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To tweet, or not to tweet?

That is the question. The answer? Who knows! In the meantime, anything goes on Twitter

January 31, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Twitter has gone mainstream, big time. Much has been written about Twitter etiquette, or "Twittiquette," which is concerned mainly with what to do and what not to do on the microblogging service itself. But what about socially acceptable rules for when -- or when not -- to use Twitter at all?

Case in point: President Obama met in a "closed door" session with House Republicans this week. The press was not invited in order to allow the president and congressmen to have a frank conversation outside the glare of media scrutiny. But Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra twittered his impressions of the president's presentation in real time.

Is this OK? And if twittering away during a private meeting with the president isn't unacceptable, how about during outpatient surgery? A U.K. blogger and Twitter early adopter named Kevin Leitch recently Twittered his way through a vasectomy.

One of the earliest controversies involving Twitter was the live-blogging by a father of his daughter's birth, which may have included more medical detail than some followers, or possibly his wife or doctor, may have expected.

Is it OK for reporters and editors to tweet live events? By doing so, the news is already out there by the time colleagues get out of the event and back to their laptops. Is that fair?

Reuters editor in chief David Schlesinger recently tweeted his way through the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Which is fine, except that he essentially scooped his own reporters who were scrambling to cover the story.

At least two reporters, Ken Shepherd and Chris Cillizza, who enjoy hard-to-obtain access to daily White House press briefings, are twittering news from the briefing room every day.

By the time reporters file those stories, and they're edited and published, the news is old to the Twitter users who were following the tweets.

CNN has gone Twitter-mad, with several anchors featuring Twitter answers on screen, including and especially Rick Sanchez. I even saw CNN promote an upcoming segment by showing the anchor typing a question into the Twitter "What are you doing?" box in real time.

Integrating Twitter into TV news was novel at first, but do viewers really want to turn on the TV to watch the news anchor using another medium?

If it's OK for reporters to scoop each other or use Twitter on live TV, how about during a funeral? Back in September, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News tweeted during the funeral he was covering for the newspaper. Or how about during a wedding? Or a regular service at a church, mosque, synagogue or temple?



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