We Have Only Scratched the Surface of the True Value of Twitter. Here’s What You’re Missing

Posted on Oct 31, 2011 | 73 comments


I have written extensively about Twitter in the past. I still find that many people don’t understand the basics. If you consider yourself a newbie, please check out a group of posts that I’ve done in the past that might make you feel more comfortable with what is unique about Twitter.

In this post I want to talk about a Twitter that I see beyond what is visible to most Twitter users today. Call it “Strategic Twitter.”

*****

LA? Seattle? Chicago?

Before elaborating I’d like to make one small side-note to say that if you want to talk in person about “Strategic Twitter” I will helping to host an event on November 10th in Los Angeles called “teatime” what will feature Ryan Sarver (Twitter’s head of platform) and Jason Costa (works on developer relations) that was organized by my good friend & colleague Adam Lilling (what? you’re not following him? go on, I’ll wait …) and sponsored by Nitu Gulati Pauly (who is VP at the best tech-focused recruiting firm in LA).

The sign up page for the event is here & there is limited availability. It is intended for product & tech people – mostly people who want to build cool stuff on the Twitter platform and it will showcase some really cool stuff that has been built on Twitter. It’s at the Zanuck Theater (Fox Studios) and will be a great event to learn about the direction of the Twitter platform and how people are using it.

I’ll be there the whole night hanging out and trying to meet with cool companies planning to do interesting stuff with the Twitter API.

Oh, and if you’re in Chicago or Seattle you have your home town events, too. Here’s yours: Chicago (Nov 7) Seattle (Nov 9)

*****

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Here’s three important things to know about Twitter’s future that are more nuanced than “what am I eating for lunch?”

1. Identity 
Who are you on the web? Historically you are your email address. You meet somebody and they want to get in touch with you, you have always given out yourname@company.com. That’s one form of identity. But for many public figures that’s not practical. Think about your local news anchor saying, “if you want to get in touch email me at xxxx.” Sure.

And yet Facebook also hasn’t filled the identity space. The reason it didn’t was that the follower model of Facebook started out as symmetrical, which basically means that if somebody friends you, you needed to friend them back. So again your local news anchor doesn’t exactly want to follow back all of her viewers. Not practical. Let alone for Oprah Winfrey.

One of the biggest innovations of Twitter was asymmetrical follower model in which many people can follow your updates and you don’t have to follow theirs. I wrote about this a couple of years ago here.

So it is now very common for news organizations to announce on the air, “to follow my updates please follow me on Twitter at @myname.  Twitter has become one of our major online identities and that is becoming mainstream in ways that people aren’t really talking about. Nearly every day now I see public figures telling people their Twitter identity in stead of Facebook, email or other forms of identity.

But this really went mainstream with Apple’s iOS5 integration. This is A REALLY BIG DEAL. Why?

Well think of it this way. It’s almost like the web equivalent of Facebook Connect. On the web each website wants you to log in to their website using a proprietary user name and password. But most users don’t want this.

So Facebook Connect was a great way for publishers to get you to log in using Facebook’s system so that they could at least know who you were when you visited and they could try to build features that incorporated your friend graph such as sharing content or knowing the most popular stuff your friends are also reading.

On the iPhone this is Twitter, not Facebook. If you log into Twitter on your iOS device you can suddenly use any app that has integrated with this Apple feature. And any app that doesn’t is myopic. Think about it – if you have all of your customers already signed into Twitter then you have a much better chance that they’ll use your app to publish into their Twitter stream and drive more traffic back to your app.

And as a result of Twitter being your identity on the iPhone it will drive a lot more people to sign up and use Twitter. If you want to see how this works come check out our Nov 10th event in LA and you can see TextPlus demo their iOS5 integration and how they think about the importance of working hand-in-hand with Twitter for their free text messaging apps.

2. Object Communications
The other major thing that will become the most powerful impact Twitter will have on society is “object communications.” 15 years ago when many of us first started discussing the future of the web, the smartest future thinkers about where this would all go would say that people interacting with websites would just scratch the surface of the power of the Internet.

When machines can talk with others machines you will have a truly powerful Internet. Of course we know that this is already happening as web services are now driving significant portions of the Internet and people are driving toward a future Semantic Web.

And while networks of computers now regularly interact with each other, so too is the future of Twitter. Consider some simple examples.

