Tag Archives: twitter

Cheers to the barnacle app: a useful new entry in the Web 2.0 lexicon

Last week I reported on a fun little social lubricant called Foamee. It is a third party trifle completely reliant (at least as of this writing) on Twitter. The objective: If you’re a member of Twitter, you pledge to buy someone a beer. Foamee keeps tabs on these declarations.

Anatomy of a Barnacle AppAs I pointed out in my post, this application is part of a larger trend. Namely, that of launching a shoestring site that is financially independent of a larger site, but completely dependent on it for survival. It’s an interesting paradox, and all but cries out for a new piece of jargon. You know, something to toss out casually during your next new media PowerPoint presentation.

Enter Joshua Porter of Bokardo Design. In his blog, Joshua dubbed this type of site a barnacle app. I think the term has legs (and the graphic above backs me up on this — at least, a barnacle has “feeding legs”).

Do you agree? Is this a term worthy of surviving past its inevitable 15 minutes of fame in Wired‘s Jargon Watch listing (a recent example)?

Also: What is your favorite barnacle app, and why?

Third party site works with Twitter to promote virtual IOU’s and real beer

Twitter interests me more for what it foreshadows than for what it does. This micro-blogging system is currently little more than an electronic water cooler, where information workers and students can socialize and blow off steam. But it also has aspects of a social network — a very open social network. And that means it has the potential for some exciting innovation.

I look at Twitter as a VisiCalc of this era. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program for the personal computer. Primitive by modern standards, its greatest feat was setting a new paradigm. Spreadsheet progams look odd to those who have never used one, but for adopters, it is a powerhouse– something that many couldn’t imagine working without.

Of course, that’s the magic of the paradigm, not VisiCalc specifically, which was usurped by competitors within a few years of its release.

Sooner rather than later, a Twitter competitor will take the new behaviors of microblogging and deliver something extraordinary. This will be something we would not want to live without. Similar to Excel, this competitor will arrive with bigger, smarter features and scoop up market share.

Or maybe I’m wrong and Twitter will do the impossible. Perhaps it will be able to hold onto and expand its base of users as it morphs from networked toy to networking tool. Here is one ray of hope for Twitter that they will have a better chance than VisiCalc did: Twitter courts and encourages third party developers.

May I Buy You a Beer?

Which brings me to the latest Twitter-affiliated innovation: Along with Foamee, Twitter users can now publicly proclaim their intentions to buy someone a beer. Foamee then tracks the IOU, and even allows for scores to be settled and ledgers closed. Good work, Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits Design, for this fun Twitter add-on. Here’s a screen cap showing my IOU (middle posting) from this morning:

A Foamee Thread

Twitter continues to innovate by opening up to the creative community at large (another fun example is this mashup: TwitterVision). How incredibly smart. This week at ad:tech New York, Google announced it has organized several major social network sites to back an open source way of building and sharing widgets. It’s called OpenSocial.

The folks behind Google (and its own social network, Orkut), wisely recognize that innovation can only be accelerated through the “network effect.” And innovation is, after all, a key to survival. They might have even been inspired by watching Twitter.

If so, Google owes Twitter a beer.

Sponsored SMS bulletins show promise

New media consultant and columnist Steve Smith speculated recently in MediaPost that we will soon be receiving many more sponsored messages with our cell phone’s text bulletins. These text bulletins, also known as SMS messages, are the 140-character packets that helped Justine Ezarik rack up a 300-page AT&T cell phone bill. (She reports that Twitter and the SMS feature of Facebook were the biggest culprits. Each message sent and received was separately itemized.)

The good news is these messages will be extremely targeted, and are “opted into” in exchange for the content received. An example cited by Smith is NASCAR race updates, sent to the 200,000 subscribers to this branded program. He explains that if a supermarket chain would want to target those interested in NASCAR, “There is enough mass there to net perhaps 80,000 users in a general geographic region.”

That’s enough to make quite an impact. Especially since response rates are impressively high.

Although the initial calls to action must be quite brief — 20 to 80 characters — the extremely targeted nature of the messages helps response. A “response” is usually hitting reply, to receive a full (up to 140 characters) expansion of the offer and a URL to click on. This graphic , provided by the MoVoxx site, helps illustrate the typical process:

How InTxt by MoVoxx works

Alec Andronikov, who is the managing partner of MoVoxx, says that of the many billions of SMS messages sent each month, somewhere around 500 million of them are some kind of publisher-pushed alert. And each could conceivably be sponsored. Smith continues:

Right now, [Andronikov] claims about 3.5 million uniques with sports, travel, dating and newspapers comprising the largest content categories. … Andronikov claims a response rate of 2.5% to 4% on the SMS ads.

That means a hypothetical, regionally-based supermarket chain running a NASCAR promotion could get their entire message in front of at least 2,000 fans (80,000 recipients of the initial, sponsored message multiplied by a 2.5% response rate). If the offer is compelling enough, this can win the chain hundreds of new customers.

The ability to target consumers by age, gender and zip code — as well as areas of personal interest, as implied by the content to which a consumer subscribes — promises a way to take the junk out of junk text messages.

