Week 5: revised thesis: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant.”

Here’s my response to Week 5 Questions

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

My refined thesis is: “How Twitter is Making Us Brilliant: I will look at how social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook give you the opportunity to create a personalized and hand-built peer-knowledge search engine, one that allows you to piece together the perfect collection of minds to solve your particular problems, build a support network, and tap into that knowledge 160 characters at a time. ”

By using tools like Twitter, we tap into the following digital media convergence ideas:

  • Collective Intelligence (you can read and add to the collective intelligence in the system)
  • Participative Culture (you can mashup and riff on ideas, images, news stories, music, and other media, and use the social networks to advertise, offer, and trade the mashups and mods)
  • Twitter has a social layer (people interact using the system), a technology layer (web based and application interfaces are used to interact with the system), an industrial layer (this is an extension to phones, text messaging, HAM radio, Citizen’s band, and other media), and a communication layer (Twitter is primarily used to broadcast or monocast ideas), each playing their part in the convergence model.

Here are a few more articles I have selected as potential sources for the final paper, along with some summary of why I include them, and their relation to my thesis.

This first one, from ReadWriteWeb discusses some of the origins of the system, and specifically talks about the openness of the system and how that plays into Twitter’s popularity. For the technology layer, I went some authentic information on how it works on the server itself, and this article gives some of that background.

This week on Read/WriteTalk I had the opportunity to talk to Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter. One of the more interesting topics in the podcast was the open platform that Twitter has developed. We also discussed how the team came up with the idea for Twitter, different catalysts over the past year for user growth, and even how they came up with the name. Click here to read a transcript or listen to the full interview.

Address : http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/twitter_open_platform_advantage.php
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:53:32 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following article goes deeper into the specific platform and underlying technology used and some of the inherent problems with the technology in regards to scalability. I want to get into the technology layer very deeply, as I think it’s one of the least understood aspects of Twitter.

prevail-whale
Image by lemasney via Flickr

By various metrics Twitter is the biggest Rails site on the net right now. Running on Rails has forced us to deal with scaling issues – issues that any growing site eventually contends with – far sooner than I think we would on another framework.The common wisdom in the Rails community at this time is that scaling Rails is a matter of cost: just throw more CPUs at it. The problem is that more instances of Rails (running as part of a Mongrel cluster, in our case) means more requests to your database. At this point in time there’s no facility in Rails to talk to more than one database at a time. The solutions to this are caching the hell out of everything and setting up multiple read-only slave databases, neither of which are quick fixes to implement. So it’s not just cost, it’s time, and time is that much more precious when people can[’t] reach your site.

Address : http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000838.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:56:15 GMT-0500 (EST)

The following is a wiki that is used to document the development of the system, and talks very specifically about the Application Programming Interface that developers can use to interact with the system, even in ways that perhaps Biz Stone and Evan Williams might not have foreseen. The dynamic and open way in which people can develop for the system talks to the participatory cultural aspects of Twitter, as do the aspects mentioned above (e.g. mashups, media sharing, etc).

Welcome to the Twitter API wiki.  What are you coding?

Documentation

* Frequently asked questions
* REST API Documentation
* Search API Documentation
* REST API Changelog
* Migrating to followers terminology

Address : http://apiwiki.twitter.com
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:57:19 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is an article that talks about an open source system that provides the same basic functionality as Twitter, but is free as in ‘free speech’ as well as in ‘free beer’, in other words, while Twitter’s API is published so that a controlled interaction can take place, the actual underlying source code for Twitter is not released for reuse. Laconi.ca source code, which is the basis for the twitter-like system called identi.ca, is available for free for you to run yourself, should you want to. This pushes the idea of participatory culture to a new level, and I’d like to speak to that in my paper.

Image representing identi.ca as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

The laconi.ca microblogging platform is as open as you could hope for. That elusive trinity: open source; open standards; and open content.The project is led by Evan Prodromou (evan) of Wikitravel fame, whose company just launched identi.ca, “an open microblogging service” built with Laconica. These are fast gaining feature-parity with twitter; yesterday we got a “replies” tab; this morning I woke to find “search” working. Plenty of interesting people have  signed up and grabbed usernames. Twitter-compatible tools are emerging.

Address : http://danbri.org/words/2008/07/10/367
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 17:58:35 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks to the social layer of Twitter, the value that it holds for individuals in order to accomplish certain tasks. For me, I think of it as a search engine of active minds. A friend might think of it as a way to gather news. Another might think of it as a research tool. Someone else might see it as live entertainment. It’s a no-size fits all solution that meets a whole lot of different needs. This dynamism speaks very clearly to my idea that it can be a way for each of us to gain pertinent knowledge about our our topics.

