Friday, September 10, 2010

Twitter - "The Remote Control of Our Social Networks"

Imagine for a second, you get a job alert on your twitter account from your Linkedin network. You tweet back to your Linkedin account to your resume to the person who posted the job like this:

   /send myresume @ #LI

Although it is a trivial example of how Twitter can fit in our ever growing online social presence, but you get the idea. We already understand the power of Twitter as a non-stop source of streaming content. We have seen how Twitter has become the primary realtime news, interactive customer service, or marketing outlet,. However, I believe we are completely missing another aspect of a potential use of Twitter. This is the use of Twitter as a "virtual remote control" of our social networks like Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare, Social Games (e.g., Zynga games) etc. This will put Twitter in the middle of our virtual social life. Let me explain what I mean.

To IRC users, the use of commands to control and manage the network is not new. For computer geeks, it is also known as "control data" used to regulate main data in many protocols like HTTP, FTP, TCP etc. For example, if you type just regular text on IRC, it is treated as a message to be published for everyone to see. However, if you start with / it is intended for the server to take some action in the context on behalf of the sender. For example, if you type 

       /invite Syed #ScrumPad

It is interpreted by the IRC server to send an invite to the user "Syed" to join "ScrumPad" channel. This is really powerful, yet very simple tool to use. The use of slash with some keywords is getting popular lately in the Twitter community as "Slashtag." This was introduced by Chris Messina, the guy who also introduced us to the world of "Hastags."

We already use some commands to control and provide additional context to our Twitter messages. Some of these are directly supported by the Twitter server (e.g., RT as retweet, D as direct message) and some are just interpreted by the recipients and no actions are taken by the server (e.g., mention, or reply by using the @ in the message). Here is a good guide on how to use them correctly. Most of these evolved organically by the Twitter community. Here is a TED talk by Twitter founder Evan Williams on the evolution Twitter syntax.

We all know how Facebook has become intertwined in our lives. If there is one thing that can be attributed to the growth and success of FB as the largest social network, that would be its brilliant idea of "InApp" - applications running inside Facebook application. It transformed Facebook from just a social network to "a platform for social network-aware applications." In the same way, if Twitter directly supports and facilitates the flow of control data among different applications, it can become "the hub of our virtual world." It can allow us to have our own "Virtual Remote Control." Let's just call it "TweetMote." Here is what the world would look like with our TweetMote (just checked domain is not available. Is there any domain available these days?),

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