  • Today we find out when commuter trains are late or roads are closed because our friends or local news agencies Tweet them to us. In the future trains will auto tweet and potentially update displays in train stations or airplanes can tell us when they will arrive at the gate in stead of us talking with the uninformed gate representative.
  • DropBox could send out Tweets to users when new documents have been added to a folder they are following if they have subscribed to updates
  • We already know that some bakeries send Tweets when they have fresh cookies.
  • New tickets about to go on sale for your favorite band – Tweet. Stock you’re tracking goes below your purchase price? Tweet. Major congestion on your normal route to work? Tweet.

Yes, I know that many of these things can be Tweeted today but many are manual or done by friends we follow. The future will see more of this automated. Yes, I know a lot of this could just come from existing IT systems and email. But the real-time nature and public availability of the data tells me that Twitter has a better chance than anybody else of being the source of open object-people and open object-object communications.

If you want to come see how Factual is integrating with Twitter APIs make sure to come to our event in LA.

[Update: Stephen Medawar wrote in the comments:

"I would expand your object communication to "two-way object communication". There could be a causality to content-specific or location-specific tweets (much in the same way some are integrating Twilio).

Example: Maybe I can programmatically change my reservation at a restaurant who's POS is integrated with the Twitter API. I'm late and on the road...I tweet that I'm late and the reservation is changed by the amount of time the computer thinks it will take for me to get from my tweet location to the restaurant (plus parking)."

Done. Thanks for helping me expand!]

3. Predictive Data
The other thing that isn’t talked about enough in the mainstream media about Twitter is the predictive nature of open Twitter data in and of itself. It should be no surprise why I invested alongside IA Ventures in the big data company DataSift.

I believe that Twitter is becoming the most interesting and predictive dataset in the world and that every large company (and many small ones) will consume the Twitter stream in order to gain insights, determine actions to take and gain competitive advantage.

I know this sounds like hyperbole, but consider:

  • Police forces around the world are now starting to use Twitter to track potential riots and crowd movements
  • Major litigators are now tracking Twitter data to determine likely jury sentiment
  • Hedge fund traders are now consuming real-time Twitter data to figure out trading strategies or determine major news events micro-seconds before other traders
  • Movie studios are evaluating audience reactions to films and adjusting marketing spend based on early customer reactions to films
  • Corporations are monitoring service outages based on user Tweets
  • Companies are monitoring competitor movements
  • VC Delta is scraping websites of VCs and Tweeting when they add new portfolio companies to their websites making it easier to track when other VCs are doing.
  • News organizations are monitoring Twitter to make sure they’re on top of breaking news before their competitors

Know what I call a company in the future who’s not ingesting real-time data feeds to gain competitive advantage? Toast.

Come to our November 10th event and hear awe.sm talk about their Twitter integration and how you can use Twitter analytics to better monitor social media conversion on marketing campaigns.

4. Augmented Data
Finally, while significant value will be delivered to companies who can interpret real-time data, some people are over-looking an important facet of the data that Datasift calls “Augmented Data.”

Let me explain it with a current metaphor – the 2012 US presidential campaign.

Let’s say you’re a political operative who is trying to win a swing state like Florida in the general election. You’ve been tasked with winning South Florida for President Obama against the Republican nominee.

You obviously have your databases of email addresses, phone numbers and Twitter handles of those that have registered for the cause. But of course not everybody has.

So you start monitoring the Twitter stream for people who have geo-location turned on, are currently in South Florida and who are Tweeting things that are considered by a semantic engine to be positive Tweets about Obama. You would obviously consider them friendly and want to engage with them over Twitter.

But what about those not sending Tweets saying, “Yes We Can?”

Well, for starters you could interpret much about users by whom they follow. If a user is following Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and is not also following Rachel Maddow, Al Gore and Barack Obama then you can probabilistically surmise they are likely a Republican supporter. But there are equal patterns in which you could infer that they are either a Democrat or are likely to be an independent.

There are other factors you could use to figure out whether they are male or female, old or young, passionate about the war in Afghanistan or likely to vote based on Cuban-American issues. You could figure out whether they are Hispanic based on language analysis or whether they follow Spanish-speaking Twitter handles.

