URL = http://twitter.com/
"Twitter allows users to send and receive abbreviated communications or "digital shorthand" from a computer or mobile device. These are called "Tweets." The open-source nature of the application has spawned countless "mash-ups" where Twitter technology merges seamlessly with other open-source technologies such as Google Maps. Widgets and desktop applications such as Twitteroo and Twitterific take you outside of the browser and act as a sort of social instant messenger, sending and receiving rapid bursts of text and links." (http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/apr2007/id20070409_372598_page_2.htm)
Kevin Marks, on theories explaining Twitter dynamics:
"Flow: At it heart Twitter is a flow - it doesn't present an unread count of messages, just a list of recent ones, so you don't have email's inbox problem - the implicit pressure to turn bold things plain and get that unread number down. Instead, you can dip in and out of it, when you have time, and what you see is notes from people you care about.
Faces: Indeed, what you see are the faces of people you know with the notes they wrote next to them. This taps into deep mental structures that we all have to looks for faces and associate the information we receive with people we decide to trust, through what we feel about them. This is also why automated tweets not by them are so obtrusive, as they break the trust. Using friends' faces in ads is even more pernicious, as ads are by definition recommendations from people we don't trust.
Phatic: The key to Twitter is that it is phatic - full of social gestures that are like apes grooming each other. Both Google and Twitter have little boxes for you to type into, but on Google you're looking for information, and expecting a machine response, whereas on Twitter you're declaring an emotion and expecting a human response. This is what leads to unintentionally ironic newspaper columns bemoaning public banality, because they miss that while you don't care what random strangers feel about their lunch, you do if its your friend on holiday in Pompeii. This is something it shares with Facebook and other social networks, but this brings me to another key difference, which is asymmetric connections.
Following: Historically, web fora were open to anyone, leading to the tragedy of the comments, where annoying people showed up and spoiled things. Social network sites changed this by requiring mutual agreement on friendship, thereby making a natural in-group area where you only saw your friends' comments. This also created a venue for the phatic behaviour, but it was rather self-limiting, as you ended up with piles of friend requests from vaguely unfamiliar people that it feels rude to ignore, creating another inbox problem. This is analogous to the pre-web hypertext systems that insisted every link would be bidirectional, thereby preventing the power-law distributed link structure that builds a small-world network to connect the web and provides the basis for Pagerank. Being able to link to something without it having to give you permission by linking back is what enabled the web to grow. Making following asymmetric is similarly freeing for social relationships - it means you can follow authors or film stars without drowning them in friend requests, and get the same phatic sense of connection with them that you get from friends.
Publics: The idea of Following means that the natural view we see on Twitter is different for each of us, and is of those we have chosen to hear from. In effect we each have our own view of the web, our own public that we see and we address. The subtlety is that the publics are semi-overlapping - not everyone we can see will hear us, as they don't necessarily follow us, and they may not dip into the stream in time to catch the evanescent ripples in the flow that our remark started. However, as our view is fo those we choose to follow, our emotional response is set by that, and we behave more civilly in return. For those with Habermas's assumption of a single common public sphere this makes no sense - surely everyone should see everything that anyone says as part of the discussion? In fact this has never made sense, and in the past elaborate systems have been set up to ensure that only a few can speak, and only one person can speak at a time, because a speech-like, real-time discourse has been the foundational assumption. Too often this worldview has been built into the default assumptions of communications online; we see it now with privileged speakers decrying the use of anonymity in the same tones as 19th century politicians defended hustings in rotten boroughs instead of secret ballots. Thus the tactics of shouting down debate in town halls show up as the baiting and trollery that make YouTube comments a byword for idiocy; when all hear the words of one, the conversation often decays.
Mutual media: The alternative model is one that is less familiar, yet is all around us - the spontaneous order that emerges from people communicating in parallel. We know this from market pricing, from scientific consensuses, and from human language, and are starting to see it harnessed in projects like Wikipedia that present a dynamic cultural consensus. What shows up in Twitter, in blogs and in the other ways we are connecting the loosely coupled web into flows is that by each reading whom we choose to and passing on some of it to others, we are each others media, we are the synapses in the global brain of the web of thought and conversation. Although we each only touch a local part of it, ideas can travel a long way.