Some argue that Twitter has value as a news source, and note that the first snapshots of the Turkish Airlines jet after it crashed near Amsterdam on Wednesday were transmitted via Twitter. But those crash photos could have gotten out just as quickly if sent by cellphone to another Web site. It’s tempting to dismiss Twitter fever as a passing fad, the Pokémon of the blogosphere. But it’s beginning to look more like yet another gateway drug to full-blown media narcissism.

It’s not just television, of course. Ordinary people, bloggers and even columnists and book authors, who all already have platforms for their views, feel compelled to share their split-second aperçus, no matter how mundane.

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/arts/television/28twit.html?th&emc=th
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:44:58 GMT-0500 (EST)

This article speaks about the ways in which Twitter and other social network developers must do work to turn what many see as simply a pastime with infrequent hints of social justice, benefits, and assistance into tools that actively pursue those goals. I personally see these systems as being able to both entertain and assist, as well as inform, embrace, and transform us. However, I think the framework for this is there now, and it is up to us as users to use the tools as means to the best possible ends.

But Glen Lyons, professor of transport and society at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, told the conference about a more established social network that is already beginning to deliver on its aims. Zimride is a carpool scheme powered by Google maps, a social network and, according to the Zimride site, a “ride-matching algorithm”. Since its inception in 2007, Zimride claims to have enabled some 300,000 users worldwide to carpool who might otherwise never have met.

Thorpe thinks social media applications like this one might be the way of the future. Facebook users might one day compete to see who can gain the most “global karma points”, he says – working for the greater good, rather than for their own amusement.

Address : http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16681-innovation-how-social-networking-might-change-the-world.html?DCMPeqOTC-rss
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 18:59:21 GMT-0500 (EST)

Here is a video in which one of the developers of the system talks about its explosive growth, and the trials of that kind of success. Also the participative cultural aspects of beautifully unintended uses by users is addressed.

In the year leading up to this talk, the web tool Twitter exploded in size (up 10x during 2008 alone). Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.

Address : http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/evan_williams_on_listening_to_twitter_users.html
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 19:53:57 GMT-0500 (EST)

Also here is an article on media overload, managing new media, and twitter’s role in that topic.

I am not new to social media, having been in newsgroups and chat rooms since the early 90s. I’m also not new to information overload, as I’ve always been a news junkie and a voracious reader. But every once in a while, my life changes with respect to how I give and receive information, and because everyone online has been discussing the same subject recently, I was driven to self-contemplation. I’ve decided I have been on information overload and have instinctively found ways to deal with it, and I will bet you have, too. How much of the following sounds familiar?

Address : http://blog.stealthmode.com/2009/02/28/rss-twitter-and-information-overload
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 20:32:45 GMT-0500 (EST)

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

The following site lists a number of open source software that provides the functionality of many popular online social networks. I’d like to use this to suggest that Rider, if they wanted, could have a social network of their own to share Rider specific knowledge, happenings, and other bits of collective intelligence. The concepts covered here include collective intelligence, sociality, participative culture (building your own services, for example) and bottom up media.

This is Vivalogo’s list of best free, downloadable, open source social networking software (kinda hard to say all these words 🙂 ).
Unlike some other lists you may find on the net, this one contains only really downloadable and functional software.
Note: listed in no particular order.

Source: Top 40 Free Downloadable Open Source SNS – 城市胡同
from http://www.wujianrong.com/archives/2009/02/top-40-free-downloadable-open-source-sns.html
retrieved on Sun Mar 01 2009 11:49:23 GMT-0500 (Eastern Standard Time)

Here is an interesting article that talks about a particular cultural activity in Twitter called retweeting, which is, just as it sounds like, tweeting another person’s post again fro your followers. The social action is a way of magnifying the original idea (which may or may not have been available to people in your network) by taking a good or useful thought and rebroadcasting to your network.

Retweeting allows the power of the network to take place, in pretty much the same way a blog link can extend the conversation from one blogger to a great many, sometimes at a very rapid rate. If you Tweet something of interest and you have an audience of 10, or 100 or 1000 and no one retweets it, that is far as your message goes. But if you have 10 followers, and one of them has 100 and he or she retweets you, your message reaches that many more people. If of you of this wider ring… and so on.

Address : http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/10/the-power-of-re.html
Date Visited: Sun Mar 01 2009 14:40:17 GMT-0500 (EST)

My social network
Image by luc legay via Flickr

Finally, David Pogue writes that Twitter is what you make it, which of course underlines the ideas of sociality, participative culture, bottom up media, decentralization, and other key digital mia convergence concepts.

I was serving on a grant proposal committee, and I watched as a fellow judge asked his Twitter followers if a certain project had been tried before. In 15 seconds, his followers replied with Web links to the information he needed. No e-mail message, phone call or Web site could have achieved the same effect. (It’s only a matter of time before some “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant uses Twitter as one of his lifelines.)

Address : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/technology/personaltech/12pogue.html?_r=2&nl=tech&emc=techa1
Date Visited: Sat Feb 28 2009 21:02:14 GMT-0500 (EST)

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