profese, twitter is an interesting data model for machine processing to whatever corporations will do to profit from that data model.
- Newsgroup model
- Someone starts a topic, other people reply; replies and topic starts are all the same thing (posts) but things are usually collated into "Threads". Examples include USENET, mailing lists, and forums.
- Blog model
- Someone blogs an article, other people comment; comments are distinct from the content and may be deemphasized depending on the platform. Examples include Blogging and Facebook.
- Twitter model
- Someone tweets a short message, other people may publically or privately reply . All nodes are equal and connected as in a shared thread, but are collated by "Users" rather than threads.