Twitter Session at BarCampAustin3

Last week was the biggest week ever based on the number of updates. This doesn’t surprise me, since last week, I was finding it really difficult to keep up with Twitter. This week is even worse with sxsw, so I’m guessing that they will beat their record again this week.

Twitter is about simplicity and communication between people. Based on contraints: 140 chars, etc. Focus is on building the services that power all of the other tools, rather than on promoting the additional services.

More than 1/2 of the users are outside of the US (40% US, 39% Japan), and they are working on localizing Twitter. A group in Japan has created a site that skins the Twitter site in Japanese. It’s also interesting to note that Twitter does not work in Japan via SMS, so mobile isn’t driving this adoption.

People use Twitter for shared experiences. They have mapped spikes in Twitter activity based on superbowl events (Giants touchdown, etc.). Blaine compared it to being in a virtual bar seeing a big virtual cheer in the Twitter activity. Super Tuesday had similar effects.

People also use Twitter as a personal diary. One women has a private account for herself where she tweets about things her son said to keep as a record. Very interesting to look a 6-month summary of these kinds of life experiences.

Others use it for promotion, which Ben says may be slightly evil, but on the other hand, you can turn off the people who become obnoxious and solely self promotional. Some news (earthquakes, etc.) hit twitter 20-30 minutes before it hits the mainstream media.

Stability is the big focus (duh). The devs use the service, are passionate about it, and are really motivated to keep it stable. Moved to a new data center and are spending a lot of time now on scalability, more clusters, etc. in addition to adding monitoring tools and other system management and reporting tools. They have more than doubled the number of servers in the last 2 weeks. The problem is really hard to solve: maintaining the privacy context, real time posts to thousands of people, etc. It really is more difficult than what people think – it’s not just an easy sms application. They have occassionally “fucked up”, and are willing to admit it. They are working on capacity issues, database optimization, etc. to keep improving the stability. So far, it’s been up and fast at sxsw, which is a pretty big achievement. They are having a hard time keeping up with all of the api apps that ping twitter every minute, but they aren’t willing to cap it at 5 minutes, since it makes the service so much less valuable.

Trying to encourage people to have rich interactions that stay meaningful and trying not to encourage the people who just want to collect followers. They are also looking at adding some analysis / attention functionality. It would be awesome to know how much your traffic is going to increase when you are looking at adding another follower, for example. Also looking at allowing people to authenticate via OpenID.

A lot of people are working on Twitter bots. One lets you sms an Amazon bot to get back the price of something on Amazon.

Beginnings of a pubsub application for people doing Twitter aggregation and using the Jabber/XMPP protocol really reduces the load and increases stability.

Caveat: The stuff here from Blaine are things he’s thinking about and not necessarily a future feature. Jabber gives them addressability and ability to subscribe to specific things from other applications, like Pounce, to help break down barriers between sites to communicate with friends despite the site that they prefer to use. Lots of people are talking about building their own Twitter, which can be really difficult, but they want to allow these people to integrate with them rather than having just another silo. The focus is on openness.

Note: Blaine hates SMS 🙂