Small world networks: This seems counter-intuitive too—we're used to the idea of having an institution tell us what is news—but that is really a left-over anomaly from 20th Century mass media. In fact, social connections are a small-world network, that has the Six Degrees property that it is both locally connected, but can be traversed globally in a small number of jumps. Although online social networks are often not good models of real world ones, they share this feature, and Twitter amplifies it with both a low propogation delay and the enforced brevity that makes both writing and reading rapid." (http://epeus.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-twitter-works-in-theory.html)
Howard Rheingold on why he uses Twitter:
Openness — anyone can join, and anyone can follow anyone else (unless they restrict access to friends who request access)
Immediacy — it’s a rolling present. You won’t get the sense of Twitter if you just check in once a week. You need to hang out for minutes and hours, every day, to get in the groove.
Variety — political or technical argument, gossip, technical info, news flashes, poetry, social arrangements, classrooms, repartee, scholarly references
Reciprocity — people give and ask freely for information they need (this doesn’t necessarily scale or last forever, but right now it’s possible to tune your list — and to contribute to it — to include a high degree of reciprocation)
A channel to multiple publics — I’m a communicator and have a following that I want to grow and feed. I can get the word out about a new book or vlog post in seconds — and each of the 1300 people who follow me might also feed my memes to their own networks. I used to just paint. Now I document my painting at each stage of the process, upload pix to flickr or flicks to blip.tv, then drop a tinyurl into Twitter. Who needs a gallery or a distributor?
Asymmetry — very interesting. Very few people follow exactly the same people who follow them.
A way to meet new people — it happens every day
A way to find people who share interests — I follow people I don’t know otherwise but who share an interest in educational technology, video, online activism.
A window on what is happening in multiple worlds, some of which I am familiar with, and others that are new to me." (http://www.smartmobs.com/2008/02/23/why-im-hooked-on-twitter/)
Twitter as a tool for un-groups
"networks. When I’m on Twitter I’m tuning into “collective life streams” as opposed to interacting as a member of a criteria-based group. The fact that Twitter is mobile and able to be used by text messaging via cell phones provides new possibilities for making the most out of “between” moments. Many people find the time to tweet as they travel between the places where groups meet -- in other words, when they are outside of the group and defined only by their individuality. This in turn opens them up to the possibility of finding new groups from far flung places on the social graph. Tweets take place in taxi cabs and in airports, while waiting for trams and waiting for a concert to start. A group could be formed around people who are fans of a movie -- or around passengers stranded together at an airport who use Twitter to craft a “real time” letter of complaint to an airline CEO. Twitter is about being untethered from the world of heavy buildings and offices and computers, but at the same time being aware and informed. The more people you follow, the wider net you cast with which to gather information. I follow fewer people than many and I still hear about most breaking international, national and citywide news from someone on Twitter first.
Twitter is a great tool for DIY, self-organizing “un-groups” such as the stranded airline passengers mentioned above. As the name would imply, an un-group doesn’t have a membership policy or an explicitly agreed upon set of rules and hierarchies. Un-groups aren’t meant to be solemn brother or sisterhoods that one swears an oath to uphold. They are the practical, quick and easy collaborative attempts to solve any number of problems. What’s more, the specificity of the un-groups makes it such that belonging to one doesn’t define you as a person -- perhaps you work as an executive for Phillip Morris trying to figure out how to sell more cigarettes but also coordinate your neighborhood’s recycling efforts in a city or a town where the municipality refuses to do it." (http://www.realitysandwich.com/radical_interdependence_online_telepathy_twitter)
Psychological aspects of Twitter
"Most interesting is how the Twitter system acts to fill a deep psychological need in our society. The unfortunate reality is that we are a culture starved for real community. For hundreds of thousands of years, human beings have resided in tribes of about 30-70 people. Our brains are wired to operate within the social context of community - programming both crucial and ancient for human survival.
