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Archives: May 2009

Twitter: The Best Of The Week (May 23-29, 2009)

This is a weekly series that looks at the best Twitter-related stories, news and articles within the Twittersphere over the last seven days. You can read previous entries in our archives.

Twitter Trips on Its Rapid Growth

So says the Wall Street Journal. Twitter’s user-base has jumped from around 1.6 million to an estimated 32.1 million in a year, but the company still boasts less than 50 employees. “For the entire [three-year] history of the company, most of the resources have gone to managing growth and that is still the case,” says co-founder Evan Williams.

Paper Tweets

Fun projects like this always seem to spring up around social media. They rarely last, but still: fun. Twitter on Paper is a free service that allows you to request a handwritten, one-of-a-kind paper edition of a tweet that is mailed to your home. Why? Well, there’s the question.

Topsy

Topsy is a search-engine that is powered entirely by tweets. Here’s what it has to say about me. As you can see, amongst other things, Topsy rates a given user’s influence on Twitter, using re-tweets as a kind of virtual currency.

Google Twave

Google Wave generated enormous buzz this week, and if it’s as good as it looks we could well be seeing the beginning of the end for Facebook and Twitter as well. Meantime, check out Twave, an extension for Google Wave that allows you to manage tweets in unique ways.

New York Times Appoints First Social Media Editor

This story isn’t about Twitter per se, but it’s definitely related as Jennifer Preston has been appointed the first Social Media Editor of the New York Times. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Location, Location, Location

This week, Twitter announced that they may soon be adding comments and ‘likes’ as new functionality on the network – the latter of which I detest and wrote about here – as well as attaching controversial geo-referencing metadata to each tweet.

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Twitter Doesn't Need 'Like'. Friendfeed's Like Is Dumb. Twitter Needs 'Share'

Twitter’s API Lead Alex Payne has been speaking at the Twitter 140 Conference and I’ve already written today about his announcement that Twitter might be adding geo-referencing data to all tweets – you can vote on my poll about this here.

Alex also mentioned that Twitter will add a new feature similar to the ‘like’ option on Friendfeed and Facebook, which lets users vote up a submission. Twitter already has a ‘favourite’ feature which allows us to save any tweets we desire (I keep all my ‘links of the day’ in mine) but it’s not heavily-used by members, possibly because it isn’t heavily profiled. There’s been a lot of talk on Friendfeed about how good their ‘like’ feature is to Twitter’s ‘favourites’, and as Robert Scoble, arguably the single-greatest Friendfeed advocate on the planet, took the interview with Alex Payne, one has to wonder who did most of the pitching. ;)

(Alex also stated that Twitter might be adding comments to tweets, which is also a feature on Friendfeed and Facebook, as well as Plurk. I’m fine with this, although I’d very much prefer if it came in threaded messaging format, with a reply link on each comment, as on Friendfeed in particular long runs of responses can be a real pain to follow.)

Here’s my concern, though: the ‘like’ feature is dumb. Really dumb.

It’s dumb on Friendfeed, and it’s even dumber on Facebook, where users regularly ‘like’ things like plane crashes, bomb explosions, the death of Mike Tyson’s daughter and many other tragedies. Depeche Mode fans seem to like the cancellation of concerts, and I also regularly see people liking things that are about them, or that they have written and others have then submitted. Keep that ego in check, won’t you?

It’s not really their fault, as the ‘like’ is essentially the only option they have. But grammatically, and in any reasonable measure of decency when it concerns traumatic events, like is a major fail.

Twitter doesn’t need a like. What it needs is a share.

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POLL: Twitter Plans To Add Location-Based Information To Every Tweet. How Do YOU Feel About That?

Over at ReadWriteWeb there’s an interesting piece about the 140 Twitter Conference which reveals more of Twitter’s plans for the future, courtesy of API Lead Alex Payne. (See my article yesterday for more on this.)

As told to Robert Scoble, Payne states that Twitter may soon be adding location-based information to each and every submitted tweet. Currently, users can enter their location information in their profiles but it’s hardly scientific – you can put whatever you want – and this ‘geo-referencing’, or geotagging, will allow users to find specific information on anything that is area or location-based – for example, restaurants, museums, art galleries, pubs, and so on.

As is usual with many vague Twitter announcements, the news hasn’t been taken particularly well. The primary concern is whether we’ll be able to opt out of such a feature, or if Twitter will force geo-referencing into every tweet whether we want it or not. Yes, it’s very much a matter of privacy. The idea of location-based tracking is fine in principle, but it raises concerns for everybody, and not just celebrities. Some of us like the idea that our friends and followers can find us wherever we are, or have been; others do not.

Yes, this is a ‘might’ idea from Twitter, but it seems a fairly logical one if they’re going to pursue this dream of being the all-purpose utility. It is, after all, already a feature on the iPhone and many other websites and applications.

So here’s my question:

I’m going to leave this poll open until more data arrives from Twitter, so check back regularly for updates. :)

UPDATE: Security expert Graham Cluley has a must-read post about his concerns on his blog.