The future of data interpretations will be augmented. We will look at both the steam and the “meta stream.” We will want to augment with: location, demographics, affiliations, authority by subject area, gender, topical interests and a whole lot more.

The most dynamic businesses will use all of this for positive effect. And you can guess where we’ll be talking about this on November 10th with Twitter’s platform team and with some great LA companies that are using the Twitter API to power their businesses.

  • http://twitter.com/_AlexLawrence Alex Lawrence

    This is exactly why I still spend 90% of my social time there.  Good post.

  • http://jobferral.com Stephen Medawar

    Great post. Maybe I missed it, so sorry if that’s the case…but I would expand your object communication to “two-way object communication”. There could be a causality to content-specific or location-specific tweets (much in the same way some are integrating Twilio). 

    Example: Maybe I can programmatically change my reservation at a restaurant who’s POS is integrated with the Twitter API. I’m late and on the road…I tweet that I’m late and the reservation is changed by the amount of time the computer thinks it will take for me to get from my tweet location to the restaurant (plus parking). Note:That might be a weak example after a long day’s work.

  • http://babblingvc.typepad.com/ Paul Jozefak

    This is spot on Mark and why I’m so bullish on Twitter. I think the opportunities in 4. Augmented Data are also extremely far reaching. By simply analyzing whom we are following and analyzing what they do to some extent, you can get so much data. Advertising, politics, product feedback, CRM……so many possibilities.  

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Done. Great addition. Check the post. I’ve updated it with your commentary. Thanks.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Exactly. Me, too.

  • http://about.me/austinlac Austin Clements

    I’m really curious to see where the iOS integration goes. I was actually surprised that you dont see DMs right along side the SMS and iMessages.

    I also think twitter is going to have to allow for users to segment streams in some way. Suppose important documents have been added to a dropbox folder, I would would hate for that that to be lost in a sea of Kim Kardashian updates. 

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  • http://www.alearningaday.com Rohan

    Interesting. I haven’t yet updated to iOS5 but Apple seems to have done Twitter a massive favor. 

    Thanks Mark. I’m on @rrohan189:twitter  by the way ;-)

  • http://www.aaronklein.com/ Aaron Klein

    There is no question that Twitter has built a powerful platform that is a killer communications and information network on the web.

    But they’ve got some work to do to achieve parity with Facebook in terms of what they offer developers. A user authenticating via Facebook can opt-in to sharing their email address with my app. Not even possible with Twitter.

    We also use gender to personalize the pronouns in our app. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes for a much more personalized experience, and Facebook hands us that on day one.

    The name of the user’s employer is killer – we can use that with Facebook to identify if we can help the user allocate their 401K plan.

    I love the open architecture of Twitter. It’s a service I use every day. I hope they take a few elementary steps like this to make it a richer platform for developers.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Twitter is a many layered thing.  The evolution is a fascinating phenomenon.

  • http://MainStStark.com Jeff ‘SKI’ Kinsey

    Agreed [Hey Donna]. As Mark knows, StockTwits exits because of twitter. And then there is this stealth Quicken-like app I am working on… using a certain ubiquitous protocol. I knew my love of EDI would pay off. $$

  • http://kWIQly.com James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Fascinating, the “Strategic Twitter” framework by http://datasift.com/  (not only twitter) is a means to connect the collective  sentiment of a group  of  individuals, or the specific wants of individuals to a listener.

    Three models are clear:

    Passive – 
    The thoughtless but opinionated tweet ” @msuster:disqus   makes brainfood” 
    has prima facie  semantic meaning (hey it’s one possible interpretation),  or

    Active –
    Via some app I deliberately deliver a protocol crafted payload formatted to convey specific information eg “RT xyz” generally implies I support xyz as a sentiment or its author

    Derived – 
    I tweet ” I am happy to be alive – God is Great” – so some potentially dangerous tool might categorizeme based on deductive reasoning about my location, ethnicity, and historic context etc and decide I am a threat to society.  (see censoring in China  where encryption of semantics is an art)

    Interesting is that a protocol augmented message can convey more compact and  specific data – but it still may be valid in a limited context  eg reading “lol at jokeNumber234″  – we see  an “inside joke”as noise – we cannot decrypt it  (but published absent protocol maybe it is mere link bait).

