MyThinkPond

On Java, Python, Groovy, Grails, Spring, Node.js, Linux, Arduino, ARM, Embedded Devices & Web

questions and thoughts about twitter

Posted by Venkatt Guhesan on July 29, 2010

I’ve been using Twitter for sometime now. And I’ve always wondered about the settings in Twitter, especially one particular setting – “public vs private”.

Let me first review the setting. If you set your privacy settings to “private”, then all posts after that time-line will only be available to the followers that you have allowed. And if at some point of time, you decide to toggle it to “public”, then all posts (even the ones you sent in the past – as private) becomes open to the public. So all the gory details you have shared with your “private followers” is now shared with the rest of the world. There is no “in-between”. So basically either all’s out there or all’s private.

Is my notion of how this works correct?

Assuming my understanding is what’s described above, what I feel is that life in general is not necessary – black or white, public or private, yin or yang – there are a whole lot of shades of Grey (gray – for the folks in the good ol’ USA – why? – don’t know but that’s for another discussion.) in between. So if you are with me so far and share the same thoughts then we are on the same page.

Now being in the technology arena, I don’t want to be the one who always points out the problem but with no solution. So here’s a proposed solution. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.

  • You log into Twitter (or this other tool), and you see tabs at top – <Public, Private, Shared>. Now before you jump and say “we don’t need private”, hear me out.
  • Based on the tab you have selected, what you post under that tab is governed by rules defined there. So what you post under “public” is out for the world to see. What you post under “shared” is shared with folks that are following you. And what you have “posted” (back to this later), under “private” – is only displayed to you.
  • In my world, I would like to see further divisions of which group of followers gets to see which set of posts. But that’s for another day.

In that way, you can post your messages and still not worry about who’s seeing what. You are probably thinking, “dude, isn’t that what Facebook does today”. Well my answer to that is yes, but I do like the Twitter – 140 character limit. This limit opens up a world of possibilities. Devices that can now support it where it wasn’t possible before.

Here are some examples of everyday situations where I think those options makes sense:

  1. You are at work and you want to share a link to a not-so clean joke or a picture with a few of your coworkers. They are all twitter users and you have them added as “followers-coworkers”. Then by selecting your “Shared” tab and adding in your link, and choosing – “Followers-coworkers” from the drop down, I know only the folks in the “co-worker” group sees the link.
  2. You had your son or daughters, birthday party and you want to share the link to some pictures (via twitter), imaging if you could once again, go to “Shared” and choose “followers-family+friends” and now all the folks who are part of your “family” and “friends” gets the link.
  3. You find out Walmart across the nation is giving away a free TV to the first one thousand people tomorrow, and you are dying to share it with the world. Then you can go to the “Public” tab and post the message (and you better run to the store now and camp out there. Knowing everyone on Twitter is going be standing in line waiting for that free tv).

And now for the “Private” tab.

  1. Sarah has something private (say a provocative picture of her) that she wants to share with her boyfriend Joe. She goes to her “private” tab and send a link to the pic, and chooses “Joe” from the link. Now Joe (and only Joe) gets the message. Not the rest of the world. Although (in my version), when someone chooses the “private” or “shared” tab, then by default all communication between the the user and the server are via SSL (HTTPS), preventing any eavesdropping or sniffing – to make it very private.
  2. Rachel works as a network engineer for Cisco. She wants her monitoring applications to notify her when one of her servers goes offline. She has utilized the “open API” model of Twitter and has written a little code utilizing it such that when one of her server goes offline, it sends a notification – via Twitter to her Twitter profile – “rachel%private”. Now using her smart-phone, she gets notified so this becomes the Web 2.0 platform for SMS – opening up a world of possibilities.

So I hope I’ve made my case on why there is room for some enhancements to how Twitter works today. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.

Cheers.

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