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Perigee moons, and other Twitter musings--Follow us!

ScientificAmerican.com—in the form of the author of this blog post—had a great experience this weekend. Despite the fact that it was cloudy and snowing heavily much of Saturday night in western Massachusetts, we got to see this month’s perigee moon, the largest and brightest of 2009.

How?

Twitter.

Here’s what happened: A Facebook friend reminded us of the perigee full moon. Then Digg science pointed us at NASA’s posting about it. So we wrote a blog post, only to realize that much of the northeastern U.S. would be snowed in like we were, and wouldn’t be able to see the gorgeous moon.

That’s where Twitter came in. We sent out a tweet asking SciAm.com’s followers to send us links to their photos. They did, so we combined those with links our online commenters sent, and others we found at search.twitter.com, and by late Saturday night, there were links to more than a dozen great photos of the moon. All we and others in the Northeast needed to see the perigee was a decent Internet connection.

The perigee moon anecdote is just one example of the ways in which we’ll be using Twitter here at Scientific American.com. We recently got serious about our Twitter account, by actively monitoring it and beginning to follow people. In the words of one of our followers, there’s now a “human” behind it. Last week, for instance, tech reporter Larry Greenemeier tweeted updates from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And we’ve found story ideas by the score. This salmonella oubreak update, for example, was a tip from mary_siceloff, the one who made the comment about a human.

So please follow us on Twitter, so we can have a conversation. For those of you who are asking, “What is Twitter?”, Wikipedia's entry is pretty good and defines it as "free social networking and microblogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length." Or better yet, just to go www.twitter.com and try it out, which is how we came to understand what it was. Here’s Twitter’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and here’s their help page, with lots of tips.

For those of you who are asking “What took you so long?”, well, we’re there now, so please forgive us. Either way, go to http://twitter.com/sciam to follow us.

Twitter is just one more way that you can engage with the humans behind SciAm.com. You can of course e-mail us—our addresses are right on that link. Better yet, you can leave comments on a story, so everyone who views that story can see your thoughts.

And now you can Twitter, too. We will do our best to respond to all the @replies sent our way. What we’d love more of: ideas for stories. Links to great coverage elsewhere. Feedback on stories, including suggestions for corrections. (Note: We will respond and have a careful look, but just because we don’t make every change you ask for doesn’t mean we’re ignoring you. Sometimes there are lots of sides to a particular story, and we can’t delete the ones you don’t agree with. We’re a news organization, after all.).

See you on Twitter!

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