The Beautiful Simplicity of Twitter (and BlogHUD)
Second Life resident Koz Farina, creator of the very popular BlogHUD tool for blogging from within SL, is developing a system to allow you to cross-post your BlogHUD posts to your account on Twitter, the hot new social site that lets you miniblog along with your friends. Koz is already feeding all BlogHUD posts to a Twitter BlogHUD page. This is just the latest entry into a growing pool of Twitter-to-SL mashups from people like Ordinal Malaprop and Kisa Naumova, among others. And in fact, there’s been a huge flowering of ancillary Twitter apps since the service launched last fall. Why? Because Twitter is incredibly compelling, for a number of reasons. One of the most important, in my opinion, is the almost complete lack of button-based features that Twitter offers to its users. (Although I’d love for someone to build the wish app described at the end of this post.)
Twitter lies somewhere between instant messaging, blogging and email. You can post message of no more than 140 characters at a time, which go to your Twitter page and are also seen by the people who have chosen to “follow” your Twittering. The shape and value of your Twitter stream (i.e., the messages posted by you and your followees) is dependent completely on who you choose to follow. Some people post about what they’re having for breakfast, some about the interesting things they’re finding or doing, some about things like earthquakes, others post in completely different ways (it is the Web, after all). You can find new friends by browsing your friends’ friends lists, or by looking through the public timeline of all public Twitters, many of which are outstanding, especially given the quality of the assembled Twitterati now using the service.
Because it’s not instant messaging, it’s not as intrusive as a chat. Because it’s not email, you’re not engaged in a private conversation and are part of a larger stream of thought. Because it’s not blogging, your Twitters are more of an ongoing converation than a series of shorter conversations (you can’t comment on Twitter posts, you can just respond with another post of your own). What it is is an effective many-to-many communications medium that also works in part because of its severely limited bandwidth. It’s easy to read (or skip) someone’s latest Twitter, and you can actually get a lot of information into 140 characters (especially with TinyURL, which is automatically incorporated). You can also get Twittered on your mobile phone, and there’s even a whole list of commands you can send from your phone to manage your account.
The proliferation of Twitter mashups has been inspired in part because the Twitter site itself is of severaly limited function. Apart from the text commands, there are almost no features available other than adding and “leaving” friends and roughly controlling what gets sent to your mobile phone. This leaves the Web page exceedingly clean, and allows you to concentrate on your stream rather than on managing your account. It’s not about actively “using” the service, it’s about what you can glean from your stream. You don’t get distracted by the urge to “manage.”
I’m very into this and hope that Twitter doesn’t add any more functionality than it already has. Users are adding opt-in functionality by droves (for example, a script that adds Digg buttons to your Twitter page, and tons of other stuff on the Twitter Fan Wiki). That said, I’m very interested in what people can do with this in Second Life. Posting to Twitter from SL is cool, but it would be great to be able to see my stream in there (Ordinal’s work seems to be closest so far).
My wish app for Twitter: A page that harvests the public timeline and tells you which terms are coming up most often, a kind of Google Zeitgeist for Twitter. Even better if I can apply it to just the people I’m following.
Warning: Twitter is addictive. If you can’t hang with continuous partial attention, don’t even click through.