Thursday, July 02, 2009

What if everyone on twitter followed everyone on twitter?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Having lots of followers on Twitter is a good thing. No really, it is. Don't knock it. I won't say no to more (but please don't assume that means I'd like regular spamming from those who promise they can find me 100, 1000 new followers a day... I'll stick to the organic and relevant, thanks...)

Managing real time relevance is the only issue: how do I find what matters to me, right now, among the deluge of human thought.

Imagine if everyone on Twitter followed everyone on Twitter (except for the spammers, obviously). That's around 40m people following everyone else. The number of peer-to-peer connections are calculator boggling.

Apart from giving @ev and @biz heart attacks, the result would be a very close match with the real-
time expression of meta data required to bring together communities of purpose on a global almost-out-of-the-silo; people who care enough about an issue and are available right now to collaborate to do something about it.

If all you do is read your own tweet stream this will prove difficult. Picking the relevant out of a 40m strong stream would be all but impossible.

But that's where improving Twitter search comes in.

The follow mechanism is a great way of lassooing a pool of people who are very likely to share your any- given-purpose. And through open conversation, this group is always fuzzy edged. In this way Twitter helps us find people we didn't know we needed to know.

But our focus on the followed/follower means we may miss out on the bigger win.

It is perfectly possible to go looking across the whole of Twitter for people sharing your purpose right now. That's search and automated alerts.

But how many of us are ready to try this in reverse? To understand that each tweet is to everyone and a can be a call for people like you to come together with them, to act?

That requires us to actively use search to search for people calling out for people like us to help them on something we collectively care about.

That's a search engine with some new and heavily human (and likely semantic) fields; such as -
  • is like me; 
  • is trustworthy;
  • is helpful; 
  • collaborates well 
  • etc
Currently the followed/follower mechanism is our best human-powered version of just such a search engine. I'm sure it and our other recorded social interactions could and should be included in that future engine.

But what I'm also fairly sure about is that the followers/following model is not robust enough and can't, alone, scale to deliver the real time connections we need to access the greatest value enabled by global, real time communities of purpose.

Can it connect me with anyone anywhere who, like me, wants to solve problem x right now?

That's where our future lies.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?