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Two Thoughts about Twitter

Here at SXSW, Twitter has tipped. It has become *the* way to stay abreast of what’s going on, where your friends are, and where to drink if you want to keep out of the rain. (For those who don’t know: Twitter is a dumb-simple messaging application optimized for mobile phones, but accessible through the Web, IM, and other means as well.)

Using it, I’ve had two thoughts about it:

1) It needs event functionality, bad. Twitter is ideal for events, keeping track of friends and activities. The problem is, the only relationship Twitter understands is one of friends/contacts, which means that all my friends in the Bay Area and elsewhere are getting overwhelmed by my Twitter messages to people here at SXSW. It also means that I’m not following all the SXSW twitters that I could, because I’m not linked to everyone at the conference using Twitter. There are many people whom I’d love to “follow” just for this event and never again.

2) I would encourage the Twitter developers to go old school and dig up some HCI research on command line interfaces, cognitive psychology, and the like. Using Twitter on a mobile phone means remembering commands (such as FOLLOW, NUDGE, ADD, D (for direct message) etc.) I’m certain that Twitter is re-making many mistakes when it comes to such commands, and that a literature review could do much to kick usability up a few notches.

3) Actually, I’ve just had a third thought. Because I used the word “usability” in the last comment, and I realized that Twitter should consider not just being usable (which is a laudable goal), but is totally primed for game-like experiences of discovery. I’d love for there to be cheats/easter eggs that the Twitter folks never mention in terms of commands and functions, but which some how get out across the internets, and make using the tool, well, more fun (kinda like ordering off In-n-Out Burger’s secret menu).

  1. Funny that the same day you wrote this, a colleague said “man, adaptive path is going crazy with twitter today”.

    Adding new functionality (e.g. events) to a properly dumb-simple app is always a risk. Although I’m sure someone could easily develop a noninvasive event-based ***wrapper around twitter***, I wonder how you get the base twitter app itself to introduce that functionality to the user while still remaining simple.

    Technically the problem breaks down into allowing you to more dynamically create and alter membership in multiple groups, which I’ve found to be a pretty difficult mechanism to present to people (even data-geek types, who tend instead towards hierarchy). The “tag” notion was the biggest breakthrough in years.

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