However, the tribal context of life was subverted during the Industrial Revolution, when the extended family was torn apart in order to move laborers into the cities. But a deep evolutionary need for community continues to express itself, through feelings of community generated by your workplace, your church, your sports team, and now... the twitterverse. This is why people feel so compelled to tweet, to facebook or even to check their email incessantly. We crave connection.
It's useful to dig a bit deeper into our need for community. In fact, needs analysis one of the most powerful tools for innovators to understand, which invariably leads to the meaning of their products. So let's look at Twitter in the context of Abraham Maslow's concept of a hierarchy of needs, first presented in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation."
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is most often displayed as a pyramid, with lowest levels of the pyramid made up of the most basic needs and more complex needs are at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to higher levels of needs, which become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment become important. Finally, Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person to achieve individual potential.
Twitter aims primarily at social needs, like those for belonging, love, and affection. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community or religious groups. Clearly, feeling connected to people via Twitter helps to fulfill some of this need to belong and feel cared about.
An even higher level of need, related to self-esteem and social recognition, is also leveraged by Twitter. Twitter allows normal people to feel like celebrities. At its worst, Twitter is an exercise in unconditional narcissism - the idea that others might actually care about the minutiae of our daily lives. I believe that this phenomena of micro-celebrity is driven by existential anxiety. I twitter, therefore I am. I matter. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggoneit, people like me!
"We are the most narcissistic age ever," agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. "Using Twitter suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognize you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won't cure it."
This leads me to a few other problems I have with Twitter and social activity monitoring in general. First, it makes it much easier for stalkers to follow you. Stalkers give me the willies, and better tools need to be in place to identify those you don't want following your every move. However, in Los Angeles, most people celebrate their first official stalker as a benchmark of success. Second, there is a remarkable loss of focus and presence that comes with the information overload that multi-tasking brings. Twitter is like digital crack that invariably turns you into a tweetker - no matter how much of it you get, you'll never be satisfied. If you've ever woken up at 3 am to check your email or read tweets, you know what I mean. You know the cold clammy fingers of existential anxiety." (http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-tao-innovation/200903/understanding-the-psychology-twitter)
Open Source aspects of Twitter
"When we plan new engineering projects at Twitter, we measure our requirements against the capabilities of open source offerings, and prefer to use open source whenever it makes sense. By this approach, much of Twitter is now built on open source software.
In some cases, our requirements—in particular, the scalability requirements of our service—lead us to develop projects from the ground up.
We develop these projects with an eye toward open source, and are pleased to contribute our projects back to the open source community when there is a clear benefit. Below are two such projects, Kestrel and Cache-Money. Every tweet touches one or both of these key components of the Twitter architecture." (http://blog.twitter.com/2009/01/building-on-open-source.html)
Why the Twitter platform sucks
"This is a company that is building a channel for celebrities, bots, spammers, and a few of other types who like to tell each other short sweet nothings but really wants to be a platform for the world’s people, APIs, devices, etc to talk with each other.
I want that world too, but Twitter has made it so I — and increasingly the developers I interview who are building stuff on top of Twitter — don’t trust Twitter. Why? Because of several reasons:
1. I can’t get to my old Tweets. Seriously. They are, I’m sure, on a server somewhere in San Francisco, but I can’t get to them. Twitter search only shows the last few weeks and I’ve asked developers if they can get them but they can only get to the last few thousand Tweets. I’ve been through this before. The first two years of my blog are gone. Someone turned off a server and I was stupid enough not to back up those items first. Oh well.
