The future for Twitter

By February 5, 2009Blogging, Content, Twitter

As I read about the first commercial Twitter spamming tool this morning I am reminded of a mashup* event I attended last week where the future of Twitter was discussed extensively.

My big takeaway from that conversation are that people use Twitter for two very different reasons:

  1. To stay in touch in a small way with what their friends are doing – i.e. to follow their activities – also known as ambient intimacy
  2. As a source of news/content

A single person can, of course, use Twitter for both reasons, and many do, myself included.  My point here is though is that as the service grows and the number of messages rises these different use cases will put different requirements on the system.

Someone at the mashup* event said that they liked Twitter because these days their email box was full and unmanageable.  For those that use Twitter to stay in touch with friends that same problem is on the horizon.  In fact you can see the beginnings of it today, even though Twitter is only just beginning to cross over into the mainstream.  As Alan Patrick pointed out at the event Twitter clients like Tweetdeck are symptomatic of the fact that people are beginning to struggle with message volume.  Tweetdeck (which I use and love) helps handle message volume by allowing users to sort messages into columns.  As Alan also pointed out the logical next extension of this is threaded conversations and groups.  By which point it seems to me that Twitter is starting to look a lot like email – maybe sufficiently distinct and better enough to be successful, but not that different.

Turning to the second use case – content discovery – to scale this the tools you need are more about filtering and search – helping people find the nuggets they want in the increasingly voluminous flow – e.g. Nick Halstead’s Tweetmeme.

I wonder if a single Twitter app can continue to support both these use cases as the service grows.

Now the beauty of Twitter’s open API approach is, of course, that both use cases could flourish supported and encouraged by different third party clients.  Yet at the same time I think for me Twitter would lose a lot of it’s appeal if I wasn’t getting both benefits.

One common answer to this problem is to ‘harvest’ ones friends (strange metaphor this as for me harvesting is usually about digging up and eating…) – but I’m not sure that works as once the service goes mainstream I think it will start to be considered rude to say to people “I’m not going to listen to your messages”.

  • Mark L

    Twitter is good because 140 characters is not much type & forces people to get to the point. You can scan & filter twits easily.

    Twitter is a powerful tool but in many ways, I don't see much of a difference between email and twitter in terms of the amount of noise and that is before Twitter is mainstream. It is still incredibly easy to pass on information, content etc and is open to abuse of all sorts – spamming, spreading misinformation etc.

    Amount of content is currently limited because there are (relatively) few subscribers and there is evidence that Twitter attempts to cut out spammers – perhaps because it is in the interests of the community or perhaps because of simple economics.

    Amount of content generated is however increased significantly because it can be sent easily from a device that you carry everywhere. You can twit on the way to the shops, whilst you push a pram about or in the gym.

    There are obviously going to be some new applications that emerge that help us to manage the content we choose to access, many of which we cannot currently imagine as the platform evolves. We are at the same point with Twitter as the Internet was in the mid/late 90s or email in the early 90s. Each successive wave of technology however seems to have a shorter adoption cycle.

  • I'm been thinking along the same lines – Twitter worked when the noise was limited but not it's starting to build up again. I've taken to creating two groups in Tweetdeck – one for people I am following and then another for people I am following but limited to the most interesting people. I might end up with another group just for close friends. I too am missing threaded conversations and hope they introduce tech similar to that on friendfeed.

    Twitter will prosper by realising that their job is to help simplify this communication channel every single day and push back on too much noise. The one good thing it does have over email though is that nothing stays in your inbox if you haven't read it 🙂

  • A good post Nic – I think as long as users are in control of what they receive and can access the things they want through clever filters, it will remain a killer app, and I agree that tweetdeck is a great thrid party app that does just that!

  • Hey Nic, some great observations from that mashup event you've shared here..
    Personally, I think the key is to recognise Twitter, as an evolution of email and the general “information streams” that come into our lives..
    Over time, no matter what the medium, or tool, the problem will end up the same.. More people, more sources of information, more need to discriminate and segregate.. Solutions to these challenges are only going to surface, when people stop trying to look at the problem, from the level of thinking that resulted in it being created in the first place.. In my mind the solution to that challenge is really going to form the basis of the next leap in our use of and engagement with technology, until then, we're still doing using very Web 1.0 like thinking in an increasingly web 2.0 kind of world.. It definitely has to be an “inclusive” solution – I think the problem is we're not looking at the root of the problem, we're looking merely at the symptoms of it.. perhaps?

  • It depends on how you see it. 140 characters is not really enough to even get to the point. What I don't like is when people follow just anyone for the prime purpose of generating hopeful followers themselves. I recommend that you follow people that you are genuinely interested in because you will create a more enjoyable experience for yourself and you get to create a worthwhile network that is more than just follower numbers.

    But otherwise it's just a great medium to have your opinions or questions out in the open.

  • The tools change but people are still human.

    Twitter is characterized by this huge “social asymmetry” between following and unfollowing; I'm looking forward to the day where unfollowing isn't considered quite so rude. Until then, we'll depend on tools to increase filtering and help us ignore the noise, i.e. the “private unfollow”. Interestingly, those filtering and ignoring tools are more advanced with Twitter than with email…

  • Intersting point. I wonder if it migh go the other way and become more difficult not to follow back as Twitter goes mainstream. Most human relationships are symmetrical.

  • It's interesting to watch us translate our standards for offline relationships to the online world; I would hazard a guess that as Twitter goes mainstream the audiences will get more splintered and (as you mention) we will see a variety of use cases become normal.

    It's already considered rude to not reciprocally follow: you're probably right that it will become more standard as use spreads to mainstream users. Tweetdeck already supports that with groups; what happens when people can start figuring out not just how many followers they have but how many people actively read their messages (or includes them in their groups)? The attention game will never end 🙂

  • Thanks Taylor

    You are right – it is very interesting.

    I wonder if the mainstream will really use groups. They have never really embraced them in email.

  • Thanks Taylor

    You are right – it is very interesting.

    I wonder if the mainstream will really use groups. They have never really embraced them in email.

  • cialis online
    cialis
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis]cialis[/url]
    cialis online
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis-online
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis-online]cialis online[/url]

  • cialis online
    cialis
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis]cialis[/url]
    cialis online
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis-online
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&cialis-online]cialis online[/url]

  • buy tramadol online
    buy tramadol
    http://www.freewebsitetemplates.com/forum/member.php?u=62319&buy-tramadol
    [url=http://www.freewebsitetemplates.com/forum/member.php?u=62319&buy-tramadol]buy tramadol[/url]
    generic cialis
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&generic-cialis
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&generic-cialis]generic cialis[/url]

  • buy tramadol online
    buy tramadol
    http://www.freewebsitetemplates.com/forum/member.php?u=62319&buy-tramadol
    [url=http://www.freewebsitetemplates.com/forum/member.php?u=62319&buy-tramadol]buy tramadol[/url]
    generic cialis
    http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&generic-cialis
    [url=http://forums.slimdevices.com/member.php?u=25955&generic-cialis]generic cialis[/url]

  • Re: cialis commented on The future for Twitter Spam

  • Re: buy tramadol commented on The future for Twitter Spam

  • Re: cialis commented on The future for Twitter

    Spam

  • Re: buy tramadol commented on The future for Twitter

    Spam