A while ago I posted on blog communities and found gatherings of people (groups, sets, networks, contacts, etc…) was hard to define generally, so I took on the concept “many” via some informal learning bloggers.
Of late the many at Twitter has increasingly become an issue, so the groups idea has re-surfaced…users are wanting to filter the incoming tweets to a set of people, others are wanting a topic page for tweets, etc…
Stephanie from Climb to the Stars has adequately defined the ambiguity of what the term “groups” means:
GROUPS - shared interest, where you are a member, you actively join or create this group (eg. communities of practice, topic pages)…within a network your posts to the group page would appear at the group page, but also in your personal page
GROUPINGS - patterns that emerge that assemble people together, due to your actions, and how they are similar to the actions of others…these are not formal, you may not even know you are part of them, but everyone is in many groupings, whether they know it or not (eg. data could be sliced to show all users within a location, all users who use similar tags, all users who have linked to the same site, etc….)
CONTACT GROUPS - organising your personal contacts within tags/folders, this way you can filter incoming messages to a set of people, or send a message to just a sub-set of people (probably best that these are not displayed publicly)
Discover users by things you have in common based on your actions and preferences, groupings are emergent rather than manually formed.
eg. discover users by people you have in common, discover users by location (country, city or even a 5 km radius of where you are at the moment), discover users who belong to the same tags/channels (Twitter doesn’t have tags/channels yet, but this is inevitable), discover others users who post frequently to the same people you post to, discover other users who frequently use the same terms and links as in your own tweets…yet to be able to discover users by similar tags as you, as Twitter doesn’t have personal tags, etc…
Stephanie goes on to say that “groupings” need to be recognised by companies as a way to bring more social awareness to their existing community. eg. if del.icio.us did not show me a list of people who bookmarked a page I just bookmarked, or related tags to a particular tag…I wouldn’t be able to discover new resources and new people that I like so quickly. Feeding the community groupings, augments the social idea of a social network, it correlates and further connects people, all based on the way they use the system.
It’s kind of like the knowledge management concept, where you have all this data or information sorted by links, users, location, tag, etc…you see usage patterns that emerge and let your users know about it
eg. user A uses 70% of the tags you use, or user A has 70% of their bookmarks in common with you.
Once this is known, then it can be actioned as a feature and these 2 users are more likely to discover each other and may become friends, and the act of becoming friends is a step forward as they both now have a new quality source as an information filter or deliverer…this act of becoming friends is acting on the knowledge.
At the moment I really have a need for contact groups in Twitter, there are so many tweets coming at me…on certain occassions I would like to just see tweets from a set of friends. Same goes with posting, at times my posts are only aimed at a few people that follow me, and I would like to not bother other people that follow me with these tweets.
This especially rings true when I want to post a tweet to family members, I don’t want others that follow me to see these tweets, if I could send these tweets publicly to just a set of people then this is solved.
All that would happen is others that follow me will not get some of my tweets in their timeline as they have been excluded…perhaps the way to look at it is, you are not sending to a set of people, but really your tweet is excluding all people that follow you except a set of people.
Since this feature is lacking, I would have to create another Twitter account to use to tweet with my family.
Twitter Groups does allow you to organise people you follow into groups, then you can send a direct message to all people in a group in one go.
But this isn’t the same, as it’s using the direct message section, same as sending an email to multiple people, even though this has its place, for conversational purposes it needs to be public.
What we can currently do is use the (@) reply symbol (just as much a Shoutout as a reply), I’d like to send a public @ tweet limited to a bunch of people in one go. The rest of your followers will not be notified of these tweets at the time they happen.
Another current obstacle is that the reply user names have to be in the actual tweet itself which will leave no room for the content, this is another reason why a set is easier.
NOTE: you can use “@” to people you don’t even follow.
Even if Twitter would let you send a tweet to a set of people (excluding your other followers), would each of these people know who else received the tweet or that the tweet was sent to just a set of people?
