Tweets for You and
Me, Take One
by Andrew Fielden
Thursday, May 29 2009
Twitter is the current
big thing and there are some really good things about it
and there are some really bad things about it.
What is great is that it allows anyone to share ideas
and information with the world very simply. There is no
long and complicated setup and when you have created
your account you are ready to find a few friends and off
you go. It does take a while to get used to what is
happening but not long. The 140 character limitation is
actually a benefit as it forces brevity and allows the
follower to skip through things pretty fast.
What is not so great is that it is a closed system.
Twitter own it and all its content. This is bad for
various reasons. First of all we have given ourselves
away to Twitter. Secondly we are at the mercy of what
they want to do with the system in the future and
finally should the system fail temporarily or even
permanently then we will be without it.
This is known and there are a lot of pundits such as
Dave Winner out there
saying that this is not a good state of affairs.
So what can be done.
Yahoo have launched a
Twitter type system that they are trialing in Brazil but
I fail to see how this helps. It too is a closed system
and quite frankly does nothing to help. Any system that
is closed will create islands with difficult
communications. There are already companies that will
search across the various Social Networking sites and
presumably they will just add these as they come along
but that is hardly perfect and not necessarily cheap
Tweets for You
and Me, Take Two
Tuesday, June 3 2009
If Twitter is not the
answer and Yahoo's new service is a bit more of the same
then what is?
To answer that question we have to consider what it is
we want from it. There is a lot of debate about what a
service like Twitter is. Taking into account that a
Harvard survey this week concluded that the amount of
accounts that post is a small minority and that the
retention rate is not enormously high then we could
conclude that it is a brief excitement about nothing at
all. Alternatively it could be that this is something
big but we are just not sure what it is yet.
Personally I think that it is not just big, it's HUGE
and represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the way
that the Internet will be used.
Up until now the Internet has been used primarily in two
ways. First as a shop-front or repository for
information. Essentially this is what the standard web
site is, even if it has interactive capabilities.
Information is posted and browsers can stop by and have
a look, maybe ask questions etc.. and buy things. I
think of it as a large town centre with a myriad of
shops and a stonking great library. The so-called social
networking sites that have blossomed under "Web 2.0" I
believe are no more than extensions to this concept.
They are information repositories with template driven
interfaces. Sure, you can add friends etc.. and then
share information and experiences but it is still a
relatively static experience and can be quite complex to
get the best out of it. Facebook for example which is
really nothing more than a collection of micro-sites
takes effort to get the best out of it and many people
have neither the time nor the inclination to make that
The second use is in messaging. The two main such
systems are email and instant messaging. Relatively
speaking they are the Internet versions of the post and
the telephone and in the abstract work in almost
identical ways. Both email and post are sent (and this
is very important) by the sender to the recipient. Even
if you join a newslist it is still sent to you in a
similar way as a newsletter would come through your
letter box. Instant messaging and the telephone are both
invite-only instant systems. They are as transient as
the conversation and although can generally be saved,
this is not an intrinsic element of the system.
There is of course online gaming as a fairly big element
but that is its own world and I think I can safely move
on from that for these purposes.
So how and why is tweeting different. It is public in
the way that instant messaging is not. It is opt-in and
collect in a way that email is not and it is timely and
easy to get into in a way that a web page is not. These
are widely recognised but saying what it is not does not
say what it is.
If the web is a large Mall and library and Messaging is
well... messaging then I consider Tweeting as a public
conference. I would say that you can consider it as a
place to go to hear the messages of the high and mighty
at the main stages (Ashton Kutcher or CNN). Go to break
out groups for a specific subject which is what you do
when you follow a trending topic, often done on the fly
as a reaction to something in the news. Then there are
all the social cocktail parties with like minded souls
where you can discuss the mundane, profane and even
stray to the downright serious if you want. There will
also be those trying to sell you something lurking in
the lobby handing out fliers to any passers-by. This in
turn leads to what is going as being the collective
consciousness of that conference. The 140 character
limit forces brevity to the size of a thought. By
allowing these thoughts to be transmitted, rebroadcast
and reacted to in the conference we have created a
fundamentally new powerful social tool.
There are some areas where my analogy to a conference
falls down however it seems to fit the bill quite
nicely. So how can we make this work for us to its best
effect. Here is my hit list:-
- Break the silo.
