This weekend saw an explosion of Twittering for me. One group of friends were all down at SXSW. I’m getting lots of twitters from there. Another group is following John Edwards on Twitter. I’ve started to subscribe to breaking news alerts on Twitter. Then, there are friends that are twittering about the use of Twitter for non-profits, and the group of people just living their normal daily lives on Twitter.
So, what is this Twitter stuff all about? Well, put simply, you can IM, text message, or submit from the web, a quick message that all of your followers will see. They get a choice of seeing it either via IM, text message or the web. It is a pretty cool tool, but there are a lot of things I would like to see enhanced.
Right now, I can choose to follow someone or not. For everyone that I am following, I will receive either text messages, IMs or see their messages on the web. It would be great to specify how closely I want to follow someone. For each person, I should be able to select the type of viewing and the priority of viewing. For example, I might want to get text messages from some people, no matter what. Others I might want to get only IMs. Still others, I might want to get IMs if I’m currently not away from my IM client and text messages if I am away.
Increased message security
Right now, there is an option to ‘Protect my updates’. You can toggle whether or not you want all your messages to be on the public timeline, or only available to friends. Ideally, I would like to be able to flag messages, at least those that I submit from the web, as to whether they are public or private, much like how systems, like LiveJournal allow you to flag messages public or private. Of course, the challenge of doing this is to not lose the simplicity that Twitter provides. On the web, a check box isn’t particularly annoying. Yet for sending IM or Text Messages, it would need to be done in a way that doesn’t lose the simplicity.
So, as an example, having two new twitter IM bots, TwitterPublic and TwitterPrivate where you could send messages that you want to explicitly make public or private would hand this without having to add something special to the message to indicate that it is public or private. Likewise, different shortcodes could be used for public and private Twitter Text messages.
While were talking about cool things to add, it would be great to see tagging. Yeah, I could tag the messages in something like del.icio.us, but it would be good to make the tagging available to the less geeky as well. Ideally, I would like to be able to see messages from all my friends that are tagged as political or as geeks. Using del.icio.us, I could tag things ‘twitter’ and ‘politics’ and then pull down all of the feeds tagged with both. Of course, it would be great if del.icio.us supported full Boolean searches, but that is a different topic.
So, as an illustration, I’ve tagged John Edwards Twitter RSS feed with ‘RSS’, ‘Twitter’ and ‘Politics’, so to get my politics RSS feeds from Twitter, I can go to http://del.icio.us/ahynes1/RSS+politics+Twitter. Then if there was a nice way to pull this as an OPML file and which an RSS reader could subscribe to and then pull in all of items into a aggregated feed, you could do it yourself. An OPML generator for del.icio.us already exists http://blogs.open.ac.uk/Maths/ajh59/sbFeedsOPML.html. But then again, that’s pretty geeky and it would be nice if our friends at Twitter simply built something like this for everyone.
Okay. Steve Rubel has pointed out that the folks at UMBC have set up http://geotwitter.org/. It is a pretty cool mashup of Twitter and Geomaps. It appears as if they are taking the location off of people’s twitter profiles. However, the really cool tool would be if people could send from their cellphones (or IM or web tools) what their actual location is. As an example, many of my friends are down in Austin right now for SXSW. Their Twitter locations still show their home location. Of course, from a security viewpoint, people should be able to toggle whether or not their location is transmitted.
As an aside, I’ve been playing a bit with TwitterBox. TwitterBox is a really cool Heads Up Display (HUD) for SecondLife. You can send messages to Twitter and receive other peoples messages from Twitter. You can also include your SLURL in the message that you send to Twitter, so a SLGeoTwitter is another possibility.
One other tool that I think would be cool is what I’m calling Twitter This!. Already I have plugins or bookmarks for Firefox so I can quickly and easily point to a site in del.icio.us, and StumbleUpon. I can take clippings with clipmarks and review stories for their journalistic qualities with NewsTrust. Now, I need button so I can click on a webpage I’ve found and send it out via Twitter.
Robert Scoble points out, via Twitter of course, the growing backlash against Twitter. It seems as if Twitter has now grown up, if it has people writing hate pieces about it. Chris Heuer has a good article on this, invoking images of Fonzi text messaging to Twitter that he is about to jump the shark in a remake of Happy Days. Chris also invokes Dunbar’s Number which is an important concept to think about with any social tools.
So, I’ll keep playing with Twitter until it either collapses or gets too boring. A closing comment from EPIC 2014, changed around a little could be very applicable.
“At its best, edited for the savviest readers, Twitter is a summary of the world - deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before - but at its worst, and for too many, Twitter is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational.”