8 Brilliant Twitter Users You Should Follow

twitterTwitter is an ultimate extension of the internet: infinite subject matter, infinitesimal attention span, you can connect with any device and the only thing standing between genius and pervert horse spam is your ability to find the good bits. During the first Twitterization surge many mocked the minuscule character count. “You can’t say anything in 140 characters!” they complained, proving that they’ve never even heard of haiku, punchlines, or the word “editing”. A good writer can say more in a sentence than a bloody blogger can in ten pages – in fact, that’s usually how you tell the difference.

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam summed up all the alleged problems, and in the process proved exactly why he’s still working for a collapsing industry based on dead trees. He archly informed readers that Twitter could safely be ignored because:

a) He’s boring

b) Everyone he knows is boring

c) He can’t even conceive of using some kind of “search engine” or “communication technology” to find anyone who isn’t boring. It’s not as if there’s any such system in existence, after all.

The column didn’t tell kids to get off his lawn, nor did it inform us about how things were better back in his day, but both sentiments were pretty heavily implied – along with a strong smell of mothballs and the feeling that he got the job of “tech columnist” back when the main requirement was shoveling coal.

We can help you avoid Alex’s problems (unless you are Alex, in which case you have our condolences. We hear that “Carving Things Into Rocks Quarterly” needs a new chisel-sharpener, maybe you could send them a smoke signal).

1. @wilw

Wil Wheaton doesn’t use technology: he embraces it, and he makes it sound so warm and cuddly that you’ll want to hug it too. He’s worked out how to:

a) be a geek

b) be happy about that

c) get paid for b)

d) c) enhances b) and provides a budget for a), creating a positive feedback cycle of pure techno-joy which fountains positive energy out via any channel it can – critically acclaimed books, speaking engagements, and now Twitter too.

It’s very simple: if you want to hear about happiness, follow wilw. He’s a genuinely joyful person whose followers outnumber Greenlanders despite (in fact because of) posts like “The coolest d20 I’ve ever seen.” In seven score characters or less he’ll give the best possible advice on life, updates on projects like “Operation Crazy Idea”, and ongoing arguments with his iTunes. The difference between a beloved writer and a psychopath? When the the former argues with his own computer in public, it’s enjoyable.

2. @warrenellis

Warren Ellis is described as a cutting-edge writer, but only by those who won’t say “techno-sexual-doomonger” in public. Possibly because that wasn’t a job description until he started doing it. His twitter feed is a constant stream of things that will kill you: amazing scientific inventions, his own throbbing rage, his insanely inventive friends, horrible things people have done to each other (and want to do to you) and unholy combinations of all those and more besides.

He keeps up with all the brand new ways mad scientists could wipe us out, then writes comic books describing all the options they missed. He also practises what he preaches and at least half of his brain appears to be online, making all the latest in social tech dance for his amusement like a tazed helper-monkey. Don’t you want updates from Warren’s tazed twitter helper-monkey? Are you prepared to explain to him why you don’t?

3. @RStevens

At the other end of the comic-geek spectrum is Richard Stevens, a writer happier than a Wii salesman at an arm-waving convention. While Warren would shank you with a sharpened Nokia if he thought he could suck Red Bull out of the wounds, Mr. Stevens has turned Twitter into an SMS stand-up, an electronic outpouring from an always-on mind that’s been pumping out comics for eight years straight and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s like ten billion years in Internet-time.

His Top Tweet is “My computer is fast enough. I don’t know what to hope for in life”, and right now you either understand him completely or are on the wrong site. His Roomba is a pet, not appliance, and if you’ve ever said “Awesome” about anything with an off-switch, fantasised about bacon, or thought that you’d do a better damn job with Green Lantern’s power ring, he’s someone you need to follow.

4. @StephenFry

If you’re using Twitter and not following StephenFry, then we’re sorry, you’re must have clicked on “Knitter” or something by accident. Does everyone keep talking about yarn? Because that would be a big clue. Mr Fry went from “rather dapper chap your mother, or possibly grandmother, might have seen on BBC UK” to Twittastic Incarnate by:

a) embracing new technology

b) being so witty he was once paid to be Oscar Wilde

c) truly heroic attempts to reply to everyone ever.

One hundred and seventy thousand followers mean he’s popular, but fifty thousand friends mean he looks like a filthy spambot. Until you read his replies and realise that if we could actually build machines to be that warm and funny we’d have dismantled the entertainment industry, and possibly the concept of marriage, years ago.

His devoted audience means he can cause more damage with a single sentence than Ming the Merciless. One twit hammering the Blackberry Storm circled the entire Internet, surged on every tech site, and ended with people asking “Can one man destroy a multi-million dollar advertising campaign?” And by “people” we mean “BBC News“.