    This means infinite (potentially) analytic metadata available  – Potentially because how would we classify a strange tweet that said  ” @q_douglashofsta:disqus  – this tweet is non self descriptive” 
    Is it true or false and can it be either ? So to carry semantics a tweet needs to be somehow self-descriptive or it has no soul –  hence the @ RT # and link functions

    Rather than “#pollutingTheTweetWaves” ; active apps need “back-channels” for generically carrying data that is not intended for human consumption.

    This argues for very different interpretation engines for “cleartext” with a “semantic intepretation engine” and another for where embedded protocols (are expected) with bespoke api for various applications. 

    Thereafter the real challenge is “winnowing wheat from chaff” because the social web is rather subjective and this reader sees much as indeed #pollutingTheTweetWaves

    Can I be – WhereIam,  Now, & whatITweet ?   – or not – the jury is out !

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Hi Mark

    I think that this road show is a great idea. As a believer in the untapped power of Twitter, I’m on board.

    Of course….what happened to New York? Remember that little city on the east side of the Hudson? Glad to meet you at the Financial Center Water Taxi terminal and greet you ;)

    This roadshow is what I might do if I was the CMO of Twitter. Marketing at its best and most useful. They are really notorious oblivious of the needs of their users and their developers to some degree. I’m glad you have stepped up and done this. Gotta wonder why they didn’t.

     I’m checking my calendar to see if I can get to LA though. This is an important discussion.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    Really good points Arnold about the absence of a NYC venue and the need for Twitter to show some developer love. Hopefully your visit to our fair city won’t affect your presence at those little events happening in NYC on the 9th? Our planes may end up crossing paths.

  • http://twitter.com/jvandenbroeck Joris Van den Broeck

    I think the problem with object communication is that twitter is focused on user – user communication, which it does extremely good. But to be successful with other types of communication (dropbox, cookies,.. ) they should have a good way to differentiate between these different types. As a user you would want to be able to select which tweets to see, if these object communications would become  a big thing, half of your tweet stream could be object related things – which would be bad for most users. They like twitter for what they do good; user-user communication. 
    I think all those different uses can be possible with the same back-end, but I don’t believe it would be a success with the same UI. 

  • http://joeyevoli.com Joe Yevoli

    Very cool stuff here, Mark.  My head is spinning with ideas.

    When linking facebook and twitter to our product, we’ve found twitter to be a far more valuable resource. Initially, I thought it’d be the other way around since typically a user will have more followers on facebook than twitter.  

    This doesn’t seem to be the case.  Facebook followers are passive, and less invested.  When you follow someone on twitter, you’re actively taking an interest/committing to that person.

  • http://www.freezecrowd.com Eric Leebow

    Mark, interesting post. I’ve got a different take on this with FreezeCrowd, as that’s the college social networking site I started.  I came up with this idea long ago and have refined the idea over a period of 11 years. FreezeCrowd launched 2 months ago specifically for the college students and alumni with .edu or school emails as that was my original idea. Below is a link to an interview that was blogged yesterday, and it would be great if you could stumble it to friends 

    FreezeCrowd: Social Network That Connects People to Social Items in Group Photos
    http://su.pr/3wQQyyConnections shouldn’t be symmetrical vs. asymmetrical, it should be a hybrid model. By hybrid, you can make it asymmetrical as well as symmetrical.  It’s important to start with symmetrical, because that’s part of who we are really connected to, the people we’ve met, are friends with, and have taken photos with along the way because people are connected through photos (I think of the photo as the mirror to our physical world). As the old saying goes, “you are who you hang out with.” Your closest friends in college are the ones who influence you the most. Then, if we have our friends define who we are in photos, they can follow us based on our role or category that we fit in.  Every role can be linked to a category group, such as a Point Guard is linked to a the category Basketball Team.So, you may be a Venture Capitalist, and we want to follow the Venture Capitalists of the world because we have shared an experience with venture capitalists.  That’s why I tweet a lot about Freeze this person or that person in the crowd, as we want to Freeze the identities in the photos or the crowd, so that people can follow the identities, and filter their following behavior based on their own identity.  So, if we Freeze Venture Capitalists in photos, then people who like to follow this role will follow, and FreezeCrowd will narrow it down for you to show you all the Venture Capitalists in the crowd someday, and you’ll be able to better connect in crowds with other Venture Capitalists. FreezeCrowd is a big idea, right now FreezeCrowd has over 8,000 roles in the database and millions of keywords. FreezeCrowd already links to Twitter.

