The latest social software application (so-soap?) to come to my notice is Twitter. I’m no fan of these things — my friends and I stay in touch by phone or email and by exchanging shouts at the pub from time to time — but I can see that even for the not-young, some so-soaps might have practical applications. And in the case of Twitter, that application would be reporting on your location or status to those who have a need to know.
A Twitter account let’s you send a simple line or two to a website or to certain cell phones about where your are or what your’e doing. Most status statements, or “tweets,” that have been made public on the Twitter website are vaccuous or pathetic: “listening to X group”, “my boss stinks” or somesuch. But imagine that your partner or your assistant needs to know where you in your complicated day away from the office; ten seconds to TM Twitter on your BlackBerry, and you’ve dropped a time-stamped message on a website that only your chosen few can see. Sure, you could phone or email. But this is a special clear channel, free of clutter, that exists only to carry messages about your status. Indeed, there are now special little programs floating around that will put a Twitter pane in a discreet location on your desktop.
It seems to me to compete almost directly with IM — it offers integration with your IM network, in fact — having perhaps the sole advantage of posting your tweet on a website where it can be retrieved when the recipient feels like it and from anywhere with internet access.
The imaginative will come up with other uses beyond the intended narcisistic ones. As I say, it’s a new, clear communication channel, so if there’s data that needs to be sent and received in a time sensitive way, this might just be what’s called for. I believe a Twitter API is on the way, which means we may see a whole flock of new adaptations.