Twitter should not be sole arbiter of the
tweetosphere, we need multiple tweet conferences all
connected and able to talk to each other in a
- Enable the break
out groups more so that it is easy to follow a topic
rather than a person however at the same time create
a way to personalise the relevance of others
thoughts for a particular user
- Create a public
and a private space for the same account so that
internal messages for a group can be sent. You can
be in many groups but you are still the same person
- Enable a simple
method for persistence of data either by searching
back though tweets or for a user to decide that he
is going to keep a tweet
- Urgent message
notifications, these can be tagged onto a tweet and
a user can decide to give a priority to such tweets
for those that he follows
- Searching of
tweets. As we already know tweets are often very
temporal in nature and ones man's tweet may be
another man's twash. Search engines like Google do
not handle this well. We need a new method - I have
some ideas on this which I will save for another
- The ability to add
additional content, tagging and links to a tweet.
This could be on a server by server basis and
consist of the speciality for a tweet conference.
Certainly the needs for a media company may be very
different to those of a school
- An open and
available API. We want people to come up with
innovative and exciting ways to interact with the
In my next post I will
look at how and why these elements can help different
organisations or groups, after that I may even be able
to show you some live working examples as I don't just
write about this stuff, I build it too.
Out Of #TwitterJail free - #TweetFreedom
Thursday, June 11 2009
I am a
member of Twitterholics anonymous but I am now ready to
stand up and say to the world "my username is andrewtf
and I tweet." I don't care if this makes me a real life
social outcast (mind you, despite plenty of non
twitaholics proclaiming that this is an inevitable
effect of tweeting I remain unconvinced, in fact I think
the reverse is true) but that is a burden I am prepared
I have already written on why Tweeting is great for you
me and everyone. I have also said that we are seeing the
start of something huge and such a different way of
using the internet that it can have its own proper
category of Internet usage along with Web Sites,
Messaging (eMail and Instant Message/chat service) and I
suppose online gaming - heck my son spends enough time
on it and he is not alone.
Unlike all of the other categories which are not 'owned'
by any one company Twitter effectively owns this medium
and that is a problem. Up until recently the perception
has been of a large friendly community which can prattle
on about anything and everything. Sure, there have been
Twitterfails caused by too many people using the system
but heck we get it for free and we expect to get it for
free. Therein lies the rub, Twitter is a business not a
charity and it needs to be able to charge for its
services in one way or another however in this respect,
Twitter is not behaving in a particularly clever way.
Twitter has always said that it intends to charge
business for its services and I think we are now seeing
the start of its intentions. In fact it seems fair to
say that it is only now that Twitter itself has any idea
of its intentions. Certainly in the fast moving online
business world it is nothing new to make something great
and then stop to think how you can make money from it.
Sometimes this works out OK but in the case of Twitter
it is a disaster.
At present there seem to be 4 obvious ways for them to
Personal user services
Business user services
Access for ancillary services via their database
(otherwise known as the API)
They have already said that they don't want advertising
revenue, presumably so that they can claim some sort of
moral social highground and appear to be your best mate
rather than a business whose services you use.
As for the other sources, to the best of my knowledge
they have not declared any specific intentions however
there are some clues out there.
The API had until recently allowed developers access to
a feed of all the tweets that were being processed. This
has now been throttled and for the complete feed this is
now only by invitation from Twitter if they deem your
application to be worthy enough, with no pricing
information being given. As for the other API services -
these remain available but there is no guarantee that
this will continue. In one sense this is fair enough as
they are a business and this is valuable to them and the
developers of apps, in fact TweetDeck has announced that
it will now charge for inclusion in the application at a
level of $50,000 per service so they obviously feel that
piggy backing off Twitters' success has value.
In other words guys, please go out and spend a lot of
time and effort building applications to make our system
better although we may turn off the the bit you need to
make your 'killer app' work. On the other hand, we might
let you use it if we think you are worthy but you will
have to pay, although we won't tell you how much.
Twitter - this is not an attractive proposition for a
Even so we have Twitter in the raw for the average
person to use. Well, actually we don't. Over the last
few days there have been a spate of instances of Twitter
putting people in TwitterJail for overtweeting. Apart
from the really irritating use of contrived words this
is arrogance in the extreme and from a straw poll this
seems to be arbitrarily imposed. I personally know of a
few people who have hardly used the service but have
been put in Jail for varying lengths of time. There are
no indications of which particular limits they have
broken, nor any prior indication of the penalties that
will be imposed.
What are Twitter up to? They are alienating the people
who seem to be using the system most even if those
people are not spamming or being otherwise antisocial. I
bet it wouldn't happen to Oprah, although with only 50
updates she is hardly likely to be put in jail anyway.
