Swarmtracking

 
 
By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2008-03-26
 
 
 

Lifestreaming has been a favorite swarm for the attention crowd in recent weeks. Friendfeed is my favorite, not because I use it much but because it's a bit of a greenfield, a place to start over and remodel the information triage space.

The last two days have seen crucial piping strategies from Discus, a commenting service and a two-way sync between Outlook and Gmail. And I've been getting slammed on Twitter for my unorthodox tracking strategies, most importantly including some avoidance of the @twitterer reply mechanism.

Briefly, I'm using a combination of Gtalk/Twitter with tracking turned on on several important keywords, namely stevegillmor, gillmor, and newsgang. The Gtalk client can be popped out and floated outside the Gmail window on my desktop, freeing me to monitor callers during NewsGang Live, or NewsGang.net itself where I aggregate RSS items based on the NewsGang's interests and behavior.

This lets me see not only people I follow but those who are gesturing to me with keywords I've signaled my interest in monitoring. The @stevegillmor reply signal deposits pointed messages in my Reply inbox in the Twitter Web client, but I have to leave the follow flow to overtly go there to receive those messages. I've also experimented with a rich client shareware product, twhirl, which allows multiple simultaneous identities to be open, as well as color-coding all follow, reply, and direct messages into one stream.

If that were the only criteria for this Twitter consuption platform, I probably would migrate to twhirl full-time; it offers a simple WYWYG interface that features point-and-click icons for replying or direct messaging that pre-populate the message with the appropriate nomenclature. A pop-up window scrolls up from the bottom when new items arrive on a timed schedule, and I can monitor the flow of both my personal and newsgang accounts, the latter where I follow virtually anybody who expresses interest or engages with the NewsGang community.

But where this breaks down is in the transition to my mobile client, the iPhone, where the Twitter mobile client has no interface for replies or direct messages, and no access to the track command of Gtalk/Twitter fame. I end up spending catch-up sessions when I return to the iMac or AIR spooling back through the Gtalk client or looking up the archived chats in Gmail.

Now I'm getting pushback for avoiding @messages, which are difficult to render on the iPhone and not what I want to do for the most part elsewhere. What I do want to do is respond to direct requests for dialogue while leaving open the opportunity for the larger community of people who follow me to absorb the flow. In other words, while I may be answering someone directly, I'm always cognizant of the power of the Twitter space to amplify and accelerate ideas and issues in this hybrid public/personal editorial space.

This Twitterstage is unique in its various overlapping attributes, what I would call a swarmscape where ideas are accelerated by the realtime interaction around ideas, questions, assertions, humor, avoidance, and other gestures much richer than those of the aggregated services they draw on: IM, email, blogging, etc. So my shorthand methodology takes the form of first replying with the Twitter name without the @ sign, then shortening it as the dialogue extends to first name or just continued response, always assuming that the participants will either find it sufficiently interesting to follow me (and hopefully I them) or if they wish, use the @message to trigger my track keyword harvesting.

In the pushback around this issue, I've also referenced my shorthand expression for a comparable observation of gesture fidelity in the blog space, namely the use of links as a measure of authority and respect: Links are dead. What I mean by that is that I often choose not to link not as a measure of disrespect but as a measure of an increased recommendation or gesture of authority. In essence I'm suggesting you link to or follow the person, not the individual post or item.

That's largely because I assume most people have read the common wisdom on the subject that I'm referring to, namely the high page viewed offerings of the usual subjects or the aggregate pool of link-formed swarms as typified by Techmeme. Rather than waste their time by referencing something already consumed, I encourage aggregating the feeds of those sources and harvesting the behavior of the reader and his or her circle of peers to more efficiently triage the external information space.

Twitter, of course, accelerates this efficiency even more with its expanding and fluid circles of micro-communities, the clouds of individual users that intersect and resonate both individually and at the affinity level. As lifestreaming strategies attempt to organize and pipe these signals through the information pipeline, as synchronization of message stores allows fluid movement between machines and even variously-scoped identities, and as tracking becomes available at the API level to bring it to the iPhone, the @message will find its place as one arrow in a powerful quiver.

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