Twitter Features Wish List

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After returning to Twitter after a week-long break, I’ve had the chance to look at the service with a freshened perspective. Twitter needs to stay simple – that’s what drives its success. Nevertheless, I believe Twitter needs to mature and provide exploits of its service. While the basics of Twitter aught to remain, Twitter, Inc. can build a wider ecosystem around those basics which could make it a true contender as an important part of the Web.

Services like Posterous and Friendfeed offer features such as replying via email. Although third-parties could develop similar features via Twitter’s API, it’s time that Twitter mature a bit. If Twitter plays its cards right, it could offer itself as much more than just as the modern equivalent of a telecommunications utility (which it is).

  1. Email content, replies, DMs. We should have an option to respond to replies & DMs via email. There are services out there such as Topify but they don’t provide the most secure methods.
  2. Constraining tweets to certain followers. For example, if I want to tweet something that only interests a particular group of followers, I should have an option to limit a tweet to that meta tag. Twitter already offers meta data (it time stamp, the application the tweet was sent from, etc.). Such an option would help harness and focus Twitter’s connection engine.
  3. Geotagged tweets. Similar to constraining to tagged followers, Chris Brogan offers us a way to limit Twitter to location-focused tweeting. Chris refers to this as Geopocketing.
  4. Scheduling recurring tweets (to self account for reminders, etc.) Currently, Twitter restrains scheduling of tweets to prevent abuse. But as it gains better control over spam, options to legitimate uses of scheduling need to be incorporated.
  5. Autoreply feature (within limits). Automating Twitter isn’t always the best thing to do, but there are times when it’s needed. If I’m away from Twitter, an out-of-office feature would be nice for public replies.
  6. Pro accounts for Enterprise management should incorporate meta data for multiple users. I imagine as Twitter expands in its ubiquity, companies and other organizations will need multiple users for the same account. Metadata on tweets with the individual who sent the tweet would improve customer service. There are third-party clients like Co-Tweet that enable multiple users, but having user-specific metadata would offer better customer service options.
  7. List notifications. When a user is added to a list, there should be a notification. This is no different than a follow notification. It gives users more control and helps to identify and manage spam.
  8. Improved follow management – the email notifications should add much more data about followers. FriendFeed offers a great model.
  9. Return @ reply viewing feature. Twitter used to offer a “see all replies” feature which users could turn on. It allowed us to view all tweets, including replies to people you weren’t following. It added to the social serendipity of Twitter.
  10. Subdomain accounts to follow specialized tweets. For organizations which use multiple Twitter accounts, Twitter should offer sub-domains which provide more information about the organization’s Twitter presence: a page which offers TOS guidelines, all Twitter accounts, information on employees on Twitter, etc.
  11. Security – cell phone activation, verification (Twitter does have this, but I’ve noticed that it’s not offered consistently – could be a glitch).
  12. Twitter should also build sub-domains that help extend conversation. One of the things that made Friendfeed a powerful social aggregation was the ability to comment on posts and share those posts across one’s social graph. If Twitter could install a sub-domain where conversations around tweets could be consolidated, it would boost Twitter’s presence as a social medium giant. It could actually give Facebook some competition. Twitter needs to extend its Web real-estate – the basic service may not be best provided on its web site, but these additional services would bring users (and relevant advertisers) back.

Twitter could make improvements and refinements such as these without compromising the powerful simplicity of the 140 character cocktail party. Amateur hour is over for Twitter, Inc. It’s got more than $150 million of venture capital to recoup (actually more when you factor investor discount rates and time). It’s not going to get close to that if it just lets Google and Bing usurp its real-time firehose without building on its remarkable connectivity machine.

What do you think? What features would you like to see added to Twitter?

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How to Say No to Twitter – My Week Away from Tweet Crack

A little over a week ago I decided to take a break from Twitter and to heavily reduce my use of the Web in general. It’s becoming apparent to me that those of us who work heavily with the Web need to pay attention to how this Seventh Kingdom of Life influences how we work and play and connect. Here’s what I did and the insights I gained from a week away from Twitter.

Overall the experience was refreshing and gave me perspective on work-flows and presence of mind.

(Ironically, my blog was h*cked and Google removed me from its index during my break. Yesterday I ported my blog over to WordPress.com so my readers are protected. My database was affected. (I’ll post more details later.) So that’s why my blog has a new look. I just found some (painful) humor in timing: it sure is illuminating how much power Google can have: 75% of my online “brand” equity wiped out with the push of a button.)

CLOSING THE WINDOW

Starting last Monday I turned off notifications from Twitter. Except for a few direct messages with someone who I needed to moderate #RNchat last week and a few goodbyes to close friends, Twitter was off for me. No clients open. No visits to Twitter.com, Twitter Search or my RSS feeds for keywords. Lesson one: keep your monitoring to a minimum.