Is this leading perhaps to premiere accounts where you
can tweet more often? Are they trying to get us used to
the idea that we are beholden to them for this wonderful
I for one am deeply suspicious of such a secretive
company and what is plain and clear is that they are not
there as my friend. They want to be able to make money
out of the information that you and me are putting into
their precious database.
I say we should do something about it. We all need to
take ownership of what is rightfully ours. Our thoughts
and tweets. Without that, Twitter is nothing, it needs
us far more than we need it.
We should all set up our own tweet servers, that can
communicate with each other. Some can be simple and
plain and work just like Twitter currently does. Others
can have ancillary services for private groups and
attach additional information to the messages such as
documents, notes and video etc.. and all we need is a
way to allow people to view the public messages (lets
stop calling them tweets) that they have registered to
So make join us in making a bid for #TwitterFreedom and
take control for yourselves.
Talk About A
Tuesday, June 16 2009
June 15th 2009 was a strange
day. Hundreds of thousands, possibly over a million,
people on the streets in Iran protesting over the
election results that the protesters thought had been
rigged. Is this the start of a revolution? I am writing
this a day later and I do not know.
What I do know is that the way
it was perceived here in the west was very different to
how it would have been just a year ago and that was at
least in part down to twitter. During the day there were
accounts that had decent claims to being genuine voices
from Tehran keeping the world updated on events and
managing to get photo and video files out to support
their claims. So persuasive were these voices that they
were getting the traditional news media to follow what
they were saying almost in priority to their own on the
spot journalists and traditional sources.
This was the true revolution of
June 15th. As information was coming out of Iran it was
being viewed by thousands and then resent (retweeted) so
that it would be viewed by even more. All of this in
pretty much real time and it had nothing to do with the
large news agencies. In fairness to the news agencies
they are beginning to catch on however there is
resistance to what they see as their position as the
true arbiters of quality reporting.
This is a tweet from Jeff Jarvis
from the afternoon of 15th June "I emphasized to a
reporter today that Twitter is not the news source. It's
a source of tips & temperature & sources. Reporting
follows." Also from his site (posted June 15th) comes
the following on the way that the NY Times operates
"Because The Times’ brand hinges on it as a product that
has been curated and edited and checked and polished -
note editor Bill Keller’s language <http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/06/11/aged-comedy/>
on The Daily Show about his package - it finds itself in
dangerous territory trying to compete in real time with
those whose brand expectations are entirely different."
According to the Bio on his site
Jeff is associate professor and director of the
interactive journalism program at the City University of
New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism <http://journalism.cuny.edu/>
. Well I have news for you Jeff, if you think that any
news organisation can get it perfectly right and
polished you are deluded and yesterday provided the
This is what the editor of the
curated and edited and checked and polished New York
had to say in the early hours of June 15th.
"Leader Emerges With Stronger
By BILL KELLER and MICHAEL
Published: June 15, 2009
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s
victory demonstrated that he is the shrewd front man for
an elite more unified than at any time since 1979."
Whilst you would now have to
subscribe to read the article I can tell you that it was
proclaiming that it was a done deal and the middle
classes were in Iran were resigned to their fate. Just
how wrong can you get it.
So here is the news for you Jeff
and for all of those journalists who wish to believe
that they are a special breed gifted with superhuman
insight and the ability to distill a story for general
public consumption. The twitter community and its
successors will beat you to the story every time.
Furthermore, they will be the people who are the experts
in the field and, shock horror, they may even be able to
string a sentence or two together. Then the story will
be out there and if it gains a following it will spread
like wild fire.
This does not mean that
journalists are an endangered species, just that they
are going to be changing the way they operate in the
future. As with any source of information there will be
the good, the bad and the disingenuous - these will need
to be checked and validated.
Following on from that, there
will be the need to draw in comment from other domain
experts who are not necessarily directly involved in the
main proceedings, for example David Miliband, the UK
Foreign Minister, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 in the
morning of 16th June for the UK government's view on the
events in Iran. This could not have been done via social
networking systems on the Internet.
A news organisation and the
journalists working for them can act as a ringmaster in
an ever changing circus of events. Constantly watching
the crowd to see the news as it unfolds and vetting the
shouts from the audience to allow those who have
something valuable to say to step into the ring whilst
at the same time getting involvement from those who can
be invited directly to the ring from outside. They can
then step in and lead that conversation rather in the
manner of an enormous audience participation show. That,
I believe is the future of journalism.
Tweets for You and Me, Take One
Thursday, May 29 2009
Tweets for You and Me,
Tuesday, June 3 2009
Get Out Of #TwitterJail free -
Thursday, June 11 2009
Talk About A Revolution
Tuesday, June 16 2009