Will Twitter Fly in a Walled Garden?

Twitter could be so much better than it is. I have many brilliant ideas on how to improve Twitter’s interface, usability and performance. So do you. So do Chris Brogan and pretty boy Pete Cashmore. I agree with them, and it’s likely that you do too. A question though: would these brilliant features enhance Twitter or destroy the very thing that makes it a remarkable permission-based engagement tool?

Last night @hidama expressed it best:

I don’t know about you, but what I appreciate most about Twitter is that I can follow a wide spectrum of people. I can follow geeks, vloggers, lawyers, google geniuses, cancer survivors, an assortment of medical professionals and other good people from all over the world. I can also follow feed-bots that provide interesting content. Twitter is social RSS.

When you follow hundreds or thousands of people and feeds, it’s understandable that you want to have some volume control: sometimes you want noise; other times you want music.

The fact is: the web is moving away from the web, meaning that our productivity and collaborative interfaces are no longer tied to the traditional web platform. APIs are developed all of the time.

Desktop, laptop and mobile applications are making it easier to consume and produce your daily needs in your own unique way. This means that if you want a tool to fit your particular needs, chances are someone has (or could) build it.

Even without changes to Twitter, there are thousands of tools to tweek your experience. Here are six:

  1. Twitter Groups – create your own groups for your peeps
  2. Yahoo Pipes – create your own aggregator or tweek templates
  3. Search.Twitter – create feeds for your monitoring needs
  4. PeopleBrowsr – drive yourself insane
  5. TweetDeck – manage your tweeting experience efficiently
  6. Hashtags – learn how to use them (did you know there more commands than just #?)
The list of tools is almost endless. Still, the bread-and-butter of Twitter is the democratic openness and ambient intimacy. Twitter’s success rests in its simplicity.  

It may be coincidental that Twitter is a bird. Birds are pretty in gardens. It’s human nature to box Nature. Ultimately, though, (most) birds are born to fly. I’m sorry about the cheesy metaphors, but it’s important that Twitter isn’t caged in a wall for our convenience.

I’m not saying that certain features necessarily create a walled-in garden. But that’s what we aught to consider before satisfying our comfort cravings.

Something else to consider: not everybody wants the same thing. My brilliant (or hair-brained) ideas might be great for me but terrible for you. What works for Chris Brogan might not work for Seth Godin or Shaq.

Let’s face it: the paradox of technology is with us forever. The easier we make our lives with technology, our use of the technology becomes a need. That need, in turn, spurs the desire for more technology of convenience. It’s a never ending braid.

I’m sure that whatever new features that the boys and girls at Twitter decide to add will be built to dovetail with their revenue model (whatever it will be). Until then, think about your needs and what mashups work for you.

So, what do you think? What features would you like to see in Twitter? What matters most to you when it comes to tweeting?

Update: @hidama kindly pointed out that my title was off. “Gardened Wall” must be the influence of my Hungarian parents. It’s now proper English: Walled Garden. 

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Groundswelling Corporate America

After listening to the webinar presented by authors Chjarlene Li and Josh Bernoff of groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, I have more faith that more of Corporate America will embrace the promises of the new marketing approaches possible with Web 2.0. Groundswell offers a good segue into social marketing for businesses that have yet to catch up.

I listed some of the key points the presenters made over at ReadWriteWeb. Essentially, they advocate an approach to marketing that emphasizes people first followed by clear objectives with an intelligent strategy using appropriate technology. Their acronym for this approach is POST. (I guess when you blog, your POSTs should keep these steps in mind–not a bad meme for blogging general by the way.)

They also discussed the analogues of the roles of traditional marketing with the objectives of groundswell:

  • Research by listening to your customers on your blogs, forums, groups, etc.
  • Market by talking with your customers on your chosen web platforms
  • Sell your products or services by energizing your customers
  • Support your efforts and customers with the right kinds of supporting technlogies
  • Develop your business needs by embracing your customers through the new platforms

All of this is common sense really. But Forrester Research, the firm that Charlene and Josh’s represent, provides a remarkable service to business executives who need to get up to speed with the merciless curve of change coming down on all enterprises.

I’d love to see more of the kinds of services emerge because those businesses which “get the web” (e.g. those who “get” Seth Godin’s attitude on marketing) will thrive. Heck, I’d love to get into this business myself because I really want to see the fundamental projects of capitalism and democracy succeed.

An acquaintance of mine recently attended a presentation by the Charlene and Josh and came away very impressed with their personable, approachable style and felt that her company could greatly benefit from what they have to say. Ultimately, successful adopters will realize the enormous potential offered by the socialization of billions of people and the dangers of misplaced attempts.

Groundswell is an excellent start for newbies and pros. I plan to offer a succinct review of their book in a future post. In the meantime please visit their sleek blog and start your groundswelling campaign the right way.