19 posts categorized "Microblogging"

Twitory, Twithority and the quest to rank Twitter search results by authority

Do we need a tool that ranks Twitter search results by number of followers?

That's been one of the big debates circulating through the Twittersphere / blogosphere since Loic LeMeur kicked off the conversation over the weekend. I haven't had the time to weigh in, but Neville Hobson put up a good post about two search sites: Twitority and Twithority. (And yes, there are two web sites that do almost exactly the same thing that have a one-letter difference in their domain names!)

In my own brief testing, I rather liked how TwitHority provided a two-column view of results by ranking and results by time. Nice to see. On the other hand, I liked how Twitority (no H) provides a Technorati-like way to search by degree of authority (although I have to wonder what they set a "lot" at, as it never turned up results for me).

Personally, I do like the option of being able to rank search results by number of followers. Yes, I understand that the number of followers is meaningless in so many ways... and that it can also be gamed by someone who, for instance, sets up tons of bogus twitter accounts. I realize that it's a very imperfect measurement. Still, it is a measurement that's out there. And the fact remains that if someone tweets something about you or your product/brand/service out to 10,000 people, odds are pretty good that it will potentially be read by more people than if someone tweets it out to, say, 20 people.

We'll have to see how these sites work out... but in my mind I'm glad to see someone trying to help us make sense out of all the data out there.

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Corporate/enterprise microblogging - my review of Yammer, Present.ly and Laconi.ca

What are the benefits of microblogging within a corporation or enterprise? What value does it bring? How can it be used? And how do these new tools like Yammer, Present.ly, Laconi.ca and others measure up?

Over on a Voxeo blog, I went into lengthy detail on all of those points in a post called "Yammer, Present.ly, Laconica and pushing enterprise microblogging into the cloud". I basically laid out:

  • The benefits and use cases we've seen for corporate microblogging within our company over the few weeks we've been trying it out.
  • Our experience with using Yammer - the positive and negative aspects and how it does and does not compare with Twitter.
  • Some thoughts about how Present.ly compares to Yammer.
  • Some thoughts on how the open source Laconica could be used to build a corporate microblogging service.
  • Some thoughts on the wide range of companies leaping into the space right now.

Along with some general thoughts on what to think about when investigating these solutions and some pointers to the great work done by Laura Fitton and Jeremiah Owyang among others.

This was also somewhat predictably the topic of my weekly report into the For Immediate Release podcast today.

Rather amusingly, on the same day I published my review, the New York Times came out with two articles on the same general theme - one as an "article" in the main site and one as a blog post:

The comments on the NYT blog post make for interesting reading. Obviously we at Voxeo are not alone in experimenting with Yammer.

I'm sure lots more will be written in the months ahead about corporate microblogging - and I'm sure I'll be writing more on it here. Meanwhile, please do enjoy my review of the tools and please do let me know what you think (either here or there). Have you tried Yammer? or Present.ly? or Laconi.ca? Or one of the other options? Do you see a role for microblogging within an enterprise?

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Business Week's "CEO's Guide to Microblogging" - and my part of the Debate Room piece

Want to explain microblogging at sites like Twitter to your upper management? or clients?

Business Week just published a "CEO's Guide to Microblogging" that may help with that task. The package of articles consists of:

All in all I think it's a useful package of articles to have out there. It doesn't necessarily break new territory for readers of this blog or listeners to "For Immediate Release" but it gets it out into a "mainstream" publication like Business Week that does get a good bit of reading from the CxO / management crowd. Taken all together, it does show how some businesses are starting to use Twitter and microblogging in general to help in their work. For that alone, it's good to have out there and should go far to help explain what value there is in this wacky Twitter thing that we are all participating in. :-)

A WORD ON 'The Debate Room' PIECE

As you'll note, I'm the author of the "CON" side of the Debate Room piece "Twitter Distracts and Annoys". It was a bit odd in one sense due to the "double negative" aspect of my part. When some folks learned I was writing the "CON" side of a Twitter article, they were a bit surprised... but the CON side of this piece was actually the PRO-Twitter position. You can see that in the comments to the piece as well, where folks talk about being "pro-twitter"... which means they support the CON side of this Debate Room piece. Fun, fun, fun.