Is this important?
What if a recipient wants to tweet back to the same people?
This gets hard as a recipient needs to create a set like yours so everyone is included, further to that maybe some people on this set don’t follow this recipient…too much fiddling around to tweet back the same set of people.
Anyway, all this talk of excluding some of your followers to some of your tweets is kind of counter to “@ replies”, but sometimes you don’t want to annoy people when you are using Twitter for conversation with someone else…it’s like overhearing a conversation in the train, which is exactly what “@ replies” are, public conversations. The benefit is the viral nature of Twitter and jumping into conversations, but sometimes you want a conversation to be public, but just to a few people.
This brings us to Pownce, when you send a message, it can be public, to an individual, to all your friends, or to a set of friends.
When someone visits your Pownce public stream (in contrast to your admin view of the stream), they will only see yours and your friends “public” posts…they will not see posts you have sent to a set of 5 friends or a post a friend has sent to you specifically.
I’d still like posts sent to a set to still be visible in my public user stream, and use direct messaging (like Twitter) to a person or set as a private option.
Pownce set example
eg. create a post to a set of “5 friends”, when a friend replies to your post it will be default public, so all other friends will see it.
When a friend chooses to post themselves instead of replying, they must make sure the same 5 friends see it, they will know who these 5 users are, as they appear as recipients on the sidebar of the original post, this acts like email names in an email address bar. Pownce doesn’t have the equivalent of cc:, but does have a foward feature.
My issue with Pownce is that later on, I would like to see just posts I sent to a set, but what it can do is just show you a mixed stream from a set of people, this does solve one issue, but then Twitter has Twapper.
NOTE: Pownce sets are not trying to be a formal group, it’s just a handy way to send a private message to a bunch of people, this message will appear in your stream (but not the public version), unlike the Twitter Groups hack where the message not only is private, but is in a totally different stream of its own (the direct message section), plus others don’t know who else was sent the message unlike the recipients on the Pownce sidebar.
Since contact groups are from one perspective, and not a fixed group, it is no better than email in handling and distilling conversation…you can see other people in the set that received the post, but this is no different than email.
Sets are great for the individual to send out a batch tweet and to get reponses back from individuals, but it’s not formal enough to handle many to many conversation.
Factory Joe’s take on this is similar to Pownce, but you are only allowed to make one set for your inner circle.
It’s kind of a catch 22, we don’t want to be flooded with all these replies (@) that don’t concern us (people you follow that are having conversations with others), but then if we have lots of sets, we will see heaps less replies that don’t concern us, actually we may only see replies that only concern us, this then lessens the eavesdropping, overhearing type of viral conversation that makes Twitter so unique.
Factory Joe has a great compromise by only allowing one set per user, so we still get the fun of overhearing conversations, but just slightly less, so it’s not as annoying.
These types of tweets are called “whispers” and are suggested to be prefixed with “!”
eg. ! hi guys
It’s basically the same idea as Pownce sets, but a little more open..these whispers will not appear in the timeline of people who follow you other than those in your inner circle.
How it’s different to Pownce, if I understand right, is if someone visits your user page they will see your whisper posts, or maybe they won’t as your whisper posts are in a whisper stream that only you can see in your admin area.
If someone visits the profile of a user you whispered to, I believe if you look at their “you and others” timeline, you will see these whisper posts.
So, it’s different to Pownce as you can only create one set, and after the fact others may be able to see whisper posts in people’s timelines who have received a whisper.
SIDENOTE: I see Pownce, like Twitter has been IMified.
Unlike Jaiku and Pownce, tweets don’t have comments, just replies (@) as a new tweet, what I noticed about Pownce and Jaiku is that a reply to a post is threaded with the post, but is also a post itself, and is public as a default.
Twitter replies (@) are new tweets, but I can’t see why they can’t be threaded under the post in question as well. The reply tweet has a link to the tweet it’s replying to, but the original tweet doesn’t have a link back to the reply tweet.
