Like A Tweet On A Wire
While I was composing a recent post on my Heck Of A Guy blog, Blagojevitter Broadcasts Blagojevich Brouhaha, I realized that the the technology described might be useful in other situations, including some relevant to those of us with an interest in Leonard Cohen.
The inelegantly named Blagojevitter monitors Tweets, those brief, seemingly ubiquitous messages sent via Twitter,1 for references to the Illinois scandal du jour, Governor Blagojevich’s alleged (chortle) attempt to gain some personal financial advantage by brokering the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama.
Not being a Twitterer I read up on that process and, persuaded of its potential utility, set up a page monitoring Tweets for Leonard Cohen references at Like A Tweet On A Wire. At present, there are 2 monitors, one for “Leonard Cohen” and one for “Hallelujah cover.”
1. It’s fun and occasionally instructive to eavesdrop. Reading the random conversations and comments made about Leonard Cohen via Tweets offers insights,2 more than a few laughs, and the occasional provocative phrase. When, for instance, I set up the monitors, the first message that popped up – and I am not making this up – had to do with a young woman’s celebratory comment re her completion of the work day, leaving her free to explain the effect Leonard Cohen has on her panties. Less provocatively but more commonly one finds serious and boisterous arguments about the best version of Hallelujah, lots of women of all ages expressing romantic passions aroused by Leonard Cohen, and testimonies about “my favorite Leonard Cohen song.”
2. Twitter is a useful means of communication via portable devices at specific events as diverse as earthquakes (people from Francisco reported on earthquakes that took traditional news sources hours to confirm) and band festivals. Consider the experience described It started with a tweet – my Twitter epiphany:
That all changed last week when Twitter played a major role in shaping my experience of SXSW. It started in Chicago airport when, waiting for a connecting flight, I exchanged Twitter handles with a bunch of fellow geeks, also on their way to Austin. Suddenly I was part of a mini community with a shared purpose and the tweets coming through felt super relevant and interesting (‘X is talking in Room 8 right now and she’s awesome’ ‘I’m grabbing some lunch at the Halcyon – anyone want to join me?’).
Where previously I thought of Twitter as being like SMS or IM but more spammy, I started to see the benefits of its one-to-many format. It was possible to throw a thought out there, with people able to respond or not, without obligation – something which definitely isn’t true of SMS or IM, where an unreplied to message usually goes down like a cup of cold sick. The beauty of apps such as Twitterific is that your friends’ twittering becomes an almost ambient side-channel with you free to dip in a out as your time and interest allows.
Another interesting use of Twitter at SXSW was as a back-channel during the sessions, enabling attendees both within and without of a session to have a near real-time conversation about it (with well documented consequences in the case of the Zuckerberg keynote). Of course, the smarter session chairs pulled the back-channel up on screen so they could gauge the mood of the audience and respond accordingly.
SXSW, in fact, nearly overwhelmed Twitter as participants immediately understood all that network could provide: breaking news from conference sessions was availabe as it broke, blogs were updated mutiple times in a short period, gatherings, dinners, and parties were organized by paricipants, not an administrator.
Similarly, groups connected by common interests instead of a common experience benefit from the ongoing exchanges on Twitter. This is most evident among the technogeeks who inform each other about new gizmos, tools, and toys in a flash – or, more accurately, in a tweet.
Businessmen can trade travel updates, pass along messages if one is running late, catch changes in pricing from the home office as they happen, …
And, it beats phone calls , e-mail, and IM bcause being online is not a necessity for Twitterers. Twitter is a distributed communication system, which menas a tweet from your cell plhone can be followed on another cell phone, the web, IM, or any portable device one can imagine.
3. Twitter is an effective way to quickly submit and distribute information, such as directing others to posts one has written, to news or entertainment feeds, or to alert others than something of interest is taking place on a web site, a TV channel, a radio station, …
It’s an experiment. We’ll see what happens.
- For those unfamiliar with Twitter, this description from Wikipedi may be useful:
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service, that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS, RSS, email or through an application such as Tweetie, TwitterFon, Twitterrific, Feedalizr or Facebook.
- News organizations have become aware of Twitter as a source of story ideas, as is the case in the Blagojevich case. According to Mallary Jean Tenore, writing at Newsies Twittering on Twitter,
The Orlando Sentinel, for instance, most recently used Twitter to post updates on the Atlantis and Endeavour shuttle launches this summer. The New York Times, meanwhile, updates its Twitter account at least a couple times an hour, posting Times headlines with links to related articles. Representatives of both news organizations said using Twitter is one way of connecting to users who may not otherwise read a newspaper or visit a news organization’s Web site. … By clicking on Twitter’s public timeline — a random listing of Twitterers that is updated every four minutes — you can click on a profile and see what it looks like. Here is Poynter’s Twitter page, which I recently created.