30 June 2009

Twitter as Attention Machine

I am reading On the Origin of Stories, a new book by Brian Boyd, which to make a long story short, draws conclusions from recent research into the mind and evolutionary psychology, that status is essentially attention (or at the very least attention is the currency of status). I can see how this applies to Twitter. The ability to 'favorite' another twitter's content is yet another way of bestowing attention. Twitter is an attention machine. When visiting a twitter's profile, being mentioned or retweeted in the stream of updates or being favorited are ways of gaining attention. A twitterer gains when a user with high attention favorites one of their tweets and more so, when they retweet.

27 June 2009

Mixing Conversation and Story

I realize now the real problem I have been working on and off for ten years now is 'conversation' versus 'story', but particularly applicable to journalism. In a way, conversation and story are like oil and water, they do not like to mix. Yet, stories are filled with dialog, or conversations, so why is that journalistic stories cannot contain dialog? Well, when it is an interview, they do. So what we need is a network tool that seamlessly integrates conversation (interview, written dialog, transcript) with story (narrative, reportage, essay and analysis). It looks like Google Wave has the closest technology to achieving this flexible confluence of conversation and story, even the potential for our conversations and stories to be both mobile and distributed. If every smart phone adopted Google Wave, and given that it works similar to email, which mobile computing already provides and is a robust and well-known commodity service, it promises quick adoption avoiding any centralized monopoly.

I envision the same tool could be used by a reporter to do an interview (dialog) and for personal self-expression (dialog, like Twitter, only sharing little bits of information, such as links). An interview consists of dialog, little snippets of information associated by place and time. This has the form of Twitter messages, but a chat application is much better for doing an interview than Twitter, so some new mechanism must be created to accommodate flexible use, moving between story and conversation, between longer and shorter length posts, between collaborative and authored posts.

Turning off the data tap for Routesy

An interesting question about ownership and rights to data in public use has arisen, chronicled in Apple kills Routesy app, my iPhone gets less useful

Routesy is an iphone application using data provided by the municipal transit authority, through an agreement with a data provider. The details are in the article, if you care to read them.

I have to agree the company has a right to license predictive arrival times, since such information requires investment in research and development, formulating predictive algorithms and such information does not meet the requirement of being "obvious" and thus non-proprietary.

However, the ultimate solution would be an application that took GPS data from every iphone riding the metro at any given moment, if it can be identified as to which bus it is, then do the same kind of approximate arrival time calculations NextBus does, only through peer-to-peer networked computation. Let all the iphones on the bus line find their own position, communicate with each other, track the movement of buses, compare to published schedule and then present the approximate times to the riders. A distributed system of self-analysis. Since all iphones would be held in private hands, and the data shared between peers, who agree to participate by sharing data on their location, the data would be owned by no one. Each person would own their own location and decide whether or not to share it.