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What Twitter could look like

Some sketches I made a while ago to illustrate what I think a web-based twitter client could look like. I really like the Tweetdeck application, because it integrates lists in the most obvious way, showing all the posts like a dashboard. I think the basics of Tweetdeck could be very well made into a web-based dashboard.

What it would look like in your browser
Twitter Dashboard design concept (screenshot)
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The entire page
Twitter Dashboard design concept
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Photographs and other media links should be displayed inline. Like Twitstat does.

Reply and retweet should be inline as well.

Analyzed what Twitter votes (graphic)

Based on Twitterpoll by Erik Borra I made this visualization. The animation is created form filtering tweets on content. If someone says he or she voted for Obama or McCain this information is stored and turned into numbers. This creates an election poll based on tweets.

You can say Twitter is pretty much in favor of Obama. To update the results refresh the page.

A point goes to Obama if the regular expression /vote.*?obama/i succeeds, it goes to McCain if the regular expression /vote.*mccain/i succeeds, else it is undecided / unrecognized.

The animations that led to this animation

We Say, twittertalk

A second version of the first experiment. In this window you can sort Twitter messages on certain words. Try to work with two words or use the more obvious words like McCain / Obama if you want to use more words. Otherwise you won’t get any results.

Another great polling service
Erik Borra created a polling service based on what people say on Twitter. With the service you get results on what people say they voted on Twitter. I’m trying to make a bar graph for this.

A MSc research on the one thing Twitter asks; what are you doing?

What am I doing
What are you doing? Is the simple question twitter asks you

In July 2007 Edward Mischaud (at that time student Politics and Communication) asked me – and other random selected users – a few questions about how we use Twitter. His goal was to find out if Twitter users actually answer to one thing Twitter asks ‘What are you doing?‘.

65% of his focus group didn’t answer this question. What they did write about is in the graphic below.
Results from the question what are you doing on Twitter

These findings correlate with the theoretical foundation presented which is based on the understanding that technologies are not neutral objects that operate apart from society’s influence. Technologies are flexible devices. People often extract different meanings and uses out of a technology – applications that are not always factored into its design. In some instances, however, inventors, or shapers, of technology can themselves determine how a technology is to be used and therefore limit and restrict its ‘interpretative flexibility’.

Download the MSc dissertation by Edward Mischaud *.pdf

What are you doing?
I think the question itself is very important for Twitter. It’s the step that makes it easy to join the conversation. You don’t know what to do, just answer what you’re doing.

With this you start the storytelling. Eventually you start connecting with friends or try to start a discussion. You see people talk about other people and start following them or they start following you. This is how your network grows.

Twitter probably wouldn’t be equally successful without this question. With a simple and personal question that everyone in the world can answer Twitter really lowered the barrier to join the application.

Twitter is more a network than an application. If you ask around you will notice that most people are using different interfaces on different platforms and clients. Because of the API connecting to the network adapts to your preferred way of working.


  • Is easy accessible

  • Is live

  • Forces you to focus

  • Is broken conversation

  • Is open conversation

  • Is spam free, like RSS (subscription based)

  • Is a network

  • Is synchronous / asynchronous

  • Is a black hole

  • Is a time capsule

  • Is a centralized network

  • Changes public / privacy

  • Is a knowledge base

  • Is very unstable

  • Is making it very difficult for search engines

  • Is platform independent

The best part of twitter to me is the live/buzz effect. What is happening right now. You just turn it on like you turn on television. There’s always something going on, and if it isn’t you can always start it by saying what you’re doing. The two graphs below show how twitter is being used during live events. The same thing happens in the Netherlands during live sport events, news or television shows.

Twitter during the Superbowl
Twitter during the Superbowl

Twitter during Super Tuestday
Twitter during Super Tuesday

Twitter as a backchannel during conferences
Some conferences have used Twitter for a so called backchannel. A live (sometimes moderated) screen behind the speaker that allows the audience to discuss and ask live questions via Twitter and SMS.

Gvenk Daily
Every morning @gvenk presents the Gvenk Daily. Gerard is a programmer and knows what’s going on in the tech scene. Every morning around 7.30 he scans his RSS feeds and drops the highlights in the Gvenk Daily, a series of tweets about tech news.

What is breaking news in a Twitteruniverse
Last year I wrote a post about @BreakingNewsOn, it’s a newsservice that posts rumors to Twitter and confirms them live. Building the story as it happens.

Twitstat Twitgeist
The Twitgeist is a hourly updated cloud of the most popular words used within a group of twitterazi. It tells you what’s going on.

These examples are just a few spin-offs. Like the conclusion from the dissertation. Twitter has just one rule, a maximum of 140 characters. The people using it are experimenting what they can do with this network.

What is ‘breaking the news’ in a Twitteruniverse?

BreakingNewsOn on Twitter
Breaking News is when a story breaks. You know a story will be serious news and you have to bring it, but you don’t know enough facts yet. The story has to break through and this process of breaking is the news. That’s why breaking news is so exciting to watch on television. It’s like a movie that starts with an event disrupting normal life and now we have to find out what happened, how big it is en who is responsible for it. Often a news story even has protagonists (firefighters, prime ministers) and antagonists (terrorists) like a movie.