Twitter Proposes The Release Of API Limits, Tweet Metadata, Becoming Your Online Identity, And More

There’s an interesting article today over at Techrader that outlines some of the plans Twitter is making for the future of the platform, as provided by Alex Payne, Twitter’s API lead.

Alex Payne (@al3x)

(Image source: Techradar.)

Alex is definitely saying all the right things. On scalability:

“Hopefully we’ve already been through the catastrophe phase. Where we’re at now is very, very different; fundamental pieces of our technology have changed. We’ve built out a really robust system; it doesn’t just handle tweets, it handles every operation around the site. Whenever you’re sending a direct message, whenever you’re adding someone, whenever you’re blocking someone it goes through this system we’ve built.

We’ve pitted it against the other big enterprise grade message queue systems out there and we’ve pretty much smoked them all in terms of benchmarks.”

On the development of the tweet:

“In a perfect world we’d like every tweet to have its own key value store for whatever metadata [developers] want. In terms of implementation it’s still too far off to say when we’re going to deliver that; the majority of our team is still focused on handling the scale of the social graph.”

On the future of Twitter’s API:

“It doesn’t make sense to have apps ask us again and again ‘do you have anything new? Do you have anything new?’… Whether that’s data or changes to the social graph, it makes more sense that we push that information to them so they’re always up to date.”

On this, Twitter plans to introduce a ‘push API’ service and also to release the limit of API calls that external applications can make, which is currently set at 100 per hour per user.

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An Open Letter To Time, The Telegraph, Wired And Other Online Publications Who Break Articles Over Ten Pages

Sirs,

On many occasions your otherwise fine publication will submit stories and articles to the internet, notably those that contain a series of images, and break these submissions over many pages. Often this can involve as many as ten clicks from the reader to get from start to finish.

This is not acceptable.

Recent examples: Time, The Telegraph, Wired.

We fully understand why you do this – more click-throughs mean more advertisement impressions with each new page and another chance that we might not completely ignore your sponsors and actually show an interest in what they are selling. But for the reader, and especially the linker, the most-likely result is we will become quickly aware of the game you are playing, and not bother to read past the first one or two pages. Quite simply, it’s too much work. The story isn’t that good.

Moreover, those of us who enjoy sharing great content with our friends on social networks will most likely refrain from doing so in these instances, simply because we do not want to have them endure the same experience. You may be blissfully unaware, but this is the age of social media. Websites and portals like Digg, Reddit, Delicious, Stumbleupon and Twitter can deliver an enormous amount of traffic to your publication. We presume you want and encourage this, particularly in the current financial climate.

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Celebrities Say 'No' To Twitter TV Show; Twitter Comes Clean

After yesterday’s announcement of a Twitter TV show, Twitter have responded on their blog and essentially denied most of the rumours surrounding this story.

There is no official Twitter TV show-although if there were it would be fun to cast! In dealing with networks and production companies we sometimes have simple agreements. Regarding the Reveille and Brillstein project reported today, we have a lightweight, non-exclusive, agreement with the producers which helps them move forward more freely.

Good thing, too, as the general response within the Twitter stream hasn’t been exactly positive. TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington was quick to write an piece entitled, “300 Things I’d Like To See From Twitter Before A TV Show“, and invited readers to submit their own ideas. (Mine can be found here.)

But it’s the celebrity response that’s been the most telling. As reader Rooker reported in the comments in my article, a Twitter account that is in opposition to the alleged show has been established that is already gathering some interest, including that of Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Alyssa Milano.

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Twitter Reality TV Show Announced – What Would You Like To See?

The Twitter TV Show... Coming SoonIt was almost inevitable – with an influx of A-listers to the service and following a successful and well-publicised appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone – the ‘Twitter three’ – have partnered with Reveille productions and Brillstein Entertainment Partners to “develop an unscripted series based on the site, which invites 140-character postings from members around the world.”

Specific details are scarce but the show plans to harness Twitter to put competitors on the trail of celebrities in an interactive format. “We’ve found a compelling way to bring the immediacy of Twitter to life on TV,” Brillstein’s Jon Liebman states.

Think The Amazing Race meets Celebrity Big Brother and you might be fairly close to the mark. One assumes a treasure hunt format, where entrants on Twitter use the network to search for A-listers, who race around the world leaving clues and puzzles while staying in the very best hotels. No word on whether this show will be pre-recorded or live, although if it’s the former the public nature of the Twitter stream means we’ll be able to figure out the outcome before each episode airs.

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Seesmic Desktop Now Has A Spellchecker; TweetDeck's Tragedy Is (Almost) Complete

Long-term readers of this blog will recall that I have repeatedly sung the praises of TweetDeck, and it’s certainly true that this Twitter client has significantly improved the way a lot of us interact and engage with our networks.

However, a few weeks back TweetDeck started giving me a lot of problems. Specifically, my groups, which I set up to closely monitor my favourite Twitterers, were acting all kinds of crazy. Some accounts – including big guns like @Mashable, @Wired and @NYTimes – stopped showing up completely (not just in groups), and it got to a point where it was almost unusable. It’s a shame, as the rest of the functionality, and the robustness of TweetDeck itself, continues to appeal. There’s no doubt that TweetDeck set the benchmark for what could be done, and I’m sure that they’ll continue to make improvements to the product with each release.

