Blogging for people with a short attention span

* Twitter, ultra-hypersocial networking

I started researching for this issue of the Web Applications newsletter and ran straight down a rat hole for a couple of hours because I decided to take another look at Twitter. Twitter is a free, Web-based, messaging service that allows you to send updates by instant messaging, by e-mail, or by the cellular short message service (SMS). Twitter also provides “badges” – Web widgets that display your Twitter updates on your blog or Web site.

You can think of Twitter as blogging for people with a short attention span. Most of the Twitter users’ pages I’ve seen (you can make them public or private) appear to be collections of random one-liner thoughts (a Twitter post can only be up to 140 characters long), creating something that is both a sort of ongoing in-joke between the user and their friends as well as a more detailed “presence” mechanism but less engaged than IM.

You can follow the Twitter postings of your friends via the Twitter Web interface and, when enabled, via IM, SMS, and or RSS feeds.

Twitter is definitely interesting, as it combines elements of other social networking services and technologies. As Liz Lawley (associate professor and director of the lab for social computing at Rochester Institute of Technology) wrote in early March this year on the Corante blog: “What Twitter does, in a simple and brilliant way, is to merge a number of interesting trends in social software usage—personal blogging, lightweight presence indicators, and IM status messages—into a fascinating blend of ephemerality and permanence, public and private.”

Given how compelling texting is to many people (my 14 year-old son’s total of messages sent and received last month was just under 4,000) Twitter is probably even more compelling to those who revel in this kind of hypersocial connectedness (I personally do not find it compelling but then again, I have been accused of anti-social tendencies). In fact, if texting counts as hypersocial, then Twitter would have to be ultra-hypersocial.

A particularly interesting aspect of Twitter is its API, which looks perfect for use in mash-ups and novel social applications.

Two examples of Twitter-based applications that use this API are Twitterer, a custom application that posts your updates to Twitter, and Twitterbot, a utility that grabs RSS feeds, reformats the items, and posts them to Twitter; sort of a feed condenser.

Twitter definitely has some very cool features and applications. It might even make me less anti-social. By the way, on Twitter I am quistuipater.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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