Another Killer Twitter App?

This post is a little out of the ordinary for me. I’m floating an idea to see if it would work or not. I often do this via Twitter, but this one’s a little more than 140 characters.

Twitter Organizer

Dave Jones posted a note on Twitter the other day that sparked a few thoughts for me.

Dave said that he’d turned off notifications for a bunch of people during the SXSW conference recently so he didn’t get a deluge of messages with no context.

This makes me wonder – is there room/potential for an application that:

  • Lets you create groups of Twitter users
  • Create its own client-side hashtags (or similar) for each of those groups
  • Turn notifications on/off for those groups at will
  • Follow/unfollow those groups at will
  • Lets you post to Twitter/see replies as any existing apps do

I’m not just talking ad-hoc conference groups here, but also more stable, long-term clusters of people. So, I might create geographically-based groups, or themed groups (running, PR, marketing, etc).

Why would you want this? A few potential uses:

  • You’re going to a conference (PodCamp, for example) and want to cut out the non-conference noise on your mobile device
  • You know a big conference is coming up and that it will generate a lot of Twitter buzz (SXSW, PodCamp Toronto, etc). You don’t want to get drowned in that noise
  • You want to only get notifications from people who you know have a high signal-to-noise ratio – those that provide useful links or thought-provoking insights regularly

The “hashtags” would allow you to display messages for each group separately. Boom! You’ve got an app that lets you customize how you organize your twitter reading. Twitku does a similar thing, with separate panels for Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce. You could do this for each group.

I’m no programming expert (I did do my share of web development a few years back, but nothing recently) so I’d love some feedback on whether this works under Twitter’s API.

The idea needs a few details fleshing out, too. Would it be better as a conference-focused tool, or broaden the scope to everyday use?

Even more importantly, if you’re a heavy-duty twitter user, would something like this be remotely helpful?

What do you think?

  • Hey Dave,

    As someone who users Twitter a lot, I think this is a great idea. I’ve been wary of most Twitter apps, but I keep looking into a bunch that I hear about, and I think this has good potential.

    I’m not a traveller, I don’t get tweets on my cell phone, my tweets are probably not terribly useful to most people and I know next to nothing about coding. So, I’m not really your target in the people that would find such an application most useful.

    However, my biggest worry has to do with the whole follow/unfollow at a moment’s notice thing. Would this appear on your Twitter page? Would your followers and followees be aware of being dropped or re-added to the list?

    If so, this worries me for shallow reasons. But, hey, we’re human. I think if people knew they were being ignored for one reason or another (even if it’s completely logical!), some would be offended.

    Not a terribly serious issue, I know. But, there’s always the hurting feelings, burning bridges thing to think about. Am I right?

  • Dave, this would have been GREAT for me when I was at SXSW. I’m also certain that I lost followers because of my SXSW tweets – no doubt people were just sick of hearing it all, I sure would have been! I’ve heard repeatedly about people’s desires to group followers in a meaningful way, so I’m sure that an API would be warmly received.

    For more inspiration, check out the Twitter Wish List and comments from @pistachio (http://pistachioconsulting.com/blog/?p=170)

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can have this type of functionality. 🙂

  • It’s a great idea and absolutely doable. The problem here is that you’ve dreamed up an app that should actually be a feature of Twitter. So the danger of creating something like this is two-fold: A) Twitter has direct access to the data and could presumably, at a later date, create the same, better app. B) Another player could come into the mix and render Twitter obsolete. Not your fault, but you’re totally tied to Twitter.

    That’s the big conundrum. Twitter lacks so many features, and the API could allow us to make up for them, but should we? Do we put out the effort, knowing that it could all be for nothing? I don’t have the answer or I’d be coding your idea right now.

  • I think it is a great idea, but let’s turn it on its ear:

    – I want to be able to group people so that if I want to communicate with just those people, I can. For example, if I was at SXSW, I could just communicate with those folks and not force all my friends to block my tweets during that time
    – I want to be able to add a group of people that may include, temporarily, some people I don’t normally follow so I can see the full context of the discussion

    This would allow me to have discussions that are of interest to a specific group that I know others would probably not be interested in so that I wouldn’t run into the concern that Adele identifies.

    It would also allow me to turn the privacy on/off for my own individual tweets. If they are meant for this particular group, I would not want them read outside of this context. Or perhaps those that are public could only be captured/indexed/viewed in the search engines etc. as a group so they would not be quite so much out of context.

    As for Shannon Whitley’s arguments, if everyone worried about these issues we would have no Twitter applications. Meanwhile, we have a range of terrific ones.

    Cheers,
    Connie

  • Great ideas Connie!

    The reason I didn’t propose messaging to individual groups is that that would require changes by Twitter that an app alone couldn’t do. If the API allowed it they’d be fantastic ideas but I don’t think it does (I’d love for someone to tell me otherwise though!).

  • Rayenne – great point. Hurting peoples’ feelings is never a good idea. Wonder if there’s a way around that?

    Adele – thanks for the link, and glad you like the idea.

  • I’ve been complaining about this for a long while. Twitter itself feels like an unfinished product, at least as far as the web site is concerned. I’m happy that at least it didn’t melt down during SXSW this year (unlike last year), but it still feels rough around the edges, and with its popularity and the funding it’s attracted, Twitter should be able to improve the user experience by now.

  • Check out tweetparty – you can create groups and then broadcast messages to them. Works really well.

  • Pascal

    Any one of the desktop clients that I know (TweetDeck,Seesmic to mention a few…) has an filtering an grouping option, very easy to use.