Cutting from the Web wasn’t as much as a challenge as dealing with email. What I discovered was email had heavily weighted down my productivity. I initially thought that Twitter was the productivity sink, but it’s been email. In fact, I think my productivity would be enhanced if 99% of my communications routed through Twitter. Why? Because Twitter has a shut-up valve: the 140 character limit. Twitter shunts business to essential need. You still need  to establish an efficient work-flow with Twitter, but it’s a lot easier to manage than email (at least for me).

The problem with email isn’t a technological one – email’s actually a great technology & one that will be with us for a long time. It’s a social problem – no offense, but some people still don’t understand how to use email effectively. The biggest mistake I think people make with email is thinking that it’s a collaboration tool. It’s an anti-collaboration tool.

FIGHTING TECH WITH TECH – GOOGLE DOCS AS HEALTH TRACKER

In order to ensure compliance with my “digital cleanse” or brain defragmentation, I created a form using Google Docs which I used to capture what I was doing at various points during the day. I took some inspiration from Experience Sampling Method (ESM) and set 4 times during the day that I would complete the form. The form included these items to track:

  1. Compulsion to tweet
  2. Compulsion to check email
  3. Compulsion to do anything Web-related
  4. Mood (on a ten-point scale)
  5. Stress level
  6. General state of mind
  7. A box to comment on what I was doing right at that moment.
  8. Are tasks that are due right now complete?
  9. Other than filling out this form, have you been online since last survey?
  10. If you were online, what was it to do?
  11. Number of minutes online since last survey.
  12. A text box for general comments.

I created a short-link for the form and added the link to my calender and had that notification texted to me (which was the only one I allowed myself to use). The nice thing with this technique is that it allowed me to collect information within seconds and it kept me true to my goal of staying away from the Web.

My use of the Web was very limited. I permitted myself one to two 15 minutes bursts of connection with people who matter. After all, connecting with each other (deeply and meaningfully) is perhaps the greatest opportunity the Web offers us. But investing in friendship is a long-term endurance. If you’re relying on only a few media like Twitter, you’re giving up one of the most important things in life.

SAYING NO TO TWITTER

How to say no to Twitter? Simple: just don’t use Twitter. 🙂

What I found out though, is what a fundamental and simple communication tool Twitter is, depending on how you use it. For me, Twitter is a convenient and multi-purpose Swiss Army knife of communications. It’s certainly a seduction, and its increasing ubiquity makes it harder to turn it off, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Moderation and monitoring the answer.

Should you do it? It’s up to you. I recommend it. You’ll gain an appreciation for Twitter’s role in our lives.

Right now, I plan to use Twitter as an important communications tool. But I’ve also decided that Technology is far more than just tools and our relationship with it something we must understand and appreciate and monitor very deeply. More on that in future posts.

One thing is for sure: I know now who my real friends on Twitter are now. Who pays attention and who cares. It’s a small number – but it’s the only number I care for.

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Just Saying No to Twitter – Defragmenting My Brain

The Web has me.

Twitter has me.

My Android has me.

I’m a control freak.

Ergo: I will be untangling and untweeting and untexting myself for a while. The Web has begun to use me more than I use it. That’s a problem for anybody – but painful for someone like me who prefers control. I didn’t set out for this. As someone who focuses on our relationship with the Web, I have over time become like an undercover narc who tastes a little too much of the naughty goods. Happens.

So this is what I’m going to do. Starting Monday January 4, I will pack the Twitter bird into a cage. I will be defragmenting my brain. I’ve been in need of a break for some time and now works out for me. I don’t care how much it costs me – a day offline for some can be a lot. I’ve got a problem. I got a solution.

I won’t abandon Technology – in fact I’m going to use it as part of my detox, which I’ll share with you when I’m back from the dark side of the moon. I’ll tell you what I did and didn’t do and how successful and useful my decision turned out. Hopefully I’ll be able to capture some insights with my methods. I also have the support of a good friend, which is always a wonderful blessing. Buddy systems are very important.

Yeah, I know what you’re likely thinking: it’s ridiculous to be addicted to the Web. Frankly, I don’t care what it’s called. I know what I have to do, I’m going to do it and that’s all that matters. You know what’s funny? Back in 2008, I wrote a post – mostly  jocular – about Twitter addiction. I look back at that post now and thank myself for blogging: I can now look back and see some things. :)

I’m turning comments off on this post: I generally believe in open comments, but I also believe in two-way conversation. I won’t be able to provide it, so if you want to you can email me and I’ll read later. If you’re new to this blog – you can follow me on  Twitter but I won’t check notifications for a while.

If you need to get a hold of me you can fill out this form and get back to only if it’s urgent.

