Twitter Is My Social Computer –How it could extend to be yours

Computers exist everywhere
It took me a while to figure out that wherever I go, whenever I want, I’ve access to one of the world’s most powerful computers. It’s not an IBM Mainframe that spans my whole living room, nor Google’s search engine, and not the latest Alienware box. It’s Twitter.

Social Computing Defined
At Forrester, we define Social Computing as: “A social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions.” and this is true for social networks –esp small and fast ones like Twitter.

What Google can’t do
While Google is great for finding information and websites, it’s NOT great for getting opinion, hearing nuance, or telling me relational information. With Twitter, I can ask information about opinions, and receive responses from real people (many I know, most I don’t) that often have first hand experience with the question at hand. Lastly, real people understand detailed and complicated questions and situations, and the more people answering, the more chance of you getting your answer.

How I’ve used Twitter as my Social Computer

Recently, I was at a swanky restaurant in SF, a CEO was picking up the tab so I could order whatever I wanted. I asked folks on Twitter “what should I order at Restaurant X” I received several responses, and immediately noticed a pattern and ordered the ribs with confidence, it was a success.

I frequently ask questions about what people think about in the news, I often receive popular opinion back from politics, tech issues, and other question. There’s a lot of gray answers here, but it’s a quick way to scan and obtain the variety of opinions about a particular topic. This method fuels the start of my initial research phase, I can get all the ideas on on a table, then hone in on the ideas that matter.

Lastly, referral content is shared, topics spread and people will offer up new suggestions, related content that isn’t necccearily going to be found in a web search.

Success requires lots of followers…a potential workaround
Now I realize that I’m fortunate in having so many followers (unlike other guys who ‘buy’ they friends by trying to offer a Mac Book Air) I’m grateful to all of the followers. Yet not everyone can gain from the network benefits, so I’ve thought of a way this can be shared with others, but I don’t have the tools to build it.

A Framework for Enhancing Twitter to be a Social Computer –For AnyoneIt’s possible that someone can build an engine that lets anyone participate in Twitter as a social computer, here’s how it could work:

Purely opt-in: Members could indicate they want to answer questions (and in return can ask them).

Members could then post a question “#question what are some romantic restaurants with a view in SF”

Anyone that is a member would then see the #question come in with a unique ID number attached to it
“question1853 @jowyang asks: question what are some romantic restaurants with a view in SF”

All members who received the question can choose to respond
“@question1583 Check out Starlight lounge or Waterfront restaurant”

All of the answers would then be aggregated on one page viewable by anyone, common answers by keyword would get weighted, and those who are ‘friends’ of the member would weight higher.

Of course, it needs to be very easy to use.

When I mentioned this idea last time, a lot of folks didn’t think it was ethical (as some of the terms included leverage) but I believe there’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur to build a answers or Q&A tool that is successful on LinkedIn and Yahoo. Let me know if you build it.

34 Replies to “Twitter Is My Social Computer –How it could extend to be yours”

  1. I love the subtle blow with the Airbook quote haha. And I really like the idea of twitter become a resource tool. I mean when you start thinking of something like twitter as a self-correcting resource like a wiki, the possibilities become pretty amazing. You’d have a database changing almost instantaneously to real updates.

    I think you bring up a real good point though. There should be some way to utilize Twitter as a reliable resource hub…direct from the experts themselves…the users 🙂

  2. Thanks for the analysis Jeremiah. Cool thought and I would only add that questions be submitted to content directed areas or at least make options available to optin to certain types of subject matter. This way crowds wanting to offer to help can do so in a more resourceful way. Just my thoughts…btw, my wife recommended this site she was using some time ago

  3. Jeremiah,

    Your analysis, as always, is brilliantly enlightening and stimulating – thanks for sharing!

    Here’s a thought. I’m European (Irish) and arrived in SF a week ago. Up until then, I didn’t actively use Twitter at all (seemed a bit foreign/unknown to me). But since I’m here, I’m fully signed up and bit by bit getting into the swing of things via Twirl. In the short week I’ve been here, I’m already seeing the huge potential it has as a communication (and addictive) medium.

    However, is there any way of analyzing Twitter as a geographic phenomenon? i.e. how much a) culture and b) location comes into play. Basically, the patterns how we “communicate” through social media (and instant media) – do Europeans (British vs Irish vs German vs French) have different patterns to American folk? (And indeed West Coasters versus East Coasters?)

    There’s no question, from my own personal experience this past week, that Twitter is much more “relevant” to me because I’m now currently in San Francisco, where there are clearly many people going to cool places, sharing useful info (super connected city). Yes, people in Dublin use Twitter, but clearly not on the same take-up (our broadband sucks, and it’s $100 for a basic iPhone plan). So the “use” value is different. If I’m in Dublin, do I have the same value of this kind of social communication?

