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.