Posts about twitter

Ambient intimacy

Leisa Reichelt says that the syncopated updates we share publicly with friends and followers in Twitter (and blogs and Flickr….) add up to what she called “ambient intimacy.”

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise? There are certainly many people who think this, but they tend to be not so noisy themselves. It seems to me that there are lots of people for who being social is very much a ‘real life’ activity and technology is about getting stuff done.

There are a lot of us, though, who find great value in this ongoing noise. It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.

Knowing these details creates intimacy. (It also saves a lot of time when you finally do get to catchup with these people in real life!) It’s not so much about meaning, it’s just about being in touch.

Right. I argued in this post and column sometime ago that these functionalities — plus our ongoing connectedness on Facebook and our searchability via Google — will have a profound impact on friendship and our relationships. I said there that they will keep us in touch longer and so we can’t just lose people anymore. Reichelt says they also change our current relationships and I agree. It’s quite an insight that this causes a new kind of intimacy: We see the things we wouldn’t see in others’ lives unless we were damned near living together. For some people, I couldn’t care to know that much. For others, she’s right, it is a handy way to catch up, to be in touch.

I’ve mentioned here that I’ve found and been found by friends I haven’t seen in decades (more than I’ll admit) thanks to one or the other of our Google shadows. I’m about to meet up with one of them and we’ve been doing this catchup dance via email, which is also new and fits under Reichelt’s umbrella, I think, for it’s just a cold technological tool that makes it easy to update and catch up. If I’d been catching up via Facebook or Twitter or blogs all that time, the possibilities and definitions of friendship would be different.

Reichelt also talks about the flipside of this, ambient exposure: the publicness that makes this possible but also creates some vulnerability. And each force us to define our societies, the people we want to share with: one person on an email, a few people in a chat, a defined group in Facebook or Pownce, a group we don’t define (if we’re public) in Twitter, anyone at all in a blog.

What a great time to be a Reichelt writing about this or a Danah Boyd studying it or a Tara Hunt living it.

On the pulse

It’s fascinating how new layers of Twitter as a platform for our thoughts keep emerging.

I saw Twitter-maker Ev Williams say today that he loves Twistori, which was inspired by friend Jonathan Harris’ WeFeelFine. It simply pulls out the tweets that have the words love, hate, think, believe, feel, and wish in them. It’s oddly compelling.

I’ve also seen work by the BBC and Reuters, among others, in trying to extract news from Twitter (and other us-created media) by looking for the hot words of news (explosion, evacuate…). This becomes a sort of canary in the news mine. People are writing about their lives and when news happens to or around them, they’ll surely tell their friends about it and now that is aggregated and searchable.

Next I expect someone to come up with a national mood index based on our tweets. Today, we’re feeling self-conscious.

Campaign placement

The most fun I had Twittering the election last night was immediately seeing the three Abercrombie & Fitch guys dudes standing behind Obama. Coinicidence? Conspiracy? Product placement. Either there is a story there or the Obama campaign is its own demographic clliche.

Maybe it’s the latter. The Toronto Sun said yesterday:

Hillary is minivans and American sedans, Barack is Range Rovers and Hondas. Hillary is cross-trainers with jeans, Barack is Abercrombie and Fitch and Banana Republic. Hillary is Dunkin Donuts, Barack is Starbucks. And their supporters are equally vocal, in different ways.

: LATER: USA Today talks to A&F, who says they had nothing to do with it. Ditto the campaign. The USAT blog is asking, ‘Anybody know these guys?’

Twittered out

Been Twittering the Pennsylvania vote coverage like a madman tonight.

The perfect melding of celebrity, politics & technology

A No. 10 Downing Street post on Twitter just now:

George Clooney was at No10 to discuss Darfur. The PM is grateful for the leadership Mr Clooney has shown in drawing attention to the crisis

One hopes that photos will soon follow on Flickr, videos on YouTube, apps on Facebook, groups on Google, podcasts on iTunes….

The lost URL

Just wondering: Are we losing a wealth of link knowledge on Twitter because it’s all going through TinyURL and other services that truncate addresses so they’ll fit? I’d love to know who’s getting linked in Twitter but to do that, I imagine one would have to scrape and then click on and resolve every one of those proxy URLs, no? If so, this is a shame.

