This morning I followed the suggestions of Marshall Kirkpatrick and tried out Dave Winer’s new little twitter backup tool. I pulled the opml file into Google Reader as instructed and it wasn’t long before i had one of those “Aha!” moments. The kind that happen when you re-encounter something you have been using for a while — a new perspective, a peripheral insight.
Marshall asks in his post if there are things we could imagine doing with the tool. Absolutely! Now, I’m not a coder so my understanding of api limitations is here restricted. But I’d want to build off the tool and create a conversation viewer. Twitter is an inefficient conversional tool, and third party apps have only limited effectiveness, because it simply delivers too many tweets. To make matters worse, each of us has different tweeting habits.
Personally, I’m constantly losing the people for the tweets. I use Seesmic desktop (love it) and have set up 7 panels each with 15 – 30 folks I follow in journalism, social media, marketing, user experience, philosophy and two groups of friends. Every few weeks I spend an entire morning reading the home stream and add people I’ve missed. This takes a lot of work!
The reader view of tweets surfaced people I’ve been missing for months — many now only tweet irregularly and infrequently. Now I spend a lot of time in the stream, so if I’m missing stuff, I can’t imagine what it’s like for others (well, I can, and it relaxes me to do so).
Being in twitter is being in the flow. And the river is now huge, it flows quickly, it’s crowded, everybody’s shouting (some are whispering), some are muttering to themselves, others just saying hello… it’s a mess. It’s no more a conversation than it is a high-school auditorium in a pre-game frenzy and everybody’s got a sign to wave about and there’s a constant stream of students coming and going and the signs keep changing and it never stops.
So I’d like to go meta, and Winer’s tool reminded me why. I’d like a conversation viewer. Not just for the messages I’m missing, and more importantly, the people I’m missing them from, but for the cross-talk, depth, and threads, too. I’d like to see not just a feed for each of the people I’m following but I’d like to see the dots connected. I’d like to see and be able to navigate from person to person, on topic or off topics. During certain periods of time — for the episodic interactions that often happen in twitter.
I’d like to surface experts, and not just the ones who think they’re experts and tweet like they are, but those who are responsive experts: the ones who are quiet till asked. And the friendly experts: the ones who pipe up when they encounter a fellow soccer fan, make an introduction, and follow.
And the recommenders: those who may not be topical experts but who have some pretty good reasons to make a recommendation: they know the person, they know what they like, and whose recommendations are timely and helpful.
And the helpers: those who may not be experts but who recently had the same experience and can offer timely and targeted advice.
And the inviters: those who know what’s going on and invite people they think may be interested (or invite everyone) because they themselves are interested. People who may not be hosting their own event but are socially and culturally active.
And the buddies: those who are there but you might not know it until you tweet something personal and it turns out they’ve been paying attention. The ones whose tweets you remember because they’re kind and comforting in a me-too and we-all-have-those-kinds-of-days way. The ones whose tweeting is personal.
And many more. I’d like a meta-view of the space, by topic, person, group, clique, culture, profession, hobby, activity, location, and event. Over time, for periods of time, with flow velocities and rates of change. A navigation system so that I can hop around through conversations and save, favorite, and share. I’d like a viewer for myself and one for clients. I’d like different kinds for clients, depending on whether they do community management, brand management, PR, marketing, customer service, or sales.
And a whole lot more. I think I’m going to dig up some of my old conversation analysis stuff now. Did I mention social analytics? So, thanks Dave! And thanks Marshall!