The Stupidity – then Brilliance – of Twitter

People talking by a Water Cooler

I often find Twitter frustrating. I get regular emails from them coercing me to follow all sorts of people who happen to hook into the feeds of people I already follow. For some time, I diligently added these in, thinking I would see some extra value that Twitter felt I would derive from doing so. Instead, I get all manner of folks promoting their skills to help businesses engage “Social Media” and general daily tittle tattle that pollutes my feed with rubbish content.

You get to start to comprehend the awful statistic that after getting over 1 Billion people to register, only 1/8 of that total still use the service regularly. Something of a clue stick that many people don’t feel they are getting sufficient value to stay engaged.

Beep! Notification on my Nexus 5 from Twitter: @MyHandyInfos, @GiraffeSM, and 4 more just followed @NevillMedia. None of whom i’ve ever heard about nor follow. WTF! I’m certainly not going to start now.

Over the weekend I put a post up about Facebook acquiring Virtual Reality headset maker Oculus VR (see it here), a move that completely threw me. At which point I started wondering if Mark Zuckerberg had a moment of sheer brilliance, or had spent $2 Billion rather unwisely. I couldn’t map it onto what I perceived to be a long term future for Facebook, but largely reserved judgement for another day.

When I got up this morning, I noticed a couple of the folks I follow – and respect – having one or two tweets flying between them on this very subject. Click as close as I could get to what seemed to be the early stages of the conversation, and got this (from the Twitter app on my iPad Mini):

Conversation Stream in Twitter

Absolute Gold! I was able to sidle up to the water cooler when all these folks I respect (plus some I didn’t know before) were having a to-and-fro conversation about this Facebook acquisition and what it meant. By the look of it, some time after they’d been active, but all there. Then a brief trip around some of the links cited, which included a good discussion on Reddit on Games, and mention of a very impressive “Immersive” demo in LA (I guess Los Angeles); there is a video of this on the Oculus VR web site, though it was down for maintenance when I tried first thing UK time today.

The gateway to that slither of gold is on a feed that would have flowed past me an hour later and gone completely out of sight. My first thought was how, if I was Twitter, I could bottle this sort of exchange, and how i’d be able to correctly delineate both the start and the end of that water cooler session – and make this available to me next time I had some reading time. That, I think, would increase engagement on Twitter no end. That’s the sort of journalism you can’t get from any other single source.

With that, my head started spinning around working out the data structures needed to hold each authors component parts of the conversation, and how to program in the links to join them all together. And indeed how to assign sufficient identifiers or tags on the resulting lump of dialogue, and to rank the resulting entities into some sort of personalised, prioritised news feed. Probably a mix of who was in the conversation stream (out of folks I mark as usually interesting to listen to) and the subject being discussed.

Ian’s brain starts wondering

From that, my brain started meandering into extended use cases (within the context of a single Organisation or Interest Group) of this. In some companies, the water cooler conversation may need to be limited to the folks participating, or within their departments, or within the company, at their option. Or to drag selected people from outside to participate in that discussion. Or indeed to allow someone outside to initiate a conversation, and other people (inside only, or everyone worldwide) able to join in. And to mark the resulting slither as done, issued resolved, or to bin it.

A worked example of what could be replaced

My wife received a mothers day gift yesterday – a Scented Fragrance Kit that needed 2/3 the bottle of Fragrance supplied poured into the main burner unit. Try as much as we could, we couldn’t remove the top from the bottle, and could find no instructions that told us how to do this (no amount of pressing, squeezing, turning or pulling did anything else but click over a ratchet). Fortunately, the company had a web site and discussion forum.

In order to use that, I had to register a name and password into their namespace, confirm by email, and then request assistance on the forum. Another person said the tops were often difficult, a moderator posted a link to online illustrated instructions on how to remove the top, and Customer Services offered to send us another. On finding the top still wouldn’t come off, I removed the outer top cover with a hacksaw, reported back the two root causes (teeth in cap very shallow, inside screwed on far too tight, necessitating removal using pliers), thanked everyone and left. I think unlikely that i’ll return there – but a slither of conversation that may be useful to them and maybe fellow customers.

A sort of Twitter type water cooler, where i’ve already established an identity (and reputation), would have achieved the same effect, without me having to build, and never return to, another online persona.

Ian’s brain goes off on another tangent

With that, my mind started wondering again, thinking sales transaction flows through an ERP system, and the selection of “who’s allowed to see or do what”, could be replicated in this sort of superset of record types in this virtual Twitter Water Cooler. At long last, something that could look modern and totally disrupt SAP. And I probably need to go lie down to think some more.

Back to the Oculus VR discussion – and demos it cited

With that in mind (or now forgotten), the missing Immersive demos of the Oculus VR can be found in the blog post here. One example of a future of storytelling journalism there is a scene around a Food Bank queue in Los Angeles, which plays back the real soundtrack but lets you walk around – and see – events as they unfold:

Now, can you imagine a future for Facebook and your News Feed like that? Or would it look more like this:

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