All this from something he just thumbed out on his phone – likely in the bath, if his own tweets are to be believed, and maybe with a glass of vodka. One naked, half-pissed Englishman punching holes in a huge corporation while bubble-bathed – the future, ladies and gentlemen!

5. @Winstonchurchil

A big twitter gimmick is the fake celebrity, which comes in two forms. The first are those actually pretending to be real life celebrities (StephenFry is a particular target), whom we will neither link nor mention again to avoid accidentally giving purpose to their meaningless and rather sad lives. Hint: if you’re going to pretend to be a major writer, try to use spellcheck.

The other type is obviously fake on the grounds that the target is a bit too dead to twitter, and often much more fun. Winstonchurchil is one of the best. He might not be “real” or “able to spell his own name”, but anyone who can deploy the combat-Godwin “I beat the Nazis” to win an Internet-argument or tell you “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” is someone who should be listened to.

He understands his gimmickry, and only posts a couple of updates a week, so it’s never a chore to chug through the posts – just a nice addition to your incoming feed mix.

6. @melissagira

Melissa Gira Grant is a sex writer, but this isn’t about helping you find porn. That isn’t what we do here, and if you actually need help finding porn online you’re way beyond any assistance we could offer anyway. But despite how three-quarters of the Internet is either people putting things into each other, or desperately wanting to, intelligent sex discussion is like a five leafed clover made out of unicorn feathers. Which is why Melissa Gira is worth your time.

She’s an intelligent sex writer who’s worked with everyone from MySpace teenagers to sex industry professionals (the ultimate opposite extremes of boot-knockology) to increase awareness, intelligence and enjoyment for all. The best place to start is with her new column “Embedded” at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, or her own award-winning Sexerati blog. (We know that “Internet awards” are right up there with “Wino IOUs”, but trust us, this one is good.) Then the twitter becomes a useful alert for new content, mixed with the odd dash of sex-positive cold water which makes you think about what other people are doing right now, what you wish you were doing, and how you should maybe move from one to the other.

7. Twitters From Space!

The @MarsPhoenix feed was the ultimate application of modern technology. Twitters direct from the Mars Phoenix Lander, and the fact it was really written by some guy in NASA doesn’t matter because he was a fun writer, it was interesting material, and IT WAS NEAR-LIVE UPDATES FROM THE GOD-DAMN SURFACE OF MARS!

This isn’t just from the future, this is from sci-fi movies IN a future where they already have everything we used to dream about and had to think of cooler stuff to wish for. It’s was possible to be out for a coffee and have a half-billion dollar probe ring you up to tell you how it’s doing. All Buck Rogers had was a stupid silver midget and a sarcastic necklace.

Phoenix has since died (after heroically lasting months longer than its expected lifespan), a genuinely sad event for those who’d been following it’s updates. But there’s no shortage of Twitters From Space: the @MarsRovers are still running (though more infrequently than Phoenix’s bright flame), and upcoming missions like the @MarsScienceLab and @LCROSS_NASA continue their countdowns. Why should you care about LCROSS? Listen, pal, if you know anybody else planning to blow up a piece of the moon by dropping a rocket booster on it you’re welcome to follow them instead.

8. Polititwits

Of course we have to mention Mr @BarackObama – he’s the absolute #1 Twitterer of all time. If we missed him we’d have to close the site and ask Mr Beam up there if he needs a brontosaurus chauffeur to drive him to the cave wall in the morning.

Barack’s campaign revolutionised political PR by actually “acknowledging the last decade of technological progress” and “actually reacting to events faster than a toffee-covered dinosaur fossil/regular politician.” The feed was the most followed ever, but it’s gone now – since the election there have only been a couple of information posts.

That’s not a problem – it did its job, and you can sort of see the point in shutting it down. Things which transmit the President’s personal movements to observers are #2 on the Secret Service’s “List of things we totally hate”. While Barack got to keep his Blackberry, the twitter feed was only ever an election gimmick so there’s no point in going back to read it now – you kind of know how the story ends. But the archives are worth it for the sweet snarking at Hillary’s insane “Hey, how about you come and work for me?” offer from when she was about a billion points behind him for the nomination.

Political twitters aren’t over though – in fact, they’re just beginning. Republican representative @PeteHoekstra has seen a surge of attention since starting to livetwit sessions. Including top-secret, “don’t tell anyone or it’s a security breach” sessions like the time he blew an Intelligence Committee visit to Iraq. We can’t decide if that’s terrible or awesome, but we do know it kicks the hell out of tweets about your lunch.