A post continuing my thoughts on Twitter being a social enabling layer and much more than just a new chat program for the masses.  It was prompted by a tweet i saw from Fred Wilson about a Covestor investor he appears to be following…

While I am not going to actually build this (I am busy building something else very cool which will use Twitter as an enabling layer) I think Covestor should and I am going to use the idea as one concrete example of a way I think Twitter can be used as social enabling infrastructure.

So what’s the idea?

Fred tweeted about a sell action (sold RIMM) that a Covestor top investor had taken.  As a user among other possible updates from Covestor I would like to have contextual alerts sent to me when an investor I am following takes a certain action.  Now I am aware Covestor already has an emailing update service in place but I don’t think they should be managing this themselves.

While Covestor has to generate the actual alerts there is no reason for them to create a multi-platform alerting service to deal with the distribution of these alerts; it’s not a core capability so it would be a distraction at best.  To me this is where Twitter is ideally suited and comes in.  They have a multi-platform messaging service in place that is (among other things) ideally suited to alerting and Covestor (and others) could/should leverage it…  

This is just one example of how Twitter’s enabling infrastructure can be leveraged to add a strong social communication tool to a service without having to be experts in this aspect of the business.

Twitter’s systems should allow for updates to be filtered in such a way that certain updates only go to certain clients (i.e. sms, web, email, etc.).  So for example in the Covestor scenario if someone I am tracking is selling a stock I am invested in I would want this alert sent to my phone via SMS as I feel this is “high priority” info but if someone is simply buying a new stock just put it into the web queue.

This was a little bit rambling but it’s been a long week and this captures the gist of what I want to describe. I will have more examples as I go along.

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Just read a post by Jesse Stay entitled “Developers Bailing on Twitter” and while he certainly has some interesting observations I think the overall premise is flawed and here’s why…

Some developers may be moving from Twitter to Platform X but I don’t see a large rush away from it, I mean the hottest piece of hardware right now picked Twitterrific for a design award.  Sure Twitter has had some issues lately BUT looking at it as a developer I feel it is still a very important piece of infrastructure for building connected communication applications.  

I’ve been using the service only for a short time (as a user), I haven’t started to integrate my code into it (so I have not had to deal with the issues Jesse speaks of) and when it first was released I was a super sceptic about its usefulness and longevity but I am singing a different tune now.  I really enjoy it as a user and as a developer I see it as a prime target for some of what I am building.

Why is the developer in me so bullish?  Well I like tools that don’t attempt to totally change the way we interact with one another but instead try to empower and extend it.  I feel Twitter does this very well and I am sure they have many ideas to extend it further.  At the end of the day it comes down to my belief Twitter is essentially a social communications infrastructure play and it’s pretty easy to believe in a social communication platform created by the Obvious Corp. team, they kind of know social. 😉

We know why they are having the uptime issues they are and it will be fixed and Twitter will continue to evolve.  On the infrastructure issue, the only advice I would give them at this stage as it’s not my thing, they have smart people working on it and they are getting way more than they need (good and bad) is buy Twiddict and integrate it today. While it’s a pretty straightforward idea that can easily be duplicated it’s there, it’s useful and ready to go. 

In conclusion, I feel Twitter with all it’s current issues has a whole lot of positives.  It really has the feel of IM in the early days…

One of the things that I think is missing from current social networking “tools” is the ability to establish transitory networks with people that you have or in many cases do not have relationships with.

What do I mean?  Well I feel much of how we currently Interact with others is in a very transitory fashion and in a way where people and tools need to come together and then go away. I am talking about a whole mishmash of interconnected services that just need to work together and then “disappear” rather than making me maintain a profile or site or …

To make this happen along with the exposing of existing methods of interaction we need a bunch of tools with Open ID possibly being one of them as I think it is a way to establish trusted sources something vital to the equation and possibly Twitter as one of the providers of a unified messaging substrate.

This is an area I am trying to make work and will be discussing much more…

So Twitter has been having all kinds of up-time issues recently but rather than talk about the problems I thought I would mention why I think it’s successful.

It’s quite simple really they are succeeding where others are struggling because they are working with existing communication tools allowing free form social interaction.  They are working the way we work now rather than trying to make us conform to a new paradigm (yes I hate that word too).