The piece itself was interesting to write. Readers will see obvious similarities between that piece and my articles back in December 2007, "Top 10 Ways I Learned to Use Twitter", and April 2008, "Revisiting the Top 10 Ways I Learned to Use Twitter". The largest challenge, of course, was to reduce all that writing into a piece of about 200-250 words. I rapidly learned this fact:

Writing a 200-250 word article is the journalistic equivalent of '140 characters'.

Darn tough to do.

My first version came in around 450 words and, to me, read quite well. But as followers of my Twitter stream knew at the time, I had to slice that by half. I got it down to around 325 words... sent both versions to the BW editor who ultimately edited it herself to bring it in around 290 words or so. Overall, I was quite pleased with how she edited the piece.


In reading the entire piece, I find that I do actually agree with several points of Ilise Benun's "PRO" side of the debate. Obviously I disagree with her outright rejection of Twitter. I think that's a bit short-sighted without understanding the value that can be found in Twitter. Especially if she is with a marketing organization.

However, I definitely agree that Twitter can be abused in a rude way. As several people noted in the comments, there does seem to be an increasing degree of "rudeness" in our society. You can see it all around us with people who talk loudly on their cell phones in restaurants... or in theaters or movies. Should we really require those announcements at the beginning of events reminding people to turn off their cell phones? Shouldn't that be common-sense? At a movie theater, should they really have to display a screen reminding people to be quiet and not talk to each other during the movie?

Aren't those things called... um... "good manners"?

Likewise, it certainly can be rude if someone you are meeting with is constantly checking their BlackBerry for email... or tweeting or reading tweets.

But those aren't issues with the tools, they are issues with the PEOPLE!

We do need to be respectful of each other... to pay attention to the people we are with... to have that real contact Ilise mentions. But that's a choice we all make. Do we take that cell phone call when we are in the middle of talking to someone? Do we spend the meeting looking down at our blackberry sending out email? Do we spend the time we are with one viewing and sending messages on Twitter?

It's our choice - and it's up to use to choose wisely.

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Twitter and Follower Reciprocity (a.k.a. To follow (in return) or not to follow)

twitter-danyork-20080908-1.jpgWith Twitter, or for that matter any other microblogging platform, do you follow everyone who follows you?

I tried. Back in the early days of Twitter... a year-and-a-half ago or so... whenever someone followed me I almost inevitably followed the person back. We were all trying to figure out what this new medium of "microblogging" was all about, so I followed most of the very early adopters as we all joined into this grand experiment.

But somewhere along the way I had to stop the immediate reciprocity. As Twitter has grown and more and more people have joined the service, I found there was no way that I could really follow all those who started following me. I simply didn't have enough attention to share. I watched (and marveled) as folks like Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan all started following thousands of people. (They still do: Scoble follows 21,000+, Jeremiah almost 6,000 and Chris over 12,000.)

I realized over time that my usage of Twitter was a bit different from that of Scoble and others. I outlined the 10 ways I learned to use Twitter first in December and then again a bit more back in April. For me to use Twitter in the way I do, I like to focus a bit more on the people and services I follow. I do like to scan down through them... and for me that meant following fewer people.

The "Replies" tab in Twitter also helped. I could use that to see who had replied to me publicly with "@danyork" and from there I could learn about people that I might want to follow. (Now I have the same functionality in Twhirl and pretty much never go to the actual Twitter web site... but the purpose is the same.)

The increasing amount of "spam" Twitter accounts has also killed any kind of immediate reciprocity, at least for me. When you can tell just by the name that the account is there purely to sell you something, it's a very easy decision to NOT follow that account. I've found that the spammers are getting a bit less brazen and sometimes when I do look at someone who is now following I find that even with a "normal" name... they are still a spammer.