Through testing we’ll soon see whether these campaigns “have legs” — whether they can generate enough of a return on investment to make them a smart, new marketing tactic.

Explosion causes a potty-mouthed Twitter skeptic to see the light

I had vowed to readers I would never again write about Twitter. It is, after all, a frivolous little diversion. True, in the same breath, I had also acknowledged (in one of my last posts on the topic) that this trivial toy has the potential to save lives. It can spread news when all other sources are slow to arrive or completely cut off. In a time of rising terrorist threat levels around the world, that makes Twitter sound far less trivial.

Proof of my theory arrived today. Here’s the story that has brought me out of my Twitter silence. Warning: The blog entry I cite, on the other side of this link, includes a profanity in one of the images.

A friend had been trying to coax Howard Lindzon into the Twitter habit. He refused, and finally conceded only on this condition: His “Tweets” would only come from him via his cell phone, and only when he was — ahem — using the facilities. Since he considered Twitter a waste, he was only going to Twitter about waste. But that all changed when there was a terrifying steam pipe explosion. Caught with no other way to get or receive news about it, you can guess where he turned:

Lindzon uses the one tool he bashes and pokes fun at to inform and hopefully inform himself of a crisis situation. Instantly! Wirelessly! … My buddy Loic Le Meur’s twitts a few days ago about how he catches up with news on Twitter more that by reading his RSS.

Now excentric [sic] Lindzon accepts my invitation to join and unwilingly [sic] offers this awesome example of the right person at the right time in the right place using the right service and instantly informing his peers he networked with registering to Twitter. Is this the real web 2.0? Ought to be, as Lindzon did not blog or email about the blast. He freakin twittered it!

When the telephone was invented, it wasn’t thought of as a tool for doing business. It was imagined by most as a way, before consumer radio appliances entered the picture, of carrying music and news across great distances. That all changed of course. Relatively speaking, it didn’t take long for this “toy” to earn its keep in society (just a few decades).

Could Twitter, the first truly widespread mobile time-waster, be on its way to its own social legitimacy?

What I learned from my Twitter experiment

Two weeks ago, at the end of my latest post exclusively about Twitter, I announced that I would let you know the outcome of a little two-week test. In it, I temporarily opened my “Tweets” to the world, so to speak. My posts became part of the Public Timeline of Twitter posts. In that time I’ve continued to enjoy what I like about Twitter: Being able to keep in touch with friends who are on it. But I have to say the foray into the public conversation didn’t amount to much more than that.

I didn’t know what to expect, but here were a couple things that I considered possibilities:

  1. Some people might pick up on references to my more provocative blog entries (such as this one, about mobile communication and the Virginia Tech shootings) and respond directly through Twitter
  2. Others would actually click through to those entries, using URLs that I inserted in the Tweets, and possibly even comment on the blog entry

Someday this might happen for someone. Neither did for me. I suspect that my Tweets were too diffused among the millions of others. Without a way for users to filter by preferences or topics, my Twitter posts became a few needles in an ever-growing haystack. Without context, these “microblog posts” zoomed past and faded without incident.

Well, almost. The day after I began the experience, I received the following:

  • My one and only visit to this blog that I can directly trace as a click-through from the Twitter public timeline (sheesh!)
  • A single message from an “admirer” of my golden (albeit truncated) prose: A spammer trying to get me to visit his site where he was selling something (Does my prose look like I need Viagra?)

It’s not that I was expecting the sort of bank run that Digg.com got when its users started posting an illegal DVD unlock code. But I was hoping for something of interest.

Especially, I was wondering if I could expand my online social network, as I have recently with activities in LinkedIn. I’ll be writing more about LinkedIn in a future post. As for Twitter, starting today I’ll be henceforth mum on the topic.

If you want to reach out to me in a public network, you’ll just have to join my growing — and quite interesting — LinkedIn connections list. Here is my Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jefflarche

Postscript: I just went on the Public Timeline and was astonished to see a friend’s Tweet: Way to go, Jazyfko! I hope your cold is getting better.


Update on May 26, 2007: One of the more promising applications of Twitter so far is the recently launched Truemors, the latest start-up by Guy Kowasaki.

 

Twitter sends flotsam and jetsam our way. Marketers: Take notice!

It’s been called a micro-blogging platform, an electronic water cooler and a wonderful way to keep tabs on friends and family. It’s Twitter, and all I wanted to know is: Is this something marketers should be tracking? Here’s my answer.

Yes.

You should track Twitter. But do it on your own terms. Or simply keep tabs on someone who is on the Twitter network. This concept will definitely morph, but it is not going away.

As promised in the footnote to my dismissive blog entry about this technology, I will recount my 14 days in Twitterland. For those who need a grounding in what Twitter is, I suggest you click on the link above. It loads in a new browser window, so you won’t lose your place. Are you back? Okay, let’s do this thing.

The first thing I discovered was that the people who would never, ever get a blog, or comment on other people’s blogs, have willingly signed up for Twitter. They have eagerly posted their 140 characters of news, weather and sports. I joke, but these posts do often resemble what contemporary television news has devolved into: The most superficial look at important headlines, plus trivia and human interest. And in saying that, I do not mean to disparage, because, like local news, this is very addictive.