Yesterday a new Twitter account was brought to my attention, called BreakingNewsOn is breaking the news. Over and over again.

Usually for news media breaking the news isn’t enough, after it breaks you have to write a story where you compose facts and time into an article.

In a Twitteruniverse it is not about the individual tweets it is about the story that the tweets combined will make. A continuous stream of events.

When you’re connected to a stream you don’t need the complete story written in an article. You’re right there as it happens. You just want facts and the status of these facts ‘rumor’, ‘confirmed’, ‘police-officer says’. You decide yourself if it is relevant information to the story that is building.

I worked in a newsroom for a while and you are really sitting on information treasure island. You have wires from all press agencies and news is flooding to you from every corner in the world. The thing that takes most of your time when there is breaking news is fact checking. Is this true? Is there an update already? Is this a trusted source? Could this source have another agenda? Let’s check with someone else, do we have confirmation? You don’t want wrong information to go out there.

Keeping information to yourself is not how the web grows. The power of the web is sharing information, as soon as you get it. Successful websites usually speed up something. The judgment of the news in a newsroom and writing an article about it is not speeding up news coverage. It is making it more reliable for sure, but it is not pushing it to the maximum speed limits.

Should we focus on bringing the news as it happens and forget about the ‘traditional filters’ on certain channels? I think so, although not everyone will agree.

The teachers at art school used to say the process is more important then the results. And this is what this is all about. Processing news, in public. Start live storytelling!

Early this year I guessed 2007 would be the year that online storytelling would finally go mainstream. I focussed on broadband and (interactive) video and I guess I was wrong about the how. Storytelling on the web will be big in 2007. Not because interactive video, but because the rise of life streaming websites.

The TwitterTicker


Last night I started playing with the Twitter API and RSS feeds and realized that a lot of tweets in Twitter contain an url. It would be nice if your computer could automatically detect the url and open it in the browser / same window. A sort of personal (bandwidth consuming) slideshow of hyperlinks send by Twitter-buddies. Like the Slashdot-effect without actually clicking a link.

So I started building a Flash application that does just this. We’ll see where it ends and if it will end in anything useful.

I will call it The TwitterTicker


Have fun playing with it and let me know what you think or would like. I will put the source code online soon so you can ‘professionalize’ my hacking.

And if anyone knows how to work around the slow Twitter cache let me know. I found out reading an XML works much faster than using the API.


I’m on Twitter for three weeks now and still not sure what to do with it. I really like it, but can’t exactly tell why.

At first sight Twitter looks useless, but so did to me when I first noticed it.

Twitter is like Instant Messaging mixed with RSS. You can subscribe to someone’s stream and talk to someone. And of course opt-out whenever you like.

Maybe I like the buzz around it, a lot of stuff is happening. Everyday a creative mind has constructed a new feature. Who knows, for now it is a lot of fun.

Twitterrific for your desktop.
Twittervision a mashup with Google Maps.
Twitterment for comparing Twits.
Twittercamp Twit-visualization on the desktop.

Building habits

I started blogging over 12 years ago. Starting a blog was the easiest way to share ideas and work.

Over time it got easier, WordPress came around and I got better at it.

The challenging part of writing is starting with it and keep doing it. It’s like any other skill. You have to create a habit, stick to it and keep practicing.

When to hit publish?
When Twitter and Facebook really took of I moved from blogs to Twitter and my posting frequency declined and died a slow death. There is so much good stuff to read. Why should I write more? When is something enough to publish?

I do miss it, not because I have something to share with the world. I like how writing makes me organise my thoughts. And make it easier to shape an idea into something that can be easily communicated to other people.

Since a couple of years I co-organise the Behavior Design meetup in Amsterdam. It’s a quarterly meetup about the design of behavior. We ask experts and designers to share their insights.

Over the years I learned a lot about how to change behavior. The model that BJ Fogg presents still stands out to me, because it’s so simple and easy to apply. (B) Behavior = (M) Motivation (A) Ability (T) Trigger (B = MAT).

So let’s try some behavior design analysis to my writing 🙂

So here’s my goal. Writing helps me structure ideas. I want to improve this behavior (B) and be better at communicating ideas.
The motivation (M) is ‘oke’, it’s not really high, I don’t want to be a writer. I do wan’t to improve. I do like writing.

In BJ Fogg his model you want all actors in the model to work together. If motivation is low, you need to make it really easy to do and by creating a trigger you ensure that you keep doing it.

My Ability (A) is quite high. I have a million excuses to do other stuff. Although finding 30 minutes to write can’t be that hard. There is no technical barrier anymore. Medium is a great way to share stories and get feedback from people. All you need is browser and a computer. No excuses here.

Then the most important part. The trigger (T), it’s what makes you start and what keeps you going. I used to write a lot on my daily commutes in the train. Which is a great trigger. Sit, music and a slow internet connection. I now commute by car to the office, so I need to find another time and pace.

Having a pace is important. Don’t start at a pace that is too high, and don’t make it too slow either, if you don’t write often your stories become way to important and to important to finish.

Not sure what my pace and trigger is yet. Let’s start with once a week.