  • Robin Klein

    Great post, MArk. As always, thoughtful and well researched. 
    A great example of the predictive nature of open Twitter data is EDITD’s service for the fashion industry. http://www.editd.com

  • http://wearenytech.com/64-mark-birch-investor-entrepreneur-trader Mark Birch

    Interesting insight and something that I have found as well, not just with my own usage of social media, but that of many of my contacts that use both Twitter and Facebook.

    I believe it all comes down to the differences in following mechanisms.  Because the association is looser in Twitter, the irony is that the relationships end up being stronger.

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  • http://joeyevoli.com Joe Yevoli

    Yes, absolutely. It all comes down to the following mechanisms.

    I guess facebook has an answer for this now with the subscription model they recently introduced, but I don’t think it’ll do the trick. The passive follow is to engrained in facebook’s community.

  • Jw

    I believe the NY tea time already happened. Check @rsarver’s timeline on Twitter.

  • http://www.Siffter.com Russell Killgo

    Great post on Twitter.  This raises the question of app-first or web-first.  You posted a while back that a new startup has to decide whether they are app-first or web-first before they can move forward to their best desired results.  When I designed Siffter as an iPhone app first, I had to decide what gave me the biggest bang for the buck with my limited budget.  Because I did this, I went against the grain of common thinking and didn’t require an email to get registered with Siffter.  But I did make it so that you can’t use the app unless you are logged into Twitter or Facebook.  Since Siffter opens inside of the Twitter or Facebook iPhone apps, data can be tracked very easily to see where users are moving around and what kinds of products or places cause the most traffic.  My goal with Siffter is to get users interacting the same way as Opinionaided, but with a much more personal feel.  I don’t care what Bob in Montana thinks I should do, but I do care what my friends or followers think I should do.  If I’m at a store and I take 3 pics of three different shirts and I tweet it out through Siffter, I can get a very fast answer as to which shirt my followers, who are people similar to me or care about what I say or do, think is the best option for me.  I think Twitter, much more than Facebook, can be a driving force in marketing R&D.  A company could use Twitter to ask a very simple question to the loyal customers that follow it.  Do you think “GAP” would have like to been able to ask their most loyal fans if they should change their logo?  They could have asked a simple yes-or-no question with a picture of their new logo and tweeted it out to their followers.  This would have saved them millions. 

    I’m not trying to self promote on your blog.  I simply could not agree with you more about how big of role Twitter will play in the future.  I did not get an opportunity to speak with you in April when I attended your lecture at UCSD.  As much as I would love to join the discussion on the 10th, I will unfortunately be in Orlando on vacation with my son Nov 9 – 13.  I would welcome an opportunity to sit and discuss Twitter and how Siffter can be used to enhance it over coffee.  It’s a short drive from Vegas, so I can be there whenever you are free.  Keep up the great work on this blog!

  • http://byJess.net Jess Bachman

    I agree with you on the above points, but one needs to remember that for 99% of people out there, Twitter is very hard to get into as a communication method.   People think its a platform to be heard, but its really not, unless you already have an audience.  Facebook comes baked in with friends, HS and college buddies are easy to find.  Building an verified audience on twitter is hard work.

    I tell people who are looking into twitter to use it to listen and forget about “broadcasting” as they will most likely be talking to the void.

  • http://www.Siffter.com Russell Killgo

    I saw the example about the reservation and it got me thinking.  If the computer tweets your delay to the POS, this will only update your reservation to a current time.  While most restaurants will do their best to accommodate people with reservations that are running late, a lot of the time they will have to wait a little while when they arrive if it’s a busy place.  And this comes from my many years in the restaurant service industry in Las Vegas.  If the POS could be integrated such that it would calculate when a table will become available by learning the average time a party usually stays at a table, then it could tweet back at you and let you know an expected time your new table will be ready.  This would keep people from rushing, and in turn, driving recklessly, or from becoming angry that the hostess did not hold their table for them.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post. I’ve been talking for a while about the tremendous value of Twitter, specifically for #3 and #4. I work a lot in Big Data and predictive analytics and just gave a presentation at Information on Demand last week on using social data, particularly twitter, to make predictive investment decisions in film and television. There isn’t a Fortune 500 company I consult for that isn’t at this moment building a core, integrated workflow product that incorporates twitter data for decision making. I don’t mean for PR purposes or building a “social profile”, I mean enhancing their enterprise data with twitter data to make more customer-focused decisions as part of system-wide day-to-day processes. There is tremendous monetization value here.