Another problem is that reply tweets default to the last tweet of the user you are replying to, even though you may be replying to their 5th last tweet…I guess it’s too hard to SMS a reply to a particular tweet.
So what about formal groups in Twitter, groups with a shared interest around a topic, around a bunch of friends, etc… there is no place that aggregates or distills a discussion (like a channel or a tag page), everyone has their own version of the discussion, it’s hard to piece together later on, just like email.
This is what I like about Jaiku Channels, you can post to a topic page by using the prefix (#), all posts to the group live in one place.
The way Jaiku works is once you know the name of a channel, you can post with the following prefix:
eg. #jaiku hi guys
This post has automatically joined me to the channel, my photo will now appear as a member on the channel page.
This post will appear in my overview stream (where your posts and your friends posts appear), but not in my personal stream (not sure why)…it will of course also appear on the channel page.
If you are on the channel page, you don’t need to use “#channelname”, you only use this prefix to your message if you are posting from elsewhere.
Channels can be created on the fly, if you post to a channel that doesn’t exist, it will simply ask you if you want to kick of this channel, you don’t own it, you just started it. It’s kind of like tag topic pages, in contrast to personal tags to organise your posts, it’s more a way to send a post to a shared topic page.
One thing I’d like to see with Jaiku is to be able to filter my personal stream or filter a channel stream to see all the posts I made to that channel.
So basically a channel is just like a communal page that people can post to from the convenience of their own page, or by SMS, or whatever, as long as you prefix the message with the channel name.
What I see next is the ability to make private Jaiku channels, I know web 2.0 is about openess, and getting away from VIP groups, but sometimes a private channel is handy.
A communal Twitter account is another take on channels, where users can post from their own space, and the tweets appear at a communal account as well, or maybe just at the confession booth…see another of Kosso’s group hacks.
There are a select few communal Twitter accounts, these have special functions set up by the Twitter guys
eg. Text JOIN SXSW to 40404, and the sytem will auto-add you back as a friend so your posts appear in the stream of that account.
All tweets prefixed with SXSW will appear in the stream (as well as your own space…I think), this is basically a channel page.
You can’t set up these communal pages on Twitter, a poor mans workaround is:
- set up an account
- get 5 users to join
- join them back from this account
- when they post, their updates will not appear in the user stream (like in these special account, such as SXSW)…this is a problem as you can’t get notifications for all 3rd party posts to this stream
- the 5 users updates will only appear in “With Others” stream…only way to get updates is to convert the RSS feed into email, IM, SMS, etc
NOTE: if these 5 people are following each other, they will probably be getting notifications anyway, but then this is “all” their posts, we may only want posts about the group to show
- if posts are prefixed @groupname, then the owner of the group can login and grab the RSS feed from the “replies” stream…this way you can have a group discussion, and it’s all aggregated in the reply stream of this account, only thing is the reply stream is not publicly visible
- a solution is to grab the RSS feed of the reply stream and re-syndicate to a blog or something like SuprGlu, so there is a place to see all the updates
- users in this group can either grab the RSS feed of the reply stream or the RSS feed from SuprGlu and subscribe to it using RSS to email, IM or SMS service…infact anyone can grab this feed and be notified on what these 5 people are talking about ie. not all their Twitter posts, just posts made to the group page.
- problem for this to scale is that the owner of the account has to add followers back, this isn’t as quick as an auto-add friends mechanism
- also the fact that there is an owner and they could delete the account
I mentioned Factory Joe’s take on Contact Groups with the whisper inner circle idea, well here is a proposal for a groupings or tag channels…this concept is similar to Jaiku Channels, as you append your message with “#channelname”.
I like the idea of being able to follow and post to topics/tags/channels instead of people…Factory Joe’s suggested commands are:
Follow a channel eg. follow #film
Follow channels post to one user eg. follow henry#film
Post to a channel eg. #film I like fellini films
Post to a channel, only channels members are notified #film !I like fellini films
I really like this, I may not like following the user henry, as I only like some of his posts, and I may not want to follow the channel film, but I am interested when henry posts to the film channel.
