April 10th, 2010 by Ivo
Disclaimer: I love Tweetie; dispite it not being free (it will be free from now on), I liked it much better than the free alternatives.
For Twitter, this is a good move. It will finally give them an 'official' client for phones. They also announced a Blackberry app yesterday, and you can easily see that they needed one by looking at their 'Using twitter with your phone' page. It explains how to use Twitter using SMS, something that never really caught on as a main twitter use. With this move, Twitter fills a hole they had in their product offering. It is very similar to what happened in 2008, when they acquired Summize, which is now search.twitter.com.
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May 4th, 2009 by Ivo
More and more content on the internet is 'real time'. Twitter messages, news feeds, pictures, facebook, etc.. Where we used to browse the web for things that have mostly been written in the past, more and more of our internet minutes are spent watching things that 'just happened'.
I see this as a threat to Google, and it wouldn't surprise me if they finally manage to buy Twitter, because Twitter helps them become more 'real time'.
To give an example, I was just trying to update my profile picture on Twitter, and this didn't work. For some reason it refused my pic without an apparent error messsage. Possibly I'm uploading something wrong, so first I googled for 'twitter profile picture' and got this result:
Then, I did the same search on Twitter Search and the result was this:
As you can see, this tells me that in the past 22 minutes, multiple people had this problem. (Ironically you can also see from their avatars that it actually is a problem). The Google results on the other hand, have nothing that is relevant if you take into account the 'now' factor.
This is just an example. Searching for 'current content' is getting more and more relevant. Comments on a live show on tv or an address to the nation by the president; Google is useless in finding these things.
So it is my humble opinion that either a) Google will buy Twitter, Facebook or another 'real time' content site, or b) Google will release an updated Google Search that takes the whole 'now' into account in its search results.
March 1st, 2009 by Ivo
Many conferences and events follow a simple principle. They use a short tag for twitter (e.g. #dpc) and a full tag for less real-time content (e.g. dpc09 on Flickr or blogs). It's not a rule that's set in stone, but it kind of emerged as a best practice based on people's experiences. Other conferences stick to one tag, such as "phpuk2009" last friday.
For those that don't adhere to this best practice, here are the most important reasons for doing so:
- You only have 140 chars on Twitter. The shorter your tag, the more actual content you can add.
- Many attendees use a phone to tweet, and many phones use a T9 editor. Again, the shorter the better. Also, entering a year such as '2009' not only requires 4 key presses, it requires 4 'hold' keypresses on many phones, or it requires the T9-editor to be set to numeric mode first.
- Findability. This morning I was trying to find blogs and pictures from #phpuk2009. Because the same tag was used on all media, the blog posts were hard to find between hundreds of tweets in the Google results. While it's interesting to find those as well sometimes, their real-time nature makes it much less interesting as a search result once the event is over (and it's far more easier to use search.twitter.com to view them in the correct order.
To sum up a few counterarguments:
- When you search it's hard to distinguish between different installments of the event. While I'd say that in blogs and Flickr and other things you would search through Google that is true (I recommend always adding '09' to tags there), for Twitter that is not an issue, because your search is always in order of date anyway.
- "I have phone X, it's really easy to add the year to any tag." Sure, but not everyone has phone X.
- For conference organizers, it's harder to scan the web for relevant content if different tags are used. Actually that's not the case: it's easier to find relevant non-realtime content and relevant realtime content when 2 different tags are used. See 'Findability' above.
There is a group of people that takes this a step further; they argue that a date should never be added to any tag, because appending a separate year tag makes it much more flexible (e.g. #dpc #2009). That's an interesting approach too, but makes it slightly less convenient for my taste (and generally requires even more characters), so I'll stick to #short for real-time content and #full09 for normal content.
What do you think?
August 15th, 2008 by Ivo
I've been using Twitter for a while now. It's one of those things that if you don't have it, you don't know why you should, but once you use it, it becomes so common it's hard to imagine life before it.
There's quite some controversy surrounding Twitter. For a while, everybody was complaining about its stability (or rather the lack of it), but people continued to use it regardless, and lately, it's been a lot more stable (it still has bugs but at least it's up).