Especially when you’re a friend or relative of the fellow “newscasters.”

When you’re part of this micro-blogosphere, all other activity you’re engaged in at that moment comes to a brief halt while you check your computer screen, IM window, or cell phone text messages to learn such tidbits as: “Man, that soup was hot. It scalded my mouth!” I’m making this one up, but it’s the type of flotsam and jetsam that comes drifting your way when you dip your oar in the vast Twitter Ocean.

Below is a sample I grabbed just now from the Twitter Public Timeline, a real-time stock ticker of global “Tweets” from those willing to share their tidbits with the world.

A sample from the Twitter public timeline

Again, I must assure you that I am not dismissing this type of information exchange. Just as the real definition of flotsam and jetsam is “potentially valuable goods jettisoned from a ship,” there are many gems that are shared with the friends, family and co-workers that one lets into one’s network. These gems slide into view suddenly and quietly, along with the detritus. It’s all disposable, but at the same time riveting.

In my 14 days on a small Twitter network (less than 10 participants), I’ve learned things. Oh, yes. I’ve learned quite a bit.

I’ve been sent links to interesting sites and videos. I’ve gotten to know more about distant friends’ lives. I’ve even discovered that I’ve missed an important appointment. And none of this was in my email box, which is crammed enough as it is. This is good on a micro level. And this is potentially important on a macro level.

I suspect that when the next Twin Towers catastrophe occurs, those on a Twitter network will get important and potentially life-saving alerts (“A plane just hit the second tower!”). Remember: On 9/11/01, when the voice lines of cell phones were jammed and inaccessible, and the electricity was off, the last goodbyes were sent to loved ones via cell phone SMS text messages. Grimly, this form of communication was still available, for brief, real-time expressions of fear, resignation and undying love.

If my suggestion of Twitter having that kind of utility shocks you, I must say it shocked me too. But it is also something that follows a clear path. Anthropologist Danah Boyd stated recently that initial web sites — we’ll call them Web 1.0 — were about ideas. With web sites and simple emails, people who didn’t know each other before became acquainted around shared interests and passions. Web 2.0 is all about people. Since the web has become ubiquitous (at least with the majority of the young, and 100% of the world’s information workers), you could keep connected with nearly everyone you know, and even have them broker introductions to those you don’t know (the magic of MySpace and Facebook “friends” and LinkedIn “connections”).

So what is the coming Web 3.0 about? Place.

Or, more importantly, place and time. Who is where I am right now? Other systems like Dodgeball hinted at this promise of a real-world / virtual network. Twitter expands on that promise. It is about place in a big way.

If you want to spend some mindless computer time, check out this Google mash-up of the Twitter public timeline. That will remind you of how quickly this world is shrinking … and help to demonstrate the global, and univeral, appeal of Twitter.

Finally, I offer this challenge. I want to see if Twitter can help me get acquainted with some interesting, like-minded marketing types. So I’m going to do a little experiment: I’m posting my Twitter posts to the world for the next week, and see who might want to add me to their Twitter Friends list. Specifically, I want to know how many people I could get to know. Can I connect with individuals whose flotsam and jetsam would make for an interesting and instructive complement to the Tweets I’m receiving now? And can some real business conversations come of it?

I’ll let you know.

Twitter’s sudden celebrity will soon become a fight for relevance

Twitter is a way to broadcast via your cell phone or computer. What do you broadcast? Whatever is immediate and local. You disclose your thoughts, observations and whereabouts — and anything else you can fit within a 140-character limit text message. Here’s an unofficial Twitter wiki. Its Press and Media section has links to some of the latest buzz on this social media app.

Twitter appeared quickly and will, in my opinion, flame out just as fast. Once it has died back down to a glowing ember, I suspect it will reside where it seems most suited: with younger students and others with plenty of time, a big friends list, and a high opinion of their own text-messaged voices.

Because your cell phone can get deluged with “Tweets” (one attendee of the SXSW conference in Austin reported receiving 3,000 of them during her time there), it appears that most people finally turn the mobile feature off. Who of us, after all, has an unlimited text message plan and a high tolerance for deleting messages as fast as they arrive?

But turning off the ability to receive these messages on my cell phone takes away one of Twitter’s major appeals: The ability to “microblog” from anywhere, and read other people’s insights dashed off from whatever house party or night club you weren’t able to get to.

I’m always looking at these phenomena for how they might bubble up into the generations of working stiffs who are hoping technology can aid their productivity — or ease their workday the way a smoke break used to when more people smoked.

This technology has me curious, but unless there is some improved way to filter the spamming effect I don’t see Twitter as surviving the battle for mainstream relevance.


April 17, 2007 — An update:This weekend I succumbed. I needed to experience Twitter for myself, especially since I was reading intriguing comments on other people’s blogs, including this one. Keeping the mobile component turned off, I created this account: http://twitter.com/TheLarch (yes, I dropped my name’s trailing “e” — it’s a silly Monty Python joke).

 

I’ll do a new entry soon with my thoughts.