    I pose this as a totally open question (which maybe Ev Williams may also have some thoughts on?). Would love to know what you think and indeed anyone who uses Twitter in Europe. Be great to hear everyone’s perspective on this.

    (Maybe you could pose this as a question to your followers on Twitter?)

    Keep up the inspiring work!


  4. Twitter is pretty amazing. At 500 my group is large enough to provide great answers on tech questions.

    It’s been a great regional connector for me. I never would have connected with all the wonderful social media people in Minnesota without it. Geography has us spread out, but Twitter links us.

    Maybe Twitter should have a regional search functionality? That could be accomplished by putting tags on your profile & making them searchable? Then you could find people of like mind or geography of your interest… hmmm I can set up a search for that & then add them as they come up. Thanks Jeremiah for the idea! 😉

  5. Fascinating idea! However, seems to me like part of what makes twitter work is that its this amazingly diverse set of priorities, topics, types of interactions, etc.

    By specifically zooming in on Q&A I think might not engage the users as much. I’m thinking of a post I read last night by Laura on twitter as a village:

  6. Where can people go to introduce themselves to the Twitterverse? Follow – moon – more fun then lolcats!

  7. Well, it’s all about I look for ; good description but short and efficient. True, real and genuine stuffs. Twitter is such endless use now, it’s up to us to purpose anything to involve this cute app. You gave some clever examples, others will follow, for sure.
    And will follow them, and all social network moves. It changed lives and raise possibilities. Don’t miss anything and never give up !

  8. This could be called true “social search”.
    Quoting Google’s Marrissa Meyer:
    ‘When you ask a friend what movies are good to go see? or where should we go to dinner?, you are doing a verbal social search. You™re trying to leverage that social connection to try and get a piece of information that would be better than what you™d come up with on your own.’

    I think that it’s safe to say that there’ll be a lot of convergence happening in this space.

    In the case of Twitter, it certainly proves the point of being generous towards your network, because in return you get privileged access to enormous computing resources. People estimate the human brain’s computing power at some 100 teraflops. As an added bonus, natural language queries *just work*.

  9. I love your thoughts on Twitter as a social computer, but I am having trouble with all the Twitter clutter (or Twutter, as I call it.) Too many people are using Twitter to share every thought they have. Is anyone else having trouble cutting through the noise so that real value can be found on Twitter?

    I’ve been encouraging my Twitter friends to strive for less quantity and more relevance, but I am getting a surprising amount of hostility. “If you don’t like it, stop following,” seems to be the message.

    Maybe I just need a better class of Twitter friends.

    I shared some thoughts on Twitter clutter and relevance on my blog, if interested:

  10. Last Saturday night, following a candlelight BBQ at my house, one of the party of guests discovered at 2:30 am that their car’s battery was flat. Roadsde assistance was called but they advised a 90 min wait.
    Guest is a very smart geek….but a mechanic NOT! And I am femme fatale! So…discovered we had a pair of jumper cables between us, but didn’t know how to use them without blowing ourselves and our cars up! So…in true geeek fashion…we tweeted out to twittersphere for help!!! Unfortunately, twittersphere is largely populated by geeks too….and it being 2:30 am in Sydney, Australia, so it took a while to get an answer. By that time, we had googled the question on someone’s blackberry and solved it…but the potential for immediate complex problem-solving is there!!! It was very funny and we were very proud of our geeky approach to mechanical problems!

  11. What’s amazing about Twitter and other social media technologies is that you can’t really explain them or convey their value with pure description (unlike most traditional business propositions). I don’t know Twitter’s funding status, but I’m sure it was a pretty hard sell to the angel round before beta launch. You really need to experience these applications and become a part of them to see the light, as it were. It’s like trying to explain the color red to a blind person; you can detail the wavelengths and technical data, but they’ll still never see it. Now that I’m starting to use Twitter, there is no shortage of aha moments.

  12. Ain't this idea something like Yahoo Answers? I mean, people go there and post the weirdest questions and get an answer (or more) every time. Why do the same on Twitter?
    Mathew Farney – Web Hosting

  13. Ain't this idea something like Yahoo Answers? I mean, people go there and post the weirdest questions and get an answer (or more) every time. Why do the same on Twitter?
    Mathew Farney – Web Hosting

  14. Twitter is great, indeed, for getting information about something you don't know or aren't very sure of. I once needed information about getting a PC health advisor, but I wasn't so sure about what it can do or if it's any good. I immediately found out what I needed to know and couldn't find out on Google, at least not after some research. It's true that I haven't tried Yahoo Answers to find what I needed, but I think that's because Tweeter is in vogue, now, it's the first thing to come in mind once you have a dilemma.

  15. Never compare with Google. may be twitter is also one of the social search engine but Google is big. we can get the all information form the google. but from the twitter we have to get some limited information through our friends network only..

  16. Huge numbers of people using Twitter, not only for social connection but also for business and product endorse. Informative and interesting post. Keep it up.

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