Another popular subject is the apparent lack of a business model. Twitter seems to follow the 'find an audience first, find revenue later' model. But this has its problems. On wednesday, twitter dropped the popular SMS feature because they could no longer afford it. While this feature hasn't been working properly for me anyway, this has made a lot of their users angry.
But rather than being a symptom of the lack of a business model, I think this sheds some light on the way Twitter's model actually works. What I've noticed about twitter is that they develop their service in such a way that it is completely modular. Take the posting of messages. You can do that on the twitter website, but the majority of its users use third party tools that connect to twitter's API to post messages. (Some of these even have their own business model, like injecting ads between the Twitter messages).
Another such modularized feature is searching tweets. Twitter didn't have a useful search feature, but because of the API, a company called Summize was able to build a very good twitter search engine. There were others, but the Summize service was so good, that Twitter bought Summize and the feature is now available at search.twitter.com. (There seems to be a bit of irony here; Summize also didn't really have a business model, but they sold their stuff to twitter. Twitter on the other hand, paid a lot of money for a feature that they should have built in the first place and that they're giving away for free now.)
The modularity of a service such as twitter really became apparent when Twitter announced they would drop the SMS feature. Within about 2 minutes, TweetSMS was founded by a third party, to offer the users what Twitter had just taken from them. And recognizing that this feature is something that people would want to pay for, they even have a business model. If it's successful, twitter could easily acquire them in the future.
The interesting thing here is that it works like a formula. You let others develop features and business models, and you buy back the successful ones and incorporate them into the service. So you sow, then you reap.
Here are some characteristics of this approach, that I derived from the way Twitter currently operates.
- Even though there are many parties and many tools involved, you remain the center of the technology. Sort of like the 'hub'.
- Even more than building a product, you build a concept.
- It's more efficient than investing in the product yourself, as this way, there can be many parallel developments, and you pay only for the succesful ones. (Evolution)
- It takes a lot of venture capital to make sure this model works, as you have to buy a lot of things. On the other hand, researching and developing it yourself is expensive too.
- You basically outsource the risk. All the failed twitter clients and twitter services are not your problem. You just make sure you deal with the successful ones and keep those close.
- You outsource research. Many third parties have built tools on twitter based on ideas that the founders may never even have thought about.
- Every successful third party has a certain value (that Twitter will pay for when buying back the feature). However, with all those successes combined, the total value of Twitter will be more than the sum of its parts.
- This is a business model. One that may be carefully hidden, or one they may not even be aware of themselves.
In the past year, many alternatives to Twitter have seen the light of day, and most of them have died, even though some were better than Twitter. Their biggest problem: They are not Twitter. Since Twitter is more an idea or concept and not so much a product, it's hard to fight. It's easier to build a tool on top of Twitter than to build an alternative to Twitter. And this is its strength.
And with the above business model, I think that even though people are sceptical now, they will be highly profitable at some point.
January 10th, 2008 by Ivo
Tonight was a fun night of experimenting with web stuff.
I'm in London this week, and this morning I got an email from the office that they changed my mobile plan so I could use mobile internet abroad for a flat fee per day, and since I have a fancy phone now it was playtime tonight!
I turned on my iPod, left the hotel and set out to do some sightseeing. Took the tube to the Embankment station and took a cliche picture of the Big Ben. Using the 'upload to flickr' feature of my phone, I uploaded it to my flickr stream.
Roughly 7 minutes later the upload finished and I was able to twitter about my accomplishment. The reason it took 7 minutes was that my phone had switched from HSDPA to GPRS, which is pretty sluggish, and the fact that my phone's cam is 5MP.
I got hungry, and used Google Mobile Maps to find the Hard Rock Cafe (always a nice place to dine when you're not with company), and the way to get there.
By the time I passed the large Pepsi Thingee at Trocadero, I had found out that my phone can scale down the image before posting to flickr, so my picture of the Pepsi Thingee uploaded a lot faster.