So what do I do these days when I get a follower notification in email? Or if I see someone publicly replying to me on the Replies tab?

IF I have time (and that's a big "if"), I will go take a look at the person's Twitter page. (And if I don't have time, I sometimes let the notices accumulate and then look through a batch at once... or sometimes admittedly I just don't have the time to look at them.) What am I looking for?

  • What are they tweeting about? - If the person is tweeting about things that are of interest to me - and especially if they provide links to interesting articles I haven't seen before - I may follow them then. If all they tweet about is their lunch or what TV show they are watching, I'll usually pass.
  • Do they have a website URL in their profile? - What is the site they link to? Do they blog? Are they doing something interesting or with an interesting company or organization?
  • Who are they? - If they are a friend or someone I know in some context, I'll often add them.
  • Miscellaneous - Sometimes I may add someone purely because I'm not following anyone doing the kinds of things they do... or I think their posts are funny or interesting... I don't always have a solid reason.

Basically I'm trying to figure out... why should I let this person have some of my attention?

It sounds harsh... but to me the reality is that we all have only so many minutes in the day and we all have a zillion other things we are trying to do. If I am going to start following someone... why?

I try to look at folks who follow me... but I often can't... and so over time the ratio of people following me to people I follow has continually grown and grown. I feel bad, sometimes, too, when I wind up talking to someone and they say "I follow you on Twitter but you don't follow me."

What do you all do? What criteria do you place on people you follow on Twitter? How do you respond to follower notifications?

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Does it say something when Identi.ca already has a fan site?

Ohidenticalogo.jpgI have to say that I personally find it rather cool that open source microblogging site identi.ca now has a "fan" site out there called "Oh, Identi.ca!" that intends to provide "Everything you ever wanted to know about Identi.ca".

Very nice to see...

P.S. You can of course find me on Identi.ca at identi.ca/danyork

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Why is SAP's "ESME" video using Dennis Howlett's Twitter avatar image?

UPDATE: Okay, so the answer is simple... the ESME video is using Dennis' avatar....... because Dennis is the voice in the video!

Nothing wrong here... move along now... ;-)

Why is SAP's video for their "ESME" Twitter-for-the-enterprise product using the avatar picture commonly used by Dennis Howlett?

Being a fan of microblogging, I was intrigued to see the ZDNet story about SAP's "Enterprise Social Messaging Experiment" (ESME) and, still stuck at the airport, I figured I'd watch the 6-minute video. It looks quite cool... but I was struck by another fact: why was the video using Dennis Howlett's Twitter avatar image?

Take a look yourself - here's the video:

Now notice when they are showing the "ESME" interface as they tell their story. One of the characters ("Jim?") has this picture (displayed multiple times):

Now look at Dennis Howlett's Twitter page (or see the large version of his picture):

Am I just way too tired or aren't they the identical image?

Since I use Twhirl for reading Twitter, I see Dennis' avatar all the time (since I follow him) and so that picture is one I recognize right away. For instance, here's a bunch of Dennis' posts all seen in Twhirl:

Dennis twitters quite frequently and also blogs at ZDNet... so his picture is certainly seen around.

So why is it in a video from SAP?

Was someone involved with creating the video just looking for an avatar image to use and grabbed Dennis'?

Very strange...

Learn more about identi.ca by listening to this OSCON 2008 microblogging talk...

identi-ca-logo.jpgWould you like to learn more about the identi.ca microblogging service? (Essentially an open source service similar to Twitter.) Last month at O'Reilly's Open Source Convention (OSCON), identi.ca founder Evan Prodromou gave a talk on identi.ca and it's underlying software, Laconica. I recorded the audio which Evan has made available for listening. His slides are online at SlideShare:

Evan discusses the philosophy behind his work and how he wound up creating identi.ca. It was great to meet Evan and spend some time talking with him. I look forward to seeing how that site and also the Laconica software evolves. (And you can follow me there on identi.ca at identi.ca/danyork)

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Twhirl (and a whack of other Twitter clients) add identi.ca support

twhirl-identica.jpgYesterday, the big news in the microblogging world was the release of Twhirl version 0.84 with support for identi.ca. (If you don't understand the significance of identi.ca, I would point you to my earlier post.) The wonderful aspect of this is that I now have a window on my screen that automagically updates with my latest "dents"[1] and those of the people who I follow.

