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May 6, 2009

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Gina Trapani hits on what might turn out to be Twitter’s killer feature:

When you post a question on Twitter and get a dozen replies within the next 10 minutes from actual humans–some of whom you know and trust–it’s waay better than impersonal Google search results.

If shows you what random dudes think, Wikipedia shows you what nobody in particular thinks, and Google shows you what everybody thinks, Twitter shows you what the people you trust think. Who needs Wolfram Alpha or the semantic web when you’ve got real, live people whom you can ask complicated open-ended questions? You can keep the wisdom of crowds — I’ll take the wisdom of MY crowd.

The only trouble with this is that the answers stay bottled up in the little group. Google might not have the personal touch, but at least everyone can benefit from it.

But wait; Trapani’s got you covered:

After 1,700 posts and two years on Twitter, this insta-Q&A is my favorite use of the service–except I always want to share what I learn from my followers, and it’s not easy. My post on what people love and hate about netbooks, sourced entirely from Twitter replies, took me hours to compile manually, because Twitter doesn’t easily list replies to a particular “tweet” in a very readable or republishable format. So this weekend I dug into the service’s API to make that happen. Using Kevin Makice’s new book, Twitter API: Up and Running, after just a day of coding I had my entire Twitter archive plus replies ready for viewing and publishing.

I like that this is the complete opposite of what Robin did with his Twitter feed a couple of months ago — not least because it shows that while the basic principle of Twitter is extraordinarily simple, the implementations of it are varied enough to be tremendous.

What we need now, though, are Twitterhacks for the rest of us! Most of us don’t have a day to devote to coding this stuff, even if we knew how to code in the first place. We need an ecosystem of smart implementations and variations that build on this simple infrastructure. We need these more than 101 different spiffy backgrounds or client apps.

So… what happens next?

Posted May 6, 2009 at 6:27 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Design, Technosnark


1. Here's something that should become part of Twitter culture: propagating those questions outwards. Let's say Tim asks "what's the best breed of wombat?" and I don't know. I RT (RQ?) it to my crew: "RQ @tcarmody: what's the best breed of wombat?" -- thus questions pulse outwards until they find answers. Cool.

2. Tim, what do you want? I'll make it. :-)

I'm infamous for asking long-winded two-part questions (sorry, Matt! It's a bad habit, I know!), and thus I loved using my dormant blog for this sort of thing---I felt like MY crowd was nicely assembled on it, and there was plenty of room for them to discuss. It was the closest I ever came to living out my dream of being a modern day Madame Condorcet. Twitter enforces brevity and thus makes passing it forward more likely--but it also cuts off depth.

You can always post more than one tweet, Saheli. :)

This is what I want -- a whole marketplace of Twitter extensions that AUTOMATES the export/management of Twitter content. I want a service that prints all my favorite tweets out on postcards and then sends them to me. I want a script or app that posts the contents of essays or books at defined intervals. (Somebody did this with the Wandering Rocks episode of Joyce's Ulysses two years ago, and it is awesome. I want something that dumps my tweets into Evernote or some other database. (Man, could I use an export to Evernote client on my blackberry.) And I want something that let's me use Twitter as a universal passport/identifier to post comments anywhere I want, and that will send links and snippets TO me wherever I am.

Twitter as a universal short-form content interface and delivery service. That's what I'm talking about.

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