Jared Benson

Twitter and Mobile Presence

New technologies create new contexts of use. So when the folks behind Odeo invented Twitter, my new context-of-use became receiving and managing dozens of text messages a day while friends constantly update their statuses.

I want to stay connected to my friends, but do I need to know every minute detail of each of their days ad nauseum? It reminds me of the dawn of blogs, where fledgling bloggers felt their lives were so important that everyone needed to know what they had for breakfast.

Let’s look at Instant Messenger. At a glance, I can immediately see who’s available and who’s not available by the colored dot next to their name. If my friends decide that the world needs to know more about their day, they have the option to include an optional status message.

Updating your status is relatively quick and easy. With one click, I can pick from a list of status messages I’ve created and my status is quietly updated across those buddy lists in which I appear.

Note: Quietly.

A key difference between my Twitter “presence” experience and the IM “presence” is the interruptions. By using SMS technology to push out constant alerts about one’s status, I’m not able to distinguish legitimate time-sensitive text messages from status chatter.

Now lest I be tagged as a Twitter-hater, I can imagine there are social contexts in which the core Twitter mechanism (one message sent to many) could be useful. It seems especially useful when the members of a closed social group need to keep each other updated on a regular basis as to their status.

- Families: With Judy at band practice, Junior at soccer, Mom getting off work and Dad out running errands, Twitter could be very useful. “What does everyone want for dinner?” “I’m running late.” “Practice got out early, can someone pick me up?”

- Roommates: “Can someone pick up milk?” “Rent is due today.” “Dude, who used my toothbrush?”

- Project Teams: “Reminder: Mtg today at 2pm” “Anyone up for pizza tonight?” “I’m at baggage claim, where is everyone?”

- Disaster-relief: Local members of a community get notified with instructions in the event of catastrophe.

Finally, one great use for Twitter is simply using Twitter to update an online status, embedded into a blog or web site. Once again, this allows the benefit of pushing out real-time updates as to one’s status, without the SMS interruptions.

Here’s a spot of code to drop into your site. There are two places to edit for it to work properly.

Replace YOUR_USERNAME with your Twitter user name.

Replace YOUR_USERNUM with your Twitter user number. Not sure what it is? Go to http://www.twitter.com/(your user name) and click on the “Favorites” link on the right side of the page. Note the number used at the end of the URL - that will be your user number.

So the recipe for success with Twitter is: closed-group, message is time-sensitive, and interruptions are acceptable - or push to web only.

One Response to “Twitter and Mobile Presence”

  1. Stevenon 31 Jul 2007 at 5:17 pm

    very insightful. the alert sound of sms means a lot to sms service. actually, people do need sms that does not ‘alert’

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