The Web is a great seduction. It’s also very useful and is a permanent element in our lives. If you’re not plumbing the dark underbelly of what you’re passionate about, then you’re not passionate enough. Technology is something to be passionate about. But passion is wholly different from love.

I love you, readers and tweeters. See you soon.

Phil

P.S. Köszönöm, Pillangó!

An Interview with #hcsm Founder @danamlewis

In the last 18 or so months since I blogged about health care and social media from a nurse’s perspective, I’ve seen a jump in interest in how we can mashup healthcare and the Web. Every new territory needs its leaders. One such leader is my friend  Dana Lewis who founded a Twitter chat focused on social media in health care communications. The chat is called Healthcare Social Media and uses the hashtag  #hcsm to rally participants in a weekly conversation Sundays at 8:00pm Central. She recently won the 2009 Excellence in New Communications Award from the Society for New Communications Research.

Dana started #hcsm out of conversations she had with communications consultant  Arik Hanson (a great man to follow on Twitter, especially if you’re interested in 21st Century Public Relations). Twitter chats offer a way for people with shared interests to exchange knowledge and advance a field of study. After starting #RNchat, I gained an appreciation for how these chats are moderated. Dana’s moderation has been an important inspiration and model. So I decided to interview her and it’s my pleasure to bring you the interview.

[UPDATE: Dana made a comment about one of the many people who helped her with #hcsm which I want to highlight. Here’s what Dana had to say about  Tom Stitt, CEO of Aperial:

he and his company Aperial have given #hcsm it’s home away from Twitter & tons of technical support. There are dozens of others who have contributed to #hcsm and supported the development of the model, but he’s at the very top of the list!

Tom has been an important contributor to the healthcare social media community and I agree with Dana that his efforts deserve special recognition.]

THE INTERVIEW

You’ve developed quite a following with the Health Care Social Media Twitter chat . Tell us about yourself, your passions and your goals.

DANA: I have a motto: “Doing something for someone else is more important than anything you would do for yourself.” This applies to volunteering for the American Diabetes Association, building the healthcare communications community on Twitter to break down barriers in the industry, and everything else that I do. I am a senior at the University of Alabama graduating in May with two bachelors degrees in Public Relations and Political Science from The University of Alabama. Currently, one of my immediate goals is full-time employment when I graduate, but I don’t believe my full-time experience in communications should be any different from my other experiences in that it will ultimately benefit people both now and in the future.

What got you interested in social media and health care?

DANA: My interest in social media and healthcare mostly stems from my interest in health – which started when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during my freshman year in high school. I have always been a communicator and very passionate about making sure everyone has the ability and right to share their voice. Social media is a natural fit for this passion because it gives me – and everyone else – the tools to share our ideas and insights. Healthcare is obviously a daily part of my life with diabetes, so it is a seamless integration with my other thoughts and experiences on the Web.

As someone who recently started a Twitter chat, I can appreciate the little challenges of moderating and running them that may not be apparent to participants. What have been yours? Tell us about your approach and the tools you use to pull of the chats.

DANA: My biggest challenge for moderating a Twitter chat is spammers – but not in the traditional sense. I have a extremely low tolerance for shameless self-promotion. Personal promotion on occasion is pushing the edge; but companies who tweet to the hashtag about their product, service, clients, etc. are definitely spam. We started as a single conversation, but #hcsm has grown into a community and I am sensitive to protecting it from those who want to “monetize the ROI” of their Sunday evenings.

Other challenges include those who don’t understand the purpose of #hcsm, and get frustrated that we aren’t discussing healthcare reform or their speciality. Because we have such a diverse community (students, doctors, lawyers, non-profits, HC orgs, marketers, etc.), we have a diverse suggestion of topics and thus a diverse discussion. Sometimes those new to the conversation don’t see direct relevance of the first topic and try to flame the discussion so they can talk about something they understand.

My approach is simple: I use Twitter.com to log in to  @HealthSocMed to moderate the discussion. I put out the links to FAQ posted on our site & past transcripts, and try to answer any questions I can about the goals and workings of the discussion on Sunday nights. Participants are the ones who submit topics for discussion; I pick an average of 3-5 for each evening, toss them out, and we have a great conversation!

What’s been the feedback from the community about #hcsm? What value do you think participants derive and how do you think these kinds of chats will evolve?

DANA: The feedback from the community has been incredibly positive and supportive. There is always room for improvement, and we definitely have improved the way #hcsm works since it started back in January. #hcsm gives everyone the opportunity to open-source their problems or questions about the industry and anything related to healthcare communications and social media. There has been nothing like it to my knowledge on Twitter or elsewhere. By using Twitter, it breaks down the age, experience, geographic, and other barriers that often hinder an open dialogue. Anyone and everyone can participate and add value to #hcsm, which is the value in itself.

Chats are going to continue to evolve. We may shift from using Twitter to other tools, but the idea behind #hcsm to break down barriers and to build a conversation will remain the same.

