Mar 18

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Twittervision and Twitter

Twittervision is a hypnotic glimpse into the lives of people around the world. It's a complete waste of time, in the same way that conversation, casual sex, and reading are wastes of time. It generates an amazing feeling of connection to what people are thinking of in the world (or at least in the primarily Western world that seems to be the Twitter customer base). This is a kind of ambient zeitgeist for the world and word of it is spreading like wildfire.

Twitter is what Odeo turned to when their podcasting platform failed to take off. Think of it as a cross between blogging and instant messaging: you type a short message (140 or fewer chars) and your subscribers (friends) instantly see it. You can view a single "river of news" page that functions as a group blog by all your friends.

Twitter has seen big uptake lately as it reached some kind of critical mass of users and visibility at the South-by-Southwest conference. There are some unanswered questions, though: (1) it's centralised so, although they offer outlets to IM, SMS, RSS etc., I think we'll find people wanting to take ownership of their identities the way they do with blogging; (2) it's another demand on our attention and it's unproven that we can treat it as UDP (okay if a packet is lost) rather than TCP (every packet must be received and in the order sent)--already I've seen people twittering things like "just spent 2 hours catching up on the twitter messages I missed in the air"; and (3) it's another interface to feed our life into and it's unclear how that draws energy away from blogging or other activities we already do.

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Comments: 23

  Steven Hodson [03.18.07 05:03 PM]

just watch out for that cellphone bill - it's a killer .. just ask Jason Calacanis

  Erik Schmidt [03.18.07 06:36 PM]

I'd add #4: Spam. It seems there is no successful medium of digital communication that spammers can't infect.

  Benjamin Williams [03.18.07 07:41 PM]

This reminds me of the chat client that is used the Matrix movies. Send out a message and you don't really know who, or what, is responding.

  Ilya Lichtenstein [03.18.07 08:18 PM]

Twittervision is a beautiful visual representation of our web 2.0 social interconnectedness. It singlehandedly changed my perception of Twitter

  gnat [03.19.07 01:15 AM]

Erik: I hate to quote Clay Shirky when talking about some new web thing, because it's like quoting George Orwell when talking about advertising. However, he really nailed it when he said "social software is anything that can be spammed". Having Nigerians tell us about unclaimed money in bank accounts is the price we pay for being able to tell our family what the kids are doing today.

Spam'll come, it'll be fought, we'll reach a happy medium. Ah, another genius prediction from the crack trend team here at O'Reilly Radar. Tune in next week when you'll hear us say: "tomorrow's weather will be wet except where it's dry."

  dubgrub [03.19.07 04:48 AM]

Ah, but your're missing the point. Talking about Twitter IS twitter. Web 2.0 connectedness is all well and good - but are you really connected, or is that what you are supposed to believe. Interesting to see references to the Matrix here -all very hyper-real. In this spirit, it is - of course - necessary to point out that I am who I say I am - well, I was last time I looked.

  Joe [03.19.07 05:21 AM]

Aha! The light has gone on, at last. I understand what all the fuss is about now. Twittervision - that really is quite impressive.

  Alan Addison [03.19.07 05:58 AM]

In the short time I read the messages, at least two were apam. Most were, I hate mornings, especially Monday mornings.

I wonder what the signal to noise ratio is.

  Kim M. Bayne [03.19.07 10:20 AM]

Twittering can be a time vampire, if you don't manage it well. Obviously, the first few hours or days playing with any new tool, many enthusiastic users will devote far too much time and overdo it. The trick is to twitter just enough to give the essence of your day while keeping yourself from "running at the mouse." I figure one twitter an hour should do it on a normal day. If I'm twittering the blow-by-blow of an important event for my friends or colleagues then I might twitter more often. But what about the odd epiphany throughout the day that might cause a random, unscheduled twitter or two? (pause) Ah, heck. Forget what I said. Who can put a cap on fun?

  Ilya Lichtenstein [03.19.07 10:36 AM]

Kim: Then you get multiple Twitter accounts based on various levels of activity...and twitter too much on all of them.

  Chris [03.19.07 10:44 AM]

For a better experience, why not use Netelligence ( You choose when you want to get your messages (rather than having them forced on you), and can use it to store all your personal information online that you would have on your cell phone, in case you lost it. You can set up groups, have a group diary and contacts, etc - a much better way to communicate with your friends!

  Tony [03.20.07 02:23 AM]

All this fuss about web 2.0 I can't see it myself. All it allows is for peoples boring hum drum lives or daft hobbies to be broadcsast. Why do I care what some bloke is doing half way around the world.

The reality is we need to become reconnected with whats outside the front door and not spend our lives by proxy.

  Anonymous [03.20.07 02:37 AM]

Why do people think anyone else cares about their mindless twitter? This is drivel, no more no less.

  Anonymous [03.20.07 04:20 AM]

couldn't agree more with the 'Tony' and anonymous comments...who gives a flying f**k what these 'twits' are's mostly egotistical self indulgent BS anyway...these 'social' groups couldn't be more irrelevant if they tried.

  Anonymous [03.20.07 04:38 AM]

I've not had a look at it yet, but from what you've all said in here, it sounds like IRC.

  Anonymous [03.20.07 04:49 AM]

I agree. Why should anybody care about what some anonymous bozo has to say? I think I'll write a comment about it...

  Anonymous [03.20.07 05:31 AM]

I've had a look at it now, and it IS like IRC except nobody is paying any attention to anyone else. Dearie me.

  Tim O'Reilly [03.20.07 09:15 AM]

A reminder to all the people who say that this is just mindless drivel: you're right, it is. But that's the same criticism that was leveled at blogging initially, and it's grown up into a significant publishing medium.

It's also worth noting that twittervision is not the same as twitter. twitter is for notifying your friends what you are up to.

FWIW, though, for that purpose, I prefer Jaiku, which performs the same function, but without the overhead of a text message. It just becomes part of the address book entry, so you see what someone is up to before you call them. Of course, it's not supported yet by all phones (only Nokia series 60, I believe), but it shows the possibilities as these devices get smarter.

Net-net, don't discount twitter. I'll lay odds that it gets hacked into a really useful service before long.

  Ben [03.20.07 10:38 AM]

Yes there are some hacks envisioned in this article, for example.

It is also interesting (although I'm not sure it's particularly healthy) to see things like Celebrity Twitters.

Anyway, Twitter must be snowballing massively. The servers seem to have almost ground to a halt.

  keith [03.20.07 09:06 PM]

It is interesting to see the many uses for twitter. I have found a site that follows the life of hollywood celebrities online. Is this a sign that twitter is going mainstream? I have also noticed that you can't hardly register anything with twitter in the name. I give it 2 months before it gets bought by yahoo or google.

  Carl Reston [06.18.07 07:22 AM]

How about a Google map with money-making posts? Try

  Paul [06.19.07 06:55 AM]

Twitter is more than "What are you doing?" is getting very interesting. One example are twitter nanoformats ( They try to give semantic information to twitter and can translate into different languages the twitts (with nanoformats and yahoo pipes)

  J.O. From Urban MVP [10.11.07 10:19 AM]

I would have to agree with Tim on this one. Blogging at its initial stages did not seem to have any major value other then looking into peoples private lives at first. Look at it now, it completely fuels entire industries. Its also getting hard to find any major corporation without a blog of some sort. I think Twitter has the potential that blogging had at its very early start to become what blogging is today.

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