About six weeks ago, I reviewed Seesmic Desktop. At that time, Desktop had several large bugs that meant it wasn’t a viable alternative to TweetDeck for me, even though I liked a lot of the other features.

Seesmic Desktop

Since then, Seesmic Desktop has gone through a few major upgrades, and I started testing it again during version 0.2, and really liked what I saw. The groups (called ‘userlists’) function is far easier to manage and administer than it ever was on TweetDeck, which even when it was working had some irritating glitches, and many ‘power-users’ have stated that groups stop working entirely above a certain number of users (about five thousand, I believe).

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Twitter: The Best Of The Week (May 16-22, 2009)

This is a weekly series that looks at the best Twitter-related stories, news and articles within the Twittersphere over the last seven days. You can read previous entries in our archives.

Twitter Surges Past Digg, LinkedIn, The NY Times And Bebo

Twitter had some 32 million visitors in April, 2009, up from 19 million in March. That’s an incredible jump – can it maintain the pace in May? We’ll have to wait and see, but April’s stats were enough to put it above some big sites on the interwebs, including Digg. People keep talking about how Twitter may be a threat to RSS, but you have to think the folks in real trouble are Kevin Rose, and competitors like Reddit and Delicious.

I use a lot of social bookmarking sites to find great content to share, which effectively cuts out the middleman for a lot of my network. If I had a button for all the times I’ve been told that the @Sheamus account is ‘like a mini-Digg’, I’d have enough for a duffle-coat.

Kitty Twitter

@Sockington becomes the first cat – nay, the first animal, if you don’t count Ryan Seacrest – to amass half a million followers on Twitter. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Meantime, eleven accounts on Twitter can now boast more than one million followers – @TheEllenShow has moved past @cnnbrk to the #2 spot, while Oprah, at #11, got there faster than anybody else.

As for @Sockington, there is only one solution.

Why I Unfollowed 45,000 People On Twitter

Explains Seth Simonds, and while his actions are perhaps a little extreme, his reasons are fairly valid. It’s important to optimise your network, and to make sure it stays relevant, and I think that’s going to become a big focus for a lot of users towards the end of this year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: better to have 500 people who care about what you say, than 50,000 who couldn’t care less.

Twitter Tees

I’m huge on Twitter. Well, that’s what the t-shirt says, so it must be true.

http://twitter.threadless.com/These pretty cool tees are made by Threadless, who just might be doing some business with Twitter.

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Is Twitter Like 'Lost', And They're Just Making It Up As They Go Along?

Yesterday I had a blast at the Media140 conference, London’s first micro-blogging event. The crowd was enthusiastic and intelligent, and there was some excellent discourse amongst the panellists and speakers, and some great queries were raised (and in some cases, answered, at least in part).

I suspected that for some of the journalists present there was as much fear as there was excitement about the micro-blogging platform and its potential and ramifications for the newspaper industry (as well as the individuals therein, hence the concern), and this is certainly understandable. Principally because Twitter, the entity and the network, and their own plans and ambitions, are unknown quantities.

I’m a huge fan of the television series Lost. As of this moment it’s my favourite show on TV, and quite possibly all-time, too. The show sizzles with exceptionally groundbreaking, innovative content, and has and will continue to have a huge influence on the industry.

The thing is, like many fans (and, indeed, critics), it’s hard to shake the feeling that they might be pulling a bit of a fast one on us – that they’re just making it all up as they go along. The sixth and final season begins later this year – unless the last few episodes are absolute world-beaters, even if they’re not ‘winging it’ week-to-week and had an A-to-Z plan from day one, a lot of people are going to feel really cheated. It will still feel like they didn’t have a clue; that they just got lucky.

The cast of Lost, with the Twitter co-founders, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey

This, too, is my worry for Twitter – that the founders, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, completely fluked into something that became popular and influential, but now don’t really have any idea what to do with it. I was chatting to some folks at the Media140 after-party yesterday and the majority are apprehensive about Twitter’s plans. We’re concerned that the time and effort we’ve invested into the service is exponentially increasing the risk of it not paying off, both in a monetary and philosophical sense. Reward, after all, comes in many forms, and we’re all making deposits into the network.

The key questions for both Twitter and Lost remain: where is this all going? And will we like it when we get there?

“The Ultimate Goal Is To Become A Very Broad-Reaching Utility.” ~ Biz Stone

Biz Stone interviews well. He seems a likeable guy and generally says the right things. In this video he talks about the value of Twitter, and makes good points about how even the most vapid tweets have the potential to become hugely significant; from lead to gold, if you will, borrowing his comparison to alchemy.

Which is all well and good. But the quality and impact of tweets on the network doesn’t actually have anything to do with Twitter themselves. They just provided the platform – all of the content is generated by us (and their 47 employees, few of which, somewhat disturbingly, seem to have much idea how to use the service). We could all be tweeting about cures for cancer, or we could all be tweeting about what we had for lunch. While the intellectual capacity of the former has a far greater value for Twitter (and the world) than the latter, the end result – the data – is not something Twitter can actually control. It’s either going to be of great value, or it’s not.

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