Is PR dead?

DANA: It’s far from dead; PR has shifted, but I think this is a benefit for all. Instead of one-way push information from every channel possible, we have shifted our mindset to adapt and allow for relationalizing communication with different groups of people. I personally love figuring out how I relate to different groups of people; this is why I have a natural love of PR. Those who may be stuck in the traditional mindset of pushing information need to adapt – but the same applies to marketing & many other fields that involved communication and reaching people. PR is continuously evolving and will continue to adapt to the needs & desires of the publics that we relate to.

THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE & SOCIAL MEDIA

Health Care is a very wide field and there’s no shortage of opportunities for integrating social software into the various niches of what we refer to as Healthcare (as an industry). The rapid evolution and expansion and infiltration of the Web means that the industry is going to have to pay attention and invest efforts into understanding the radical shifts which electronic connectivity is inducing in the world.

In my opinion, the most cost-effective use of these media right now is using them to convene groups of bright people to explore, share and advance ideas which make differences. Twitter chats represent a novel approach to cultivating the world of fresh ideas and we owe much gratitude to leaders like Dana Lewis who are showing us, every day, how to forge ahead through the dangerous opportunities the Web is weaving in front of our eyes.  Follow, thank and retweet her.

Thank you, Dana!

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Zen and the Art of the Tweet

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of our collective mindfulness lately. Every month, millions of more people are increasing their connectivity to the Web. Facebook’s gravity keeps swelling. Twitter continues to flap upwards in users. Mobile devices and operating systems continue to evolve and proliferate. It seems every week a new feature or service or gadget makes a debut.

The Web is not only expanding like a universe but it’s also infiltrating every nook of our daily lives. And it’s expanding and infiltrating at an accelerating pace. What effect is all this happening on our capacity to attentively engage with life? What disciplines and skills and understanding do we need to acquire as the Web continues its unstoppable inflation?

PRESENT MOMENT, WONDERFUL MOMENT

Thousands of years ago certain cultures around the world discovered and cultivated the art of breathing mindfully. In some cases, entire religious traditions grew out of these practices.

Our brains and sense-organs are powerful attention-devices. Our minds are always teaming with thoughts, feelings, hunches and visions. Even asleep, our brains actively stream profuse experiences like dreams. It’s how we survive.

But our very powers of attention and awareness and cognition can distract us from the present-moment happenings of our lives. We’re always breathing, but rarely notice unless we pay attention. And this presents us with a fundamental observation about life: if we’re constantly processing the relentless influx of internal and external sensory data but never focusing our full attention on what happens, how alive are we? For to have a meaningful life, we must feel alive – otherwise we’re just automatons obligated to the patterns made by others and the larger external world.

Being aware of the present moment is the easiest and hardest thing to do. Try it: sit for 5 minutes and pay attention to nothing but your breath. How many times did your mind wander from that simplest of tasks? If you can’t pay attention to your life right now, when do you expect to do it? After you die? In some other world?

TWITTER MIND, MONKEY MIND

Some Buddhists have a phrase for how our minds endlessly flit from one thought to the next:  Monkey Mind. One aim of meditation is to “tame” the Monkey Mind. Not so much to control it, as to pay attention to it – and, in the process of paying attention to a fast-moving mind, paradoxically slow it down to a point where the present moment reveals itself most fully.

Of all social networking sites, perhaps Twitter best exemplifies the electronic version of Monkey Mind. The tiny bursts and pulses of text and hyperlinks stream through the world like flashes of thought across a busy mind. Twitter’s a powerful way to connect with others and receive news and important or trivial nuggets of information. And yet, if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get sucked into Twitter Mind – an energetic state of dopamine excitation, where the sense of time is lost.

As more of us use these tools, how do we maintain our sense of mindfulness? How do we tame Twitter Mind? Few of us practice any sort of traditional meditation to discipline our Monkey Mind. Now we have social media. The Social Web is like an extension of the neocortex. It may sound crazy to think that our brains have a new layer, but it’s not a bad way to think about the kind of world the Web is making.

We will need to understand more about the effects of the Web on our brains, on our attention and our ability to feel fully alive between the sliver of light between birth and death that was entrusted to us.

THE NEVER-ENDING STREAM

When was the last time you felt the beating of your heart? The breath in and out of your chest? The sound of rain falling on leaf-mush?

Do you know why you’re on Twitter? How long you’re on Twitter?

The Art of the Tweet – if there is one – is this: using the medium to learn something about our world and sharing your unique view of it with us mindfully. Life without mindfulness is a life lost. Twitter may increase your awareness of the world around you but only your mind supplies your life with meaning. How are you  maintaining your mind?

Tweets are like raindrops falling into a stream. So are the moments of your life. Are you paying  attention, or something more expensive?

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