Fred Wilson asked on Twitter this morning for a good place to have a cup of coffee in New Paltz. Otherw who know the place made recommendations. I went to Google Maps to find reviews, just as a friendly favor, because I had a spare second-cycle (don’t tell my editor; I should be editing now).

And then it occurred to me that there’s a business here, which I proposed in what I hope is the first Twittered business plan and elevator pitch.

(Now that I think of it, I might require my students in my entrepreneurial journalism course this fall to pitch their entire business in 140 characters. My old boss Steve Newhouse told last year’s students how he’d bought a business he could describe in seven words. That’s tweet-length. And as much as I hammered in the need for a clear and cogent elevator pitch, the students agreed after their juried session that they hadn’t honed them enough. So I like that, the new elevator pitch: Twitpitch.)

Anyway, the idea I pitched this morning is a marketplace of knowledge and favors: I tweet a request. People who have the knowledge or a moment look up something for me because I’m too busy or too mobile. I pick one that works for me. And that person earns cycles — more favors — which can also be redeemed in cash. The primary currency, however, is cycles. Rex Hammock suggested it’s a merger of Twitter and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and I agree except that I don’t want pennies, I want favors — or a way to reward generosity. It’s perhaps a mix of Twitter and the Zivity model (more on that later).

  • Liz

    I think what makes Twitter cool is that people will convey that kind of information without reward. I think the word “community” is overused and misused but it is this kind of reciprocality without compensation that makes a social network feel more like a community and less like a business network. I realize you are looking for business models but I’d hate for Twitter turn into something like this.

  • Hi Jeff, have them build a Social Media Release free with PitchEngine and they can share it via twitter directly. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m happy to get you into the alpha version. We have about 65 brands testing and using it so far! Tweet me for an access code: @pitchengine

  • Bob

    So is a cycle a form of ‘currency’ in the attention economy?

  • The hashtag #twitpitch seems to be in fairly common use invented, I think, by Stowe Boyd[1] and picked up by and expanded upon (using a hashtag rather than just @replies to Stowe) by ReadWriteWeb[2]. More examples:


  • Bob: Must be. That makes doing something twice a bicycle and more than twice a recycle…

  • Jeff: Isn’t it funny that the arbitrary restriction in the length of engineering SMS messages in GSM phones is having on our lives?

    And my prediction for “the future” (ie now) was for 1514 characters, the maximum payload of a IP packet!

  • I’ve made a habit of granting random Twitter Wishes. Someone wishes for a glass of wine, I send them my favorite bottle. It feels good.

  • JReyno

    As someone who’s generally been pretty helpful on twitter (for free) I like the idea.

  • Non Ochs

    Are you still using Twitter? Heck, that’s just for the slow folk… The cool kids are moving away from the proprietary Twitter walled-garden and into the new world of Open Microblogging. Check out and stuff built on to see the refreshing new world of open source federated microblogging. (They even have Jabber/XMPP support that works!)

    Twitter will one day be remembered like a newspaper — a group that tried to maintain an unsustainable monopoly in the face of changing technologies.

  • I *love* this idea. Twitter saved me recently in NY during the Allstar game. I needed help finding a FedEx location and didn’t have a phone capable of pulling up useful information quickly.

    I Twittered about it and help within 1 minute. I would have loved to credit those who helped.

    Also, this is just the kind of thing I really like. If you or someone makes it, I will be a first customer! ;)

    Have you checked out Fluther? It is similar but not sms based.

  • 30-60 sec pitch dwn to 140 characters. Wld b funny to hear. “pain”, “opportunity”, “mkt potential”, “fix”, “how we make $” (1 chtr lft)

  • Mary: The Twitfairy. I like that.

  • Jeff, thanks for recommending that flip camera on Twitter. I ordered it Wednesday, following the advice of you and 20 others, and received it yesterday.

  • Jeff,

    Hear hear, Liz.

    My gut reaction is saying, why try to systematize people just helping out people? You don’t believe they’ll do it for free, just because they’re helpful? Why link friendly shared information to trade, economy, money, institution, control, regulation, isolation? Oops, defeated the purpose of Twitter, then. Let it be, man. It’s a good idea, but Godin might say, even though you can make money, cycles, favors, why do it?

    For those who want to give back to those who’ve helped them out, pay it forward. Just spread the love. Don’t worry about keeping track. Groups of friends don’t keep a log of helpful suggestions they’ve given each other and say “you owe me”. The mob does that, and they’ve fallen apart due to infighting and mistrust. You’ll get people giving to get.


  • Jef

    I don’t like the favor thing either. You help because you want to, not because you have to. I used linkedin as well and there are some great people on there.

  • Hello Jeff,

    Very interesting concept, in fact exactly the same model that was employed, and currently is, by open source developpers to answer technical issues encountered by their users.
    There were always someone online in a chat room dedicated to the application.
    Except that here, tweeter is in place of IRC, and that you monetize the help, in a form of currency that attracts favors.
    In opensource, sharing and proving to others to be useful, is an acquired state of mind, the concept you present is a kind of pavlovian enticement.

    You see, paying emotionally others in one way or other is a kind of trick, that prevents the most useful ones to be respected as natural leaders in the society, because if they have the capacity to help it is amply sufficient to prove their worth to others.
    And if they want to get paid, let them be their choice, and generally they will prefer money whenever they estimate the situation to be the case.

    I believe that this model will not attract the real helpers in the long run, because they do not have the essential freedom of being free to help in the way they want or they mean.
    You will only attract young naive helpers for fame (and not real competent ones).

  • We do this already… It’s called social capital.

  • Right. But what about a system for it? This isn’t from the exploitation side – ‘gee, what can i get from this?’ – but instead from the asking side – ‘i’d ask favors more often if i didn’t feel guilty asking all the time.’ The supply side of generosity works; it’s the demand side that might need some work.

  • Hub Culture is already doing this with VEN – see Facebook – and has a new web based system launching in September that will take this to anyone with an email address.