Sam Harrelson

BearHug Camp Today

For all those interested in the wild-west world of micro-blogging (Twitter, Identi.ca, TWiT Army, etc), BearHug Camp starts at 9am PST today.

Strange name, but this really looks like it will be a very important day for the future of the web…

TechCrunchIT » Blog Archive » BearHug Camp is here: “Friday, September 12 at 9 am, BearHug Camp begins. The brainchild of Dave Winer, BearHug is based on a tactic Winer used to great effect in bootstrapping coincident work by Netscape and Winer into what we now know as RSS. Recently, we’ve seen the emergence of similar strategies in the so-called micro-blogging segment that has grown around Twitter.”

You can follow along live from Leo Laporte’s stream at TWiTLive.TV




XMPP as the Marketer’s Golden Egg; Latency as Magic Beans

XMPP has had a meteoric rise in term of its profile and application over the last two years. Part of that is due to the rise of microblogging services such as Twitter or Identi.ca that leverage the XMPP platform to deliver real time updates to users.

However, there has been a hiccup in Twitter’s usage of XMPP over the last few months and that hiccup has helped to give more exposure to XMPP instead of putting it on the shelf. The increasingly popular Track feature of Twitter (which allowed users to follow certain keywords they were interested in… in real time… without having to rely upon the latency of RSS and/or an increasingly hampered Twitter API) was pulled a few months ago. Twitter’s Biz Stone comments about the disabling of Track for everyone here:

Our goal is to support as many applications, projects, mash-ups, and devices as possible so we’ll continue to think about how best to do this. While the XMPP feed of the full Twitter Public Timeline is an amazing resource, drinking from the fire hose is not the best way to quench a thirst. With continued updates and refinement, our API will support most scenarios in a way that preserves overall system performance.

Track WAS the ultimate web tool and began to function as the neural spine for many of us. The latency of a hampered API does not fill the void. Early adopters like myself got a taste of its power and now thinkers and users such as Steve Gillmor are looking for an angry fix:

But Twitter is living on borrowed time with its XMPP blockade. The flowering of micro-objects opens the door to applications that leverage swarming around events and the growing availability of iPhone-class mobile devices. The success of App Store stars such as Evernote suggests that adding micro-object support will accelerate usage of the XMPP backbone. Latency in that environment will be an instant deal-breaker, opening the door for better-financed competitors to subsidize real time services to capture audience.

Before we go too much deeper, it’s important to explain exactly what XMPP is and why marketers should be researching and developing its application.

Wikipedia explains:

Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is an open, XML-inspired protocol for near-real-time, extensible instant messaging (IM) and presence information (a.k.a. buddy lists). It is the core protocol of the Jabber Instant Messaging and Presence technology. The protocol is built to be extensible and other features such as Voice over IP and file transfer signaling have been added.

Unlike most instant messaging protocols, XMPP is an open standard. Like e-mail, it is an open system where anyone who has a domain name and a suitable Internet connection can run their own Jabber server and talk to users on other servers. The standard server implementations and many clients are also free and open source software.

That sounds incredibly geeky and innocuous to most direct marketers, but put on your thinking cap for a moment and re-read Gillmor’s quote above with that information in mind.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to come to the realization that in the coming years, the real world web stars will be applications that deliver on demand, in real time and with micro-object support. XMPP stands as the protocol, above all other protocols, to deliver those messages to the masses.

The future of marketing is not based on latency or delayed access to timely information. RSS is wonderful and has changed my world, but its asynchronous delivery only makes me want to plant the latency bean in some fertile garden so that I can climb the vine to the ultimate marketing prize… real time tracking and delivery of information that I opt-in to.

Keep an eye on XMPP. And especially keep an eye on the first company to tap into its marketing power (Identi.ca?).




Twitter Track and Twitter Abuse

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On Saturday I noticed that my tweets were being repeated by Twitter user @panopticons (if you’re curious about the name, it refers to an 18th century jail design based on seeing every prisoner that has been extended into a metaphysical metaphor). I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but as the day went on, the retweeting was constant and annoying.

It was annoying because I use a function of Twitter called “Twitter Track” on GTalk which allows me to track terms that I am interested in such as “Wilco” or “Nascar” or “Obama” or “Ryan Adams” or “Asheville” (btw, if you use Twitter Track, I do not suggest tracking “affiliate”… omg). I also track people’s names that I am interested in, so that I can see both sides of the conversation that person might be participating in and not just one way conversation. And of course I track my own name in case someone I’m not following, etc tweets me so that I can see them and respond.

I prefer using GTalk as my Twitter client because even though I follow close to 2,000 folks I can turn device updates on and off for close friends or people in town. That makes the Twitter stream much more controlled rather than a firehose. Plus, I’m able to use the GTalk app on my BlackBerry to stay in the stream when I’m mobile.

It’s a perfect system… or so I thought until Saturday night.

I dug a little deeper into the @panopticons account and found that the account and many similar ones were set up by a guy named Noah David Simon in order to prove a (misguided) point about privacy and information:

My aliases on TWITTER are listed on my website. I’m keeping it transparent so it doesn’t bite me in the ass. Eventually I assume most of you will unfollow n block me… but by that point I will have perfected the craft of puppet accounts! puppet accounts can be fed N2 a root account, where I can follow all fools that thought they could block me. there is NO blocking! the final account will take the RSS feed of multiple accounts and run it N2 one account. you will not realize the new account is me.

Please understand that I have absolutely no problem with protests, satire, uncomfortable demonstrations with a sharp edge of irony, etc. There is a needed place for those sorts of things in every aspect of society, especially something like Twitter where the micro nature of the platform often engenders a feeling of unnecessary importance (even more so than Techmeme and the blogosphere).

However, the point being made here about privacy is just mean spirited (especially with some of the back and forths that have developed on Twitter and in the GetSatisfaction forum for Twitter) with no real point to be made beyond who can yell the loudest and longest.

Simon and his supporter (no plural there) @prokofy (see the GetSatisfaction forum if you need more) suggest that if people don’t want to be troubled by the retweeting of their messages, they should stop tracking their own names and that if you’re tracking your own name, you’re doing so just for vanity purposes. That’s a ridiculous premise to begin with, especially for people like myself who use the track feature to engage in conversations with other users we might not have otherwise met. Then, using bullying tactics and spewing pretty hateful messages (calling specific Twitter users who object Nazis, etc) is just immature and shows the lack of a well thought out intention behind this sort of purposeful abuse.

After being pestered by @prokofy, Steve Gillmor had Prokofy on an episode of NewsGang Live last week that pretty much sums up the situation (be warned if you listen… the podcast will make your ears bleed).

I use Twitter on a more than regular basis for a number of reasons. Twitter has transcended the realm of social networking or messaging for me and has become a neural center for my activity on the web. Because of the track feature, I’m able to keep up with a variety of topics throughout the day or at my pleasure through RSS. So, interruptions like this are costly both time and gesture wise for me.

And now for the final act.. it looks like the issue has caught the attention of the often hands-off Twitter staff:

We believe these accounts are in violation of the terms because the cross posting of updates from multiple accounts is a way to undermine the block and unfollow functions. Twitter is a recipient-driven service and when abusers seek to negate the ability for users to choose what content they receive from other users, they degrade our service. This is the stated intent of the abuser in question in this thread.

There’s also been a thread set up to discuss Twitter’s stance on abuse by Twitter admins:

What is Twitter’s stance toward abuse?

So hopefully this issue will be resolved soon.

In the meantime, we always have the spammers present to keep the town well full of piss.