2. Follower numbers are about as inaccurate as Google’s numbers are (we all know that when Google says there are 685,000 mentions of Robert Scoble you know that’s a total made up number, right?) Follower numbers are just as made up. Twitter artificially adds followers to people it deems important by putting them on the Suggested User List. And last week I learned that there are tons of followers who just follow you to get you to follow back (about 7% in my case). These are mostly fake followers cause they only cared about bumping up their follower numbers, not in listening to anything you had to say (which is provable because if they had listened to me over the years they would have joined FriendFeed cause I’ve talked about that so much that most people think that’s all I’ve talked about lately, which also proves they never watch my videos. Anyway, I digress, only 46,000 out of my now 93,500 followers have come over to FriendFeed, which demonstrates that I have a lot of followers who won’t do anything I ask them to). It’s worse than that, though. Twitter regularly cleans out spammers and such. Last time they did that they restated my follower count as 2,000 lower.
3. Twitter rarely discusses any changes or problems with its APIs with its developers. This is well documented, but doesn’t seem to change much. Developers tell me they are playing footsie with Twitter, trying to build stuff and also get to be friendly with them so that they are picked from the crop instead of their competitors. Think what would happen if Twitter bought or picked, say, TweetDeck. Would Seesmic have the market power to continue as a Twitter developer?
4. Twitter “picks” — at its whim — which companies will get displayed on its home page. Right now I just saw Seesmic displayed there. That artificially gives Seesmic a huge amount of users developers tell me and there’s no way for a company to know when it’ll be picked, or what the rules are. Totally up to Twitter’s team, just like being included on the Suggested User List is. I’ve heard from many that if you beg to be put on either list, too, you won’t get put on and will be blacklisted. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a common enough belief among Twitter developers that the threat of that is probably enough. 5. Twitter has built a system that relies on a third party for functionality. Even now, if we use bit.ly links like Twitter recommends, there’s no guarantee that Twitter will keep those links working in the future if Bit.ly’s investors decide it can’t make money. Since money has NOT started flowing through the Twitter system yet we’re all wondering just how Bit.ly will make money. And that’s before we consider the fact that to really make money Bit.ly would have to do something like what Flickr does: charge us money for access to our old items and/or put some sort of weird advertising into the link (hey, interstitial advertising, if you hated it when the news sites did it, you’ll REALLY hate it when the URL shortener sites do it).
6. Twitter has already demonstrated it will stab both users and developers in the back with no notice (IE, Twitter messes with the marketplace and “picks” winners, both on the user side and the developer side). This is nasty stuff for a platform vendor to do. It makes both users and developers distrust the system and makes investors very skittish about potential risks which are much higher now (you’ve gotta not only build awesome technology, but you’ve gotta take @ev and @biz out to lunch a lot and make sure you do whatever they tell you to do — even then you might get stabbed in the back).
7. Twitter talks trash about a lot of its potential partners as we found out when the Twittergate papers were published by TechCrunch. Yes, do you want to do business with these folks that don’t even have the professionalism to keep their name calling off the Internet? (If I had trouble with a partner I’d NEVER write it down or record it anywhere unless I intended it to be public — I’ve seen too many times when employees go “postal” or leave disgruntled and then leak stuff out)." (http://scobleizer.com/2009/08/10/twitters-platform-shortcomings/)
The Open Microblogging alternative of Identi.ca
"How is Identi.ca different from Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Plurk, others?
Identi.ca is an Open Network Service. Our main goal is to provide a fair and transparent service that preserves users' autonomy. In particular, all the software used for Identi.ca is Free Software, and all the data is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, making it Open Data.
The software also implements the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that you can have friends on other microblogging services that can receive your notices
The goal here is autonomy -- you deserve the right to manage your own on-line presence. If you don't like how Identi.ca works, you can take your data and the source code and set up your own server (or move your account to another one)." (http://identi.ca/doc/faq)
- Tag: http://del.icio.us/mbauwens/Twitter
- Study: What People Do on Twitter: three types of conversations 
- Twitter is a form of Lifelogging, Lifestreaming, Microblogging
- Aspects of Twitter: Exhaust Data, Phatic Communication, Ambient Intimacy
- How Twitter was born, the history: http://www.140characters.com/2009/01/30/how-twitter-was-born/
- Profile of the founders, and their dreams, February 2009: http://nymag.com/news/media/54069/
- Is Twitter a Complex Adaptive System?