Just like working with my Twitter stream, I can easily reply to people (as you can see in the screenshot). I can lookup users and subscribe to them. I can see my own posts and also replies to me. Twhirl also has a very cool feature where you can easily see in the client who you are following and who is following you. (You can't do this for Twitter in Twhirl.)

For me this makes identi.ca infinitely easier to use. There's also a XMPP integration that allows for real-time receiving of identi.ca notices... which sort of turns Twhirl into almost an instant messaging program. I've not tried this yet, but the tutorial shows how easy it is to set up. Nice feature (and something you can't do with Twitter).

Separately from Twhirl, there have also been updates to other Twitter clients Posty and Spaz and a new IndentiFox client (a spinoff of TwitterFox). Additionally, a Twitterific user figured out how to hack it to work with identi.ca. Naturally there was a good amount of blogosphere coverage. Here are some worth reading:

It's great to see... and let's see the support for identi.ca continue to grow! Good times...

P.S. If you are experimenting with identi.ca, feel free to follow me at identica.com/danyork

[1] I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the word "dents", but: a) it's getting common usage; and b) I don't have an alternative.

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The real meaning - and power - of identi.ca (a.k.a. open source Twitter)

identi-ca-logo.jpgIs identi.ca the savior of microblogging? Or is it simply Yet Another Twitter Clone destined for doom?


As those of us of the Twitterati watched the FailWhale appear multiple times today and wrote posts like mine wondering if we should just give up on Twitter, there was this afternoon a moment when the clouds parted, the trumpets sounded and a bright beacon of hope appeared before us all... here came the launch of identi.ca, an... (gasp)... open source version of Twitter!

Dave Winer declared "Oh happy day!?" and Marshall Kirkpatrick was out with the first longer writeup: "Identi.ca: May A Million Twitters Bloom" (which is definitely worth a read). Those links were twittered and re-twittered...

What happened next was of course entirely predictable... about 1,000 people jumped over to identi.ca to set up accounts (myself included, I'm identi.ca/danyork)... and swamped the server. There was no way that any brand-new service could measure up to the repressed frustration of the Twitterati, and so there was the inevitable backlash...

...the user interface sucks... this doesn't look like a Twitter-killer... I'm not getting all the updates... the Jabber integration doesn't work for me... ugh, this isn't good!... where's the API?... what do you mean there's no SMS interface?... why are the RSS feeds broken?... how can I see replies?... do I REALLY need yet another <expletive> service?

Beyond showing that people need to chill out a bit and give a new service time to develop, the comments somewhat miss the point:

The success or failure of the site, identi.ca, really doesn't matter.

What matters most was very nicely summarized in a post (what do we call them? they aren't "tweets"!) by Edd Dunbill:



The real power resides in the actual software being used, called Laconica, that is used by identi.ca. It is open source/free software and licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License. As stated in the FAQ:

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).

That last line is key... "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)." As Aswath said:



Anyone can now start up their own Twitter-equivalent. In fact, Russ Beattie already has... http://foozik.com/ is up and running with the Laconica code.

More will follow. Someone will throw it up on Amazon's EC2 and put a cloud computing infrastructure behind it. Once Google's AppEngine supports PHP (which the Laconica code uses), someone will throw it up there. Someone will make it work on the evolving P2P network clouds. Someone will add code for an SMS gateway... someone will add a solid API. Someone will add the Replies tab and improve the UI.

Many implementations will suck. Some will suck badly. But others will excel... and somewhere in all of that something resembling the next Apache or Wordpress may emerge. Will it be Laconica? Maybe... or maybe some fork or derivative work. Or maybe some other version written in another language but inspired by the Laconica work.

