Friday, April 17, 2009

Local Top Twitter

The Straits Times
17 April 2009

Schoolboy is top Twitterer here

He has more followers on twitter than rock star Bono. -ST

By Tan Weizhen

FEW people are likely to be too interested in the one-liners a 15-year-old Singapore schoolboy posts online about his life, his interests or his thoughts, except perhaps his parents, family and friends.

But Xavier Lur (, in Secondary 3 at Maris Stella High, has corralled 54,567 netizens from the world over into following the updates he broadcasts on Twitter, a free social-networking utility big in the online world since last year.

With that number of 'followers' or friends, he is the top local Twitterer.

Irish rock star Bono has only a third as many.

Many politicians, showbiz people, athletes and ordinary netizens get on Twitter to offer updates on their lives; people become followers to get these updates, to stalk celebrities or simply to make friends the world over.

But why are almost 55,000 people 'following' the updates or 'tweets' put out by this Singapore schoolboy?

Xavier's popularity appears to stem from his knowledge about things tech and his tender years.

This self-described technology blogger puts out tweets on the latest tech trends, for example, the latest mobile phone applications.

His close friend Zhou Tong, 14, noted that Xavier has also put out tweets about the social networking site Facebook - ranging from tech tips on how to make one's profile more visually presentable to comments on Facebook's design revamp.

One tweet Xavier sent out announced that he and Zhou Tong were developing a 'social asking platform', which whipped up a flurry of excitement, say his followers. People were just intrigued that a 15-year-old could write a computer program for this.

Xavier said adults overseas are a big part of his audience, many keen on a peek into school life here.

Like any schoolboy, he has views on his teachers - some flattering, others less so, laced with some humour.

He describes his life as a Singapore student, including days he stays home from school for 'e-learning', his class trips and about creating class blogs.

Sometimes, his tweets are more personal, about his father's business trips.

Other days, he is plain mischievous, if also resourceful, and willing to share his ideas on how to save labour: 'Too lazy to write a Chinese composition titled Health Is More Important Than Wealth, so I used Google Translate to translate it from English.'

He is helpful, too, with tips like 'How to insert images in a word document without embedding', accompanied by a link to the actual method.

He has, in turn, used Twitter as a 24/7 helpdesk for getting answers to his own tech questions 'within a minute or so', and stirred debate among netizens with questions like 'Which programming language is the easiest to learn?'

He said that vitally, using Twitter has improved his communication skills and taught him about other cultures and 'the outside world'.

He grew his network of Twitter friends when he had time on his hands during a school break.

He now spends an hour online daily, sending out about 20 tweets, but still makes time for soccer, badminton, his friends, or even helping his mother with 'adult' tasks like submitting online passport applications.

Interestingly, his ambition has little to do with the tech world. He said that when he grows up, he wants to become a financial investor 'just like Warren Buffett, and maybe a psychologist'.

He has a younger brother who is keen on online computer games.

Fellow Twitterer Eric Chua, who follows Xavier for his tips, said the teen stands out for his useful tips, for example, on blogging and how to run online businesses.

Mr Chua, 27, and the owner of a start-up involved in video production and online publishing, is himself among the top five Twitterers here.

A distant second to Xavier, with 13,147 followers, he got on Twitter mainly to recruit suitably skilled people to join his start-up.

But Twittering is also about social networking. He has met chief executives, former politicians and authors online.

'The world is now flat,' he declared.

Of the other three top Twitterers, one is a social worker and two, Internet marketers.

Social worker and avid blogger John Yeo, with 5,676 followers, said he joined Twitter mainly to share blogging tips.

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