I guess if users had personal tags you could follow just a users tag, instead of all posts by the user.
I like that you can publish to these different slices of people from the same box by using a prefix…here’s the command list suggestions so far:
- public post
- d message to one or a set (private)
- !whisper to one or a set (public, but only received by that set of people)…I’d like a recipient to know which others also received the whipser
- #channel or communal account (this is similar to a shared tag/topic space)
- location (SMS your location, so others can SMS Twitter to be returned your location)
- geo (SMS a post to only be received by a groupings set of people within a 10km radius)
- tags (sorting your posts by tag)…others can subscribe to just one or multiple user tag/s
On a second look it seems the Twitter tag idea and Jaiku channels may be a little different, where a Jaiku channel is a shared interest group, Twitter tags are a grouping.
With Twitter tags you may not have to prefix the message with a channel name, you can just put the # on anyword in your tweet, so you are basically tagging your tweets.
Others may be tagging their tweets the same way, if you could go look at this tag page you would see all tweets with this tag, or see a user limited to just a tag…sounds like social bookmarking folksonomies like del.icio.us. You could subscribe to a user, a user tag, or a general tag.
If you find others who use the same tag as you quite often, you could start using this tag to explictly converse.
Plus as mentioned before, when you converse in a tag, if you like, you can exclude your followers receiving these tagged posts and only people who subscribe to the tag will get them.
eg. !it’s Friday, time for a #beer
ISSUE: will people in my inner circle see this or will they not because I used a tag, and when I use a tag the (!) symbol refers not to my inner circle, but to people who subscribe to that tag.
Hmm, so how could I post to my inner circle and also be able to tag a word in the post?
Another idea for personal tags is still keeping in mind that Twitter is an SMS app…you would SMS Twitter to enable your tag, then all your tweets will have this tag, until you SMS Twitter again to disable the tag…this has been dubbed the sticky tag concept.
This all came clear with Erans post, which pointed out aggregations by using channels, keywords, and metadata.
BTW, the usually handy part of organising your posts by tags is being able to subscribe to just a portion of a users tweets, ie. if I’m not interested in posts from user A that are more aimed to their family, then I can subscribe to user A minus this tag.
You get your own userspace, when you post you can apply a tag/s, then people can post discussions and replies within a tag. Each tag has a list of users who have posted, also a list of other tags these people are discussing in.
The good thing about a tag forum is that the same message can appear in multiple tags, in Twitter you would have to use a “#” for each tag
eg. It’s #Friday, time for a #beer
Whereas a tag forum has a fielded interface, a field for your post, and another field for your tags…the command approach of Jaiku and Twitter is more versatile, as you can post using commands from any device or 3rd party app.
If the web-based version of Twitter and Jaiku had fields, then we could save some character space for our message.
Check out lots of other mobile social networks that have group chat and location groupings, etc…some more unique mobile social networks/communication are: Groovr, Jyngle, Zemble, Swarmit, Loopt, Planypus…
And some web-based or email type ways with Grouptivity, 9cays, CircleUp, etc…
Also note the post on the Twitter social network forum on satisfaction, refers to group contexts as mentioned above eg. personal organisation (tweeting to many in one go), to member based groups, or even tweets within the context of a location could be a type of transient group (tweet just people within a 10 km radius, or show my tweet only to my Perth friends)
[ADDED: A question for Twitter users out there, more:
“Anyway my main question is if this is suppose to be a way to identify a group or conversation thread within Twitter would you want to be able to know if the tag was being used in the wider public timeline or just your friends timeline.]
Another thought, what if Twitter did incorporate tagging, Technorati would surely be the first to pick up on these tags, and then allow us to filter Technorati Tags by service type eg. the tag “wiki” limited to just Twitter.