Matt Stockton

mattstockton@gmail.com
@mstockton is #intrigued by the power of Twitter

The other day, I finally cracked and signed up for Twitter (@mstockton). I only have a few friends who use the service, and only a small subset of those friends use it actively. Before signup up, I was skeptical of the value of the service - does anyone really care about what I am doing at all times? Probably not….

After a few days of usage, I am starting to see why people use it – I am realizing that knowing what everyone else is doing (in 140 characters or less) is just scraping the surface of the power that Twitter can bring to the web.

In my eyes, Twitter has several very good things going for it: * It does one thing, and it does that one thing well - The idea is simple, not overwhelming to users, and is sticky. I tend to lose interest in apps that just have too much stuff going. All I have to do with Twitter is post tweets, look at other people’s tweets, and find other people who have interesting things to say. Dead simple! * It is easy to adopt and does not take a significant amount of time to set up. use. With twitter, I can create a login name, and start posting! * The openness of the Twitter Search API gives it tremendous value as a platform for other interesting applications - At first inspection, it looks like you can search for basically anything (words, users, hashtags) in Twitter messages. My brain starts spinning with interesting applications you could build with this powerful API…

Here are some possible apps I could think of that you could build with the Twitter Search API. I didn’t really search around, so I have no idea if something similar to these apps has actually been implemented already: * Build a service that can aggregate impromptu events. For example, a user interested in organizing a pick-up game of basketball in Milwaukee could Tweet ‘#impromptu basketball game 53202 6:30pm monday’ The service could organize these events, and provide a way for other users to show interest * Use it to exchange tickets to events at the last minute. For example, a user could Tweet ‘#ticketsto Bucks/Pistons fourth row available for $20’ * Integrate with Gas Buddy so that users can Tweet the latest Gas prices * Use it as a Wii Finder (are those things still hard to find?) ‘#wii-found at target on bluemound 53202’ * Build an emotion aggregator (for example, tweet ‘#imfeeling awesome after watching the pistons win’). The aggreagator could aggregate by emotions, and show interesting views on the data.

How do the above benefits weigh against the potential issues with Twitter?

One of the potential issues I thought Twitter would have is user adoption. I am fairly tech-saavy, and it took me over a year and a half to sign up since Twitter was released. A lot of my friends, who are also tech-saavy, either have never used Twitter, or used it for a short time and lost interest. Is this indicative that Twitter only appeals to a small subset of techies? The data indicates otherwise, with Twitter reporting 752% growth this year in users (up from 500k to 4.43m). This rapid growth may indicate that Twitter is about to hit a major Tipping Point.

Another potential issue that seems to be one with every social networking site is data privacy-related concerns. With any social network, there seems to be a constant trade-off between building your Weak Ties and preserving your privacy. We often gain the most valuable information from people who are outside our close network of friends. It is very easy to expand your group of Weak Ties on Twitter. As a trade-off to this, it seems fairly easy for unwanted people to become your Weak Ties (and for you to propagate information to them) when you may rather not be tied to those people at all. It is arguably easier for this to happen on Twitter than on Facebook - but this is one of the main benefits I see of Twitter over something like Facebook - Twitter is designed in such a way to improve the quality of your weak ties. You make your decisions on which Weak Ties to connect to based on what the user is saying / thinking (e.g. through their Tweets), rather than who the user is connected to (which seems to be the normal case on Facebook).

I am excited to have seen the value in Twitter, and I plan to use it actively. I am also planning to start playing around with the Search API to see if I can build a simple application (possibly one of the ones I described above).

What does everyone think? What is the best utilization of the Twitter API in an application so far? It seems the possibilities are endless. What about use adoption? Do your non-techie friends use Twitter? And if so, do they continue to use it and see a value in the service? Looking forward to hearing any feedback you have.