  • http://www.lagrangianpoints.com Jim Haughwout

    It’s interesting that the most valuable thing about Twitter is not Twitter as a product, but instead Twitter as a channel to information.  Not just the direct connections to people for info, or even the real-time nature of it, but ultimately the ability to parse and exploit it for value. It will be interesting to see which technology companies best capitalize on this: Twitter, or companies working via their APIs like like Radian 6-now-Salesforce.

  • http://bit.ly/vipulrawal Vipul Rawal

    Many interesting use of twitter already mentioned. Another interesting one would be – reality shows, contests, etc using twitter for voting! Right now not so actively used though.

  • Anonymous

    Love voice- texting using Siri (iPhone4s) – why can’t I tweet that way?  Given everything you’ve said here and the rave for IOS5 it seems like an odd over-look.  Agree?

  • http://twitter.com/robinwarren Robin Warren

    Re 2:
    I think there is great potential in the amount of data being aggregated on twitter purely because it’s so simple to share. I’ve started a site http://jobstractor.com aggregating jobs for developers from twitter. Even ignoring the jobs boards and recruiters I’m getting close to 2000 jobs a week which previously would have been a lot harder for job seekers to find. There has to be a lot more of that sort of knowledge on twitter which previously people just mentioned in passing to friends but now they put out there for the world.

    Good post, thanks.

  • http://about.me/mikeschinkel MikeSchinkel

    As always, another great post.  Insightful as always. And I’ll say I was already thinking the first 2 back in 2008:

    Identity: I wrote about exactly that in July 2008:  http://mikeschinkel.com/blog/twitter-upl/

    Object Communications: I worked on a startup idea we called “1z” for exactly that, back in early 2009. Unfortunately being in Atlanta there was no funding for that type of startup so I moved on to start a startup funded by customers.

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  • http://twitter.com/jpwetenhall John Wetenhall

    Some wonderful insights. The added functionality you suggest in #2 does not come without a major problem for users that is already plaguing Twitter (and Facebook and other social platforms). That problem is noise. While I do not want to miss, say, your tweet linking to this post, it might get lost between the innumerable @ replies, reports of Kim Kardashian’s divorce, etc. From a user’s perspective, information is only valuable if it is quickly and easily accessible, and if you’re following more than 100 people or so (median for all Twitter users is 235), it can be time consuming and difficult. I’m working on a solution to this problem – its called Undrip. Mark – more info will be coming your way soon. 

  • http://twitter.com/plhjr83 Patrick Harrington

    having developed a variety of high-dimensional demographic predictive algorithms, e.g., ethnicity, age, gender, etc, from both the content of what people tweet AND who they follow, one can achieve surprisingly high precision and recall using twitter data.  Twitter logins to sites involving the purchasing of goods and services, etc, will allow additional fusion of data to further segment the population and make the web a more personalized experience.  

  • http://twitter.com/plhjr83 Patrick Harrington

    having developed high-dimensional predictive algorithms of demographic and interest profiles using twitter data, the fusion of both what niche groups tweet (structure of language and phrases) as well as who they tend to follow can produce high precision and recall for detecting age, race, gender, etc.  as more sites enable twitter based logins, the mapping between twitter handles and consumer purchasing history will provide an additional modality to be fused with the twitter hose that will yield algorithms that produce a more personalized and rich experience on the web.  

  • http://twitter.com/juddm Judd Morgenstern

    I agree with this point. I, for one, don’t want to use Twitter as a kind of panacea for all updates and messaging. That can quickly become overwhelming, both from a UI and UX perspective. 

    From a product evolution perspective though, it might be inevitable, as it evolves from peer-to-peer micro-messaging, to publishing platform for brands & personalities, to eventually messaging infrastructure for ‘objects’.

    But thats when it destroys the mental model and simplicity of user -user communications. And I think people will be skeptical of overlaying their social graphs with their ‘object graphs’. 