At trocadero I used an underpass to cross a road, at which point my phone not only disconnected, but completely crashed. I had to take out the battery to reset it.
Anyway, on to the Hard Rock Cafe.
I arrived at the spot where the Hard Rock Cafe was supposed to be according to Google, but there was only a really small street and I didn't see anything resembling an HRC. But a closer look revealed a small door with a Hard Rock Cafe logo in the back of a sort of alcove. 'Wow', I thought, 'must be the smallest HRC ever. Without Google Maps I would never have found this'.
So I went in and about 2 steps inside I encountered a guy, sitting on a staircase eating fries. Hmm, this must be the weirdest HRC I've encountered so far.
He looked as stunned at me as I looked at him, and after an awkward silence I said:
"Are they closed or what?"
"Closed? You want to eat?"
"Sure we're open. but USE THE FRONT DOOR!"
"Ah, eh, hmm..." (quick! think of an excuse that doesn't make you look foolish!) "Google Maps sent me here!"
"Well, Sir, then Google Maps IS WRONG."
I walked around the block, had a lovely dinner, twittered some more, checked up on my email and eventually used Google Maps to find my way back to the hotel.
So it was a nice mobile-assisted night.
And now I'm here in my hotel room, typing this post in a local textfile because internet at the hotel doesn't work and the building seems to block my cellphone signal.
Some drawbacks: The battery of my phone, which was full when I left, was nearly empty by the time I got back. And on my laptop I noticed that the pictures I took were way more blurry than I could tell on the mobile phone screen.
But all-in-all, I think the mobile web is fun. In particular the popular web 2.0 sites do a decent job of providing a proper mobile version of their services.
A few people on twitter advised me some alternative mobile software (mobypicture) that should make it even easier, so I'm going to try that out on my next sightseeing-with-phone tour. I'll try to use some more websites next time as well, such as a website that can plot my route using google maps, and try uploading to youtube from the phone. It would be nice if there was a site that combines google maps, twitter, youtube and flickr. Ideas anyone?
January 7th, 2008 by Ivo
On friday night I created a twitter account. I didn't 'get' twitter, and I've read that it's 'hard to explain' and people 'only get it once they've used it'. So when I saw that even Cal Evans is using it, I had to finally try.
At first I thought it was a form of instant messaging. And while it has some of its characteristics, it's different. I think it can best be described as 'broadcasting your current status'. To people who want to see it. Like the status field you have in applications like MSN and Skype. Elizabeth described it to me as 'more like IRC', and she has a point. It's like IRC, without channels. The '/me' command on IRC is very twitterish even.
Messages are never more than 140 characters, which helps keeping them to the point.
People don't just post their status: it's used a lot for 'look at this' type messages, usually some url that someone has just read and wants to share.
What I like about twitter so far:
- It's simple; it broadcasts a message to people who want to receive it, and that's about it.
- It's open; it has API's which have led to a lot of tools and devices supporting twitter. I have Twitterrific to read messages, and can easily send them through Quicksilver. My tweets are displayed on the right of my blog using a simple wordpress plugin.
- It's addicitive. It gives you a feeling of connectedness, more even than instant messengers.
What I don't like about twitter so far:
- Twittering via SMS is too intrusive; twitter with my mobile phone's browser is decent, but requires me to login each time (but maybe that's a problem with my phone, not twitter).
- There's the danger of information overload. Some people twitter so much that they easily dominate the twitter screen (example: going to the zoo, coming back from the zoo, looking at the pictures from the zoo, discovering there are a lot of pictures from the zoo, filtering the pictures from the zoo, uploading the pictures from the zoo, announcing the pictures of the zoo on flickr and all the tea-drinking that happened in between; hi Skoop! ). I can see this becoming overwhelming as I follow more people.
- Direct messages are inconvenient, I can't see my outgoing stuff; but then again, that's not what it's for.
- I miss a way to channel messages; some things are only relevant to my friends from the PHP community, some only for my coworkers, etc. But with twitter you only have individual messages and messages to all.
In any case, it's interesting so far. Let's see how I feel about it in a week or two.