Of course, just because anyone can "run their own Twitter" doesn't mean they will. Most folks won't. But some will. Other users will join those services. Maybe the identi.ca site will lead the pack... maybe some other implementation will eclipse its lead. The individual sites don't really matter as much as the software that powers them.


Of course, to make such a distributed / decentralized system work, the individual servers need to understand how to connect to other users. As Marshall writes:

Ultimately, this means federation. I put a customized version of the foundation software (called Laconi.ca) on my server, you put one to your liking on yours, we both get friends on our local copy and any other versions around the web - and everyone can communicate with each other just like we were using the same service from the same provider. Whoever comes up with the best alternative to the garbled name Identi.ca wins!

That's the hard part. Coming up with a way to easily and securely pass information between the servers... and to uniquely identify users running on the different servers. The good news is that there are some folks already looking at this through the OpenMicroBlogging initiative (that, like Marshall, I had not heard of before today).

The other good news is that we have multiple precedents for doing this before. Think of Jabber and XMPP. I have a Jabber ID (JID) of "[email protected]" (or "[email protected]"). I can do XMPP-based IM with anyone else who has a JID. Our servers can resolve the JIDs and communicate with the servers. Each of us can be running our own Jabber server - yet we can all find and communicate with each other.

Or think of email. Each of us has the option of running many different kinds of email servers. Yet we can all communicate through an open standard, SMTP, and we can be uniquely identified with our address.


Probably not. Let's be real... Twitter has hundreds of thousands of active users these days (maybe more?). At some point, they'll fix their stability problems. People will stay there because their "community" is there. Let's face it, simply the existence of an open source IM solution (Jabber/XMPP) hasn't killed off the walled gardens of AIM, MSN/WLM and Yahoo!Messenger.

But Laconica and it's impending derivatives gives us all a "Plan B"... it gives us choice and "control"... when we finally hit that pain threshold and decide to move on... there's another choice out there.

More than that, the release of Laconica unleashes the "power of play"... developers can now tinker with the code... change it... improve it... do wacky things with it that Evan at identi.ca had never even remotely dreamed of. Every developer who gets pissed off at yet more Twitter downtime now has a building block to launch off in pursuit of "building a better Twitter".

Sure, the code needs work... maybe lots of work... that's okay. It's a building block.

At the very least there is the potential of competition for Twitter... competition is good. It keeps the leaders on their toes... and fosters innovation.


The phenomenal success of Twitter has shown us that we were missing a communication medium.

Somewhere in the midst of email, IM, web sites, blog sites, IRC, video, RSS feeds, Facebook, MySpace, VoIP, cell phones, snail mail and everything else... we wanted yet another way to communicate. The one-to-many mode of Twitter... mixed in with a one-to-one mode... and accessible through a wide range of devices and a simple API.

Twitter's very simple question of "What are you doing?" showed that there was desire out there to provide "status updates"... which evolved into everything else we do now with Twitter. And now pretty much every "social networking" site out there along with IM services and many other apps have added "status updates".


As early adopters and users, our frustration, though, has been that the services allowing us to publish those updates have been out of our control. Whether it's been Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo Pulse, Skype... or... pick your service... we are locked into their infrastructure. We can't experiment with it. We can't tinker with it. We can't hack on it. We can't fix it. All we can do is pound our head against walls...

With identi.ca and Laconica, we see the hope to regain that control. Some of us want that, while others admittedly don't care - they just want a service that works. There are many barriers to such a service reaching the level of usability that we probably want. It may never get there. Twitter may mystically fix all its issues and we'll just stay over there and this whole thing will fade into the background of other available-but-not-widely-used open source and free software.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, the code is out there for those who want to play with it. As Marshall said "May A Million Twitters Bloom"... let the hacking away on the code begin... it will be fun to see what evolves...

P.S. You can find me at identi.ca/danyork as well as twitter.com/danyork

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