    I thought it was bad when my mom joined Facebook, but I’ll really be turned off when my toaster joins Twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielSBowen Dan Bowen

    Great insight because my social networking diminishing marginal returns curve has been steepening.  I’m new to Twitter but I’ve quickly found that I now use Facebook almost exclusively for personal family/very close friends info and Twitter as much more of an RSS aggregator…perhaps the 800 lb gorilla actually wears wings?

  • http://twitter.com/typewriters Lauren Wagner

    Great post. Something that’s missing but a bit more obscure: I  just completed a paper on the psychological effects of Twitter use for the average Twitter user. Extending your idea of object communications, my research showed that users assume that they share many interests with members of their Twitter community (people and companies) even though they admittedly do not know these people in real life. Interactions on Twitter (receiving a reply or a retweet) result in small boosts in wellbeing that make people feel more appreciated and recognized. Interesting things to keep in mind when developing new programs from the Twitter platform. 

  • http://twitter.com/LHristou Luke Hristou

    Great Stuff Mark!

    I agree that #1-4 will all come to fruition in the near future.  It is only a matter of time before twitter will transcend into a whole new list of possibilities.   I also think that such things like [NFC & RFID] technology being more widely adopted into smart-phones will also play an important factor in the future of posting.  Things like http://www.tagstand.com/ – already go a long way to make the checking in process even easier and I think soon they will play a big role in how automated information is spread as well.  Something I found to be unique is what Coca-Cola is already experimenting with in this space with their Coca-Cola village –   http://adland.tv/ooh/coca-cola-village-uses-real-life-buttons-fed-real-world-likes-facebook they are taking this very idea and using it to make posting a physical action that then becomes easily automated.  

    This post also inspired my first ever blog post, “If Your Still Using Twitter to Talk to Your Friends, You’re Missing the point” – http://lukehristou.com/post/12204502778/if-your-using-twitter-to-talk-to-your-friends-you-re-mis – I’m still learning so go easy on me but I would love for you guys to check it out!

  • http://www.briansirkia.com Brian Sirkia

    Awesome post, I just forwarded to all my friends that don’t see any point in using Twitter because they think “it’s for egotistical people who think everyone wants to hear what they have to say.” I’ve tried to explain to them that’s more about sharing and consuming, but this article should help persuade them. I wrote my own post on it (http://briansirkia.com/2011/07/11/social-media-should-i-be-getting-into-it/), but they’ve heard enough from me.

    I’ve been focusing my personal energy recently on Linkedin, are you as excited about it as Twitter? I read in a post of yours from ’09 that described it as “The old standard business networking tool.” Do you think it has become more or less relevant since then?

  • http://jobferral.com Stephen Medawar

    That makes sense. I would say that this could be done to not necessarily predict the entire length of the meal, but to predict the meal segments. Since the server has many POS touches (drinks, appetizers, entree, desserts, printing the check, closing the check), you could more accurately predict how long a person will take to eat or how long they will take to pay their bill given how long they took during another segment of the meal. Additionally, if they skip drinks or apps or dessert, that would give another data point. 

    Looking at the whole restaurant system, one could probably improve the entire flow from an operations management standpoint by linking the POS and reservation/waitlist system. If your system could predict when a table will be open and keeps track of simple queue modeling for the waitlist, you could presumably increase your throughput and decrease time in queue. 

    The twitter idea takes this one step further. Since people tend to not show up at the exact moment of their reservation, the tweets would help with queue modeling, but probably not have any effect on the actual meal length prediction. 

    PROS & CONS: 1. This specific application may not be necessary to improve the throughput in the restaurant industry, as they seem to have it under control using communication between the servers and hosts or just host observations. However, It may help with messaging the customers who are in line (or on their way as you mentioned before). 
    2. You would need to be pretty accurate with your modeling, as customer satisfaction will vary greatly depending on their wait in the queue. I would imagine that their satisfaction (and future demand for your product) will decrease exponentially over their wait time. 

    WARNING: 
    I am not technical, but I have a general understanding of what can and can’t be done technically, and even though I’ve just given a lengthy explanation of how this system might work, I have to say that I was only using my original idea as an example. However, I believe this model could be used in many other areas of operations management. 