London’s all a-twitter

At last week’s Citizen Journalism Meetup panel at NYU, when somebody brought up President Obama — cough — getting a 3 a.m. phone call, I joked that since he’s cool, instead he’d be getting 3 a.m. tweets.

Well, this morning, Richard Sambrook tells us that 10 Downing Street is Twittering and even responding.

Twitter

My Guardian column this week is a tribute to Twitter. Since I haven’t written about that much in the blog, here’s the full text:

When I first used the microblogging platform Twitter – which enables users to publish 140-character-long messages via the web and mobile phones – I thought it was silly. Or rather, the uses to which it was being put were silly: people announcing that they’d just woken up or what they’d had for breakfast. I couldn’t have cared less. But then I should confess that when I first used blogs and podcasts, I didn’t fully comprehend their impact either. So, when my son and webmaster told me I should take another stab at Twitter, I did. And I now see it is an important evolutionary step in the rise of blogging.

I just Twittered this: “I’m writing a column about Twitter and Twittering that.” Not everybody on Twitter saw that update on my life, only those people who care to follow me on the site. That is a critical characteristic of Twitter: it’s selective, in that users choose whether to follow me. And it’s social, in that I choose whom to follow. So we’re not publishing to the big, wide world. We’re talking with our friends and acquaintances.

But at the same time, I can choose to automatically feed my tweet – as an individual Twitter message is called – on to my Facebook profile and also on to my blog page, where more friends can see what I’m up to. That’s another key attribute of the service: it creates feeds. I believe we will be seeing more and more news and other content presented as feeds rather than as packaged products.

I read feeds of my friends’ updates on twitter.com or on my phone via SMS (that is what sets the 140-character limit on messages). I also read feeds of news headlines from the Guardian and individual reporters. Jim Long, a network news photographer, Twitters from White House trips. Ana Marie Cox, the former Wonkette blogger and queen of the snarky political post, has been using Twitter to cover the US primaries for Time.com. I blogged about that, saying she has found the perfect medium for her bon mots and snipes. She responded that Twitter is the perfect medium for covering a campaign. The format gives us a glimpse into what’s happening right now, and cuts to the bone. It’s a hack’s haiku.

Some samples from Cox: “Spin room has already started. Can hear the gentle murmur of BS already sloshing about in the hall … McCain donor just announced he was footing the bar bill for the night. You can start calling him ‘ambassador’ now … Ron Paul compresses coal into diamonds in his mouth … Mitt has so many things ‘in my bloodstream’ (cars, Michigan, business) you could make a v powerful vaccine out of him … First washing-of-underwear-in-sink of presidential cycle 2008!… Enjoying immensely that the pundits got it all, all globally wrong. In most professions, you’d lose your job.”

Because Twitter opened itself up with an API – a programming interface that enables developers to create new services on top of it – all sorts of new inventions are springing up. CommuterFeed is a Twitter service that lets fellow travellers share alerts about problems on their routes to work. Whenever you broadcast a live mobile video on Qik.com, it enables you to send a post to Twitter to alert all your friends to watch. PR people are searching Twitter to find hot topics. I used Twitter to create a tool for collaborative criticism (imagine seeing your friends’ snide remarks as you all watch Pop Idol at the same time, each from your own couches). News sites are using Twitter to get witnesses to share updates on major news events, like earthquakes.

Says political blogger Patrick Ruffini: “Traditional news operated on a 24-hour cycle. Blogs shortened this to minutes and hours. Twitter shortens it further to seconds. It’s not right for every piece of information. But when it comes to instantly assembling raw data from several sources that then go into fully baked news stories, nothing beats it.”

All this springs from a deceptively simple idea and tool. And that is what never ceases to amaze me about the internet: create a platform, make it open, and people will do things with it that you never could have imagined. Considering that Twitter was cofounded by Evan Williams, who also cofounded the company that created Blogger and popularised personal publishing, I should have seen it coming. I just forgot that, on the web, big things often come in small packages.