Dear Water Cooler, if this person talks, please listen in for me

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Having only a small proportion of your registered users classified in your Monthly Active User (“MAU”) count is one of the surprising poor things about Twitter compared to most social media sites. However, some of the content there is absolute gold – if only there was a way to bottle it effectively.

The sort of thing that often happens is that a big announcement in the industry occurs (like Facebook taking over Virtual Reality Headset Maker Oculus, or Google buying Titan Aerospace, the manufacturer of solar powered drones that fly several miles up – above aircraft traffic – nominally as WiFi hotspots of the future where Internet Access is not yet available). There is then a collection of Venture Capitalists, Industry Analysts and folks with excellent industry backgrounds who mill around a virtual water cooler, and start bouncing views off each other on “what it means”.

Alternatively, you get someone like Marc Andreessen (@pmarca – one of the cofounders of Netscape and of VC Andreessen Horowitz, aka “A16Z”) rattling off a few observations about Venture Capital, and a myriad of people join in with views or differences of opinion. Again, another water cooler chat comes to life. The top level looked like this earlier today:

Points 1-11 of Marc Andreessen Talking about VC funding

Marc Andreessen Water Cooler points 11-15 re VC funding

I’m lucky in that when I get up, these folks on the West Coast of the USA are tweeting late into their night, so I get to see these posts at all. The one gotcha is that you have to step through each of his tweets to see the reposts and discussion around each point. When you do, it’s actually much better than a summary that a single quality journalist can put together – and bang up to date with the latest news in the industry. I waxed lyrical at this with a reply to Marc:

pmarca (Mark Andreessen) favouriting a post about Twitter water coolers

And then remembered i’d said the same thing to Kevin Marks during a Gillmor Gang podcast (on the live chat as the podcast was progressing, one Friday evening a week or two back). At the time, he suggested looking at a service called “Storify”. I did, but it hooks into Twitter based on subject matter, and not the way I thought would help. So, tweeted that as a comment back to Marc and to Kevin Marks:

Kevin Marks lays another golden nugget

And back came a reply from Kevin minutes later (he’s based in San Jose). Brilliant tip, so I went and had a look:

Aaron Swatz's Twitter Water Cooler Viewer

Bingo. Albeit it no longer works (as Kevin suggested), and we know that unfortunately, Aaron is no longer with us. So, time to go find his code and see if there’s a way to tweak it to work with the latest versions of the Twitter API, and then to lie in wait for any water cooler conversation taking place that involves one or more of a specific list of people I personally find valuable to listen to.

There are people in real life like that. You listen intently to what they say as gold nuggets keep getting brushed off their shoulders. I remember people like Tony Batchelor at Camborne School of Mines was like that (his expertise was geological and drilling for hot water far underground in Cornwall as a potential energy source, but his expertise in all sorts of related industries really fascinating to hear).

Twitter are sitting on the edge of being able to facilitate a sort of bottles of “TED Talk” quality conversations that they could farm from their own feeds. I’d even pay for those bottles – if they did a good job of keeping all eyes on those water cooler moments and could record them 24 hours/day, then deliver them to me succinctly. I fear I must miss most of them at the moment.

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