    Anyways….those are my thoughts. :)

  • http://www.chuckeats.com/ ChuckEats

    not to be pedantic but your (2) is more about communication channel – Twitter becomes another way for something (person, object) to reach you and/or communicate back.  and this is the cornerstone for some of the “internet OS” thinking – it’s just as valuable on the stack as email – and it should be built into services at the platform level (ala the new iphone.)  [i bet one could could argue that Twitter messages are responded to more frequently than email.]

    the true object communication will probably come from the combinatorial effects of (3) & (4) – algorithms acting out on the data/trends it reads.

    something random – Twitter has done more for the popular acceptance of the ‘command line’ than Unix ever could :-P

    and one futurist thought: what if Twitter moved from a discrete model (eg, you post your bits) to a stream model – your phone (apps, cars, stereos, stoves, etc) “intelligently” sends over the data as it happens.  some of this could be public, some not, there would obviously need to be easy controls for dividing the two.  [this gets to the root of what Jack says he was originally building.]

    again, the combinatorial effects of (3) & (4), as opposed to keeping the streams in product silos, might really create something special out of a world sending in their signals.    it may not be a future i want to be a part of but it’s happening.

  • http://www.GroupTweet.com Ryan

    Great thoughts here.

    Interested in your thoughts on whether Twitter will ever unveil their Contributors API to the public?  There are a number of examples where adding multiple contributors to a single Twitter account adds huge value.  

    I think Twitter can become a great platform for a more collaborative group communication experience and I was sick of waiting for that feature to be released so I built it myself.  Think Twitter based message boards centering around topics and small groups such as Sports Teams, Classrooms, Communities, etc.

    You can see the first steps of my vision at GroupTweet.com.  

  • Anonymous

    Great post, but you also missed that Twitter is uniquely positioned to be the “ticker feed” of Connected TV.  When everyone rails against the imposed limit of 140 characters, I always point to this capability that is not possible with other social networking tools.

    You can already see it with the NFL network on gameday showing players’ tweets at the bottom of the screen moving along during pre-game shows.  This will eventually migrate to every news outlet over time, and BECAUSE of the 140 character limit, the networks can bank on it being usable in the “ticker feed.”

  • Jw

    I believe these use cases are designed to be solved with Lists.

  • Anonymous

    Technically, using Twitter’s original mode SMS, you can use Siri to tweet to your heart’s content, but it does seem on the surface like an oversight.

    My guess is timing had something to do with it.  They absolutely had to get the 4S out when they did and Siri Twitter probably missed the cut because of that.  I’m guessing it’ll be coming in an update, which will also require effort on Twitter’s iOS team to have the right hooks in the app.

  • Anonymous

    Mark, there’s also the fact that Twitter is still available using SMS which is available to most of the world.  There are startups in Africa that utilize SMS because of its ubiquity vs. the web

  • http://twitter.com/sventured Conrad Wai

    I think Twitter’s also got a ways to go in parsing and presenting different types of content. Right now, every tweet gets jumbled into the same stream. That leads to a low signal to noise ratio. Separating by username/ handle is an insufficient workaround. Users and third party startups are left with the taxing task of determining which posts are relevant at any given time. As I wrote last week: “At its worst, it feels like stopping by a garage sale,
    hoping to find a hidden gem.” Take all the emerging uses in this post, and this problem will get exponentially worse.

    Twitter needs to do a better job of distinguishing between the different uses of
    its service if it’s going to stay/become the preferred way of publicly disseminating bits of information.

    http://somethingventured.me/2011/10/28/twitters-jumble/

  • http://twitter.com/Mr_Roshan Mr Roshan

    Unfortunately, I think we are sleep-walking into internet id’s, where rather than the anonymity enjoyed on twitter, this will be linked to something like, for example, you apple computer (you didn’t seem to realise this in your post).

    I don’t know what legislation is out there, but if it isn’t, we need to ensure law enforcement authorities cannot access your I.P. address unless sanctioned by a judge etc. Internet anonymity is just as important and similar to the way that I can make a phonecall and have a right for that not to be listened to by a law enforcement authority, unless it has been authorised by a judge, who in turn has strict guidlines (aka laws/constitution) which he adheres to.

  • Danny

    Mark I will be at the event, I am an avid reader of your blog, and have recently started my own http://www.legendarymoves.com .  Please tell me your thoughts.