Social Observations, OraTweet Edition

I’ve spent a bit of quality time with Noel’s OraTweet this week, mostly because of Ed’s OpenSocial app development adventures.

Noel really has done a lot with OraTweet since June, when he first showed it to me. It’s got all the Twitter features you’d expect, and it has “groups”. Don’t get too excited, it’s more like topics than groups, i.e. people follow a “group” which aggregates tweets to that group.

So, follow the AppsLab group and get any tweets sent @AppsLab.Tweet @AppsLab and reach all the people following that group. Pretty handy, especially when you’re limited to 140 characters and our handles are all standard (and longer) than your average Twitter handle, e.g. jake.kuramoto eats 13 characters vs. only eight for jkuramot.

There’s no concept of membership, which is what Twitter groups really need. TweetDeck offers user-side groups, which is enormously valuable to segment your network into logical groups. Still to be tackled are groups with opt-in membership, which would be great for customer service or team tweeting, e.g. an AppsLab group would have each of us as members, allowing us to tweet as AppsLab, rather than as ourselves.

Still, Noel’s implementation of groups is very handy. Several teams are using this in lieu of a mailing list for status updates and communication, rather than clogging each other’s inboxes. The internal mailing list for iPhone peeps is transitioning over to OraTweet to handle common questions like syncing to calendar, VPN connectivity, etc. Again, to alleviate inbox congestion.

All-in-all, it’s pretty impressive for a side project. Looks like Carl has chipped in his APEX skills to create an API for it, so it won’t be long until an AIR app follows. The XMPP integration is great; reminds me of how great the Twitter version it used to be.

What really struck me was how much uptake OraTweet has seen in under two months. Welcome back my old friend hidden demand. I first met hidden demand a year ago, when we launched Connect, and people who I’d been bugging to try Facebook or LinkedIn were suddenly collecting contacts.

The warm fuzzy of having an app behind the firewall brings out the hidden demand. Hidden demand opens a new user profile to your app too, since most hidden demand users won’t use the consumer version of your social network or micro-blogger, they bring a clean slate of experience to the party. As a designer/develoer, this helps focus the tool.

Scanning the (Ora)tweets, you notice new people finding value and using the tool in different ways. Most of the communication is reply traffic between one or more people or groups/topics. You’ll also find people tweeting their activities and thoughts. Just like Twitter, only safely tucked inside the firewall.

Twitter inside the enterprise has garnered some interest recently. Craig mentioned a while back that he was working on a Twitter clone inside the firewall, and it looks like the SDN community ran with the idea, creating ESME, which will be demoed at Demo Jam at TechEd in September.

Some of the comments on the posts about enterprise Twitter are funny. I guess you’ll always see derision from the consumer side when enterprises adopt technology. Remember intra/extra/ultranets?

For me, it’s yet another communication channel to monitor. Obviously a common problem for everyone. Although I think a Twitter-style app holds a lot value for communication within teams, I personally don’t need another Twitter, and since Noel removed Twitter integration (grr), I can’t combine those streams anymore.

Thankfully, XMPP allows that to happen in Pidgin/Adium, which is rapidly becoming the best way to monitor the firehose now that Facebook chat and Skype are (sort of) supported. Side note: why isn’t there a Twitter plugin?

My interests in Noel’s side project center around how we can roll it into Connect as an OpenSocial app. Plus, I dig the innovation that happens in a hacker’s free time. Noel didn’t have a task assigned or a project plan; he just liked Twitter and thought he could rock out something similar in APEX, in his free time.

So, do you use OraTweet? What do you think? Are you a hidden demand user? Doubt you’ll comment, but we love you. Other thoughts about Twitter in the enterprise?




  1. Jake, regarding groups, we do have the functionality to send tweets as a group but it's part of the unreleased update API. Basically the owner of the group that has the right credentials can post updates as a Group…this will be useful for triggers say on this blog…This post title can be posted on the @AppsLab group by AppsLab..then all the group “followers” will be notified.

  2. Very cool. That helps a lot. Let me know when it's ready, since I'd rather type @AppsLab than @ all of our IDs.

    Also, the 140 character constraint shouldn't apply to user names, due to their length IMHO.

    Can't wait to do OS and roll it into my Connect home page.

  3. Since we aren't constrained by SMS the char limit will probably go away. We won't be broadcasting out 800chr posts but you will be able read them through the web interface, and whatever interface you make with the API.

  4. Hmm, I like the 140 character limit, if only for its history as the standard. It does keep brevity top of mind. I've never enjoyed IM'ing with paragraph writers, too much work for both sides.

    So, +1 for 140. I would apply it only to the message payload, since the handles are longer, or bump it up to accommodate them, but not too much to keep it brief.

  5. Yeah is a hard choice, I just hate having to split up comments or worse sending something out that gets cut without me knowing.

    Freindfeed allows for more and I don't see too many uber huge posts.

  6. I don't have that problem. We're also talking about very niche networks, i.e. Twitter, Friendfeed, so I suppose it doesn't really matter. People come to the party without that expectation.

  7. > So, +1 for 140. I would apply it only to the message payload…

    Hmm, someone else suggested that recently. Now who could that have been?

  8. I don't know honestly, but I assume it's you? Where? On OraTweet? I must have missed that. No groups, no way to control the noise.

  9. Yeah, it was me. A while back on OraTweet. I think me and Carl and Noel and someone else (I forget who, sorry) talked about it a bit. As you say, got lost in the noise!

    Not being fully clued up on all this Twitter stuff, perhaps I can ask; if OraTweet adds groups and (possibly) the ability to Tweet specifically at a certain person, then doesn't it begin to converge with IM and the Chat Rooms therein, or some sort of IRC? As far as I can see it's just the web interface and possible phone/SMS integration that differentiates it.

  10. Here is what i see…you say no groups, suppose I “subscribe” to a group you belong, If I understand correctly what your are saying is that if we belong to the same group all your tweets will be received by me regardless the topic, right? Now when using @Group if i follow that group i will get the tweet regardless if I'm following you or not…therefore clearing the air for me…The way is setup now, lets you follow groups and individuals in that way if I only care to “listen” for @AppsLab topic i just follow that group…what do you think?

  11. There's definitely overlap with IM and group chat, but what I like about Twitter is its asynchronous nature. You don't expect immediate responses, which is born of Twitter's original use as a micro-blogging tool.

    Another difference: RSS allows you to eavesdrop on a stream without participating, making it a good status collecting application.

    It definitely has useful applications inside the firewall, and I'm sure someone will come up with new ways to use it, e.g. as a bot like Firebot.

  12. Groups actually covers a few use cases that are not entirely related.

    1) Grouping my own contacts so I can listen to channels and control the noise. Twitter doesn't do this, but TweetDeck does. This is a UI problem.

    2) Group tweeting, e.g. AppsLab, means membership and probably privacy controls. Think of groups in Connect, public or private with members. Join the group and you receive any tweets @ that group. Your solution now meets the public side of this, but not the private one that I can tell.

    3) Tweeting as a group is lower on my list since it hides the identity of the tweeter, but it would be useful for broadcasts and information.

    We can discuss more if you like. You might want to get Matt Topper involved too, since he's been using Twitter for a long time and has enhancements to it in his head.

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