Twitter Evolves #nextstep

The good folks (partial list) at Twitter are doing their best to catch up with the emergent behaviors and ad-hoc constructs that rise from user innovation. These last couple of weeks we had announcement of official support for Retweet (mock from the Twitter blog below) as well as location data for individual posts.

Project retweet (from Twitter Blog)

While both are great, Twitter will only be ready to take over the web when they official adopt the next feature in line: support for adult-material spammers to add everybody as their follower at the same time.

Or, more importantly, hashtags.

A first-class support of hashtags will be the final nail in the coffin of Twitter taking over content everywhere (the Web, the world, the old media, TV, everything). Hashtags support would not only mean that a user can flag the topic of their post (#iran), saving a few characters on the way. Solid support for hashtags would mean that any user would be able to semantically tie their tweets to any type of object, virtual or real. Couple that with the flexibility of the Twitter system, and you have a platform where anyone can “attach a note” to anything, anywhere, anytime.

Examples? But of course. My tweet is about Society Coffee in Harlem. My tweet is about Sony Playstation III. It’s about the first episode of the Mad Men latest season. My tweet is about Rutgers SC&I. My tweet is about the web page of Rutgers SC&I. My tweet is about the New York Times article about Retweets. My tweet is about Ayman Shamma. My tweet is about Calexico.

Wait, how would that be different than just adding the hashtags in the text (e.g., #societycoffee)?. Well, Twitter people are smart. And they are friends of the good folks at Flickr. They will surely support Machine tags a-la Aaron‘s.

Machine tags will allow a much more robust (read: semantic) connection between the hashtag and the object discussed. I will still be saying #AymanShamma, but the system will store #facebook:user=111111 (or #twitter:user=22222). I will be saying “Calexico live in Barbi Tel Aviv” and the system will store #lastfm:event=33333 (Flickr’s machine tag now sports 1.2 million photos with a machine tag). Similarly, whether it’s a product name, a web page, a school name… a strong Twitter and client implementations can help users assign exact semantics (when they so desire) to any post.

Especially with location.

Context aware Twitter clients are a step away of being able to provide the users with the power to comment on anything, anywhere. I am pulling my iPhone out in a restaurant. My Twitter clients knows where I am, and gets IDs of nearby restaurants from Yelp. The client lets me select the restaurant I am in (or guesses it automatically based on the text and location). My post is now tied to the semantic object that is that restaurant (identified by Yelp ID, #yelp:biz=society-coffee-new-york-2) instead of just matching the text of the restaurant name (“Society Coffee” would not help much in matching and search tasks).

The Twitter API would surely allow other players to “read” all this content. Companies could show tweets about their products on the product page (or even ask users to tweet with #REI:productid=444444). If you are in a live event, a big screen can show all the content tagged #lastfm:event=555555 (which will be easy for any user to add to their post using their location- or calender-aware client). And more.

“If you liked this painting tweet #moma:paintingid=6666666”. We might see a lot more of these in the future. Twitter will bring on the object web. Just hash it out already!

p.s. Of course, our ZoneTag already did all these things (on Flickr) by 2007.

8 thoughts on “Twitter Evolves #nextstep

  1. ayman

    Tags on twitter generally follow a theme, idea or concept. I think this is similar to Geo in many aspects. Where you say ‘San Fran” I say “SF”. When you say “Williamsburg” I know you mean NYC. Or which #MOMA is which #MOMA. I’d like to see a concept similar to Where on Earth (WOE) applied to tags from Twitter. But I’m not sure what to call it aside from WTF.

  2. naaman Post author

    Well, i think you are talking about namespaces and hierarchies. As in, Twitter should support a certain sets of tags that are well-defined namespaces, like geographic entities. When you have that, you can have relationships between the concepts (e.g., subsumes).

  3. Raphaël Troncy

    Ayman, Mor,

    Have you heard about SemanticTweet? ( is a first step. Your followers represented in FOAF + support of geonames.

    Toby Inkster [1,2] went one step further with the Micro Turtle proposal (mttl). See [3] for the spec and [4] for examples on or [5] for the IRC bot. Basically, all your tweets represented in a triple format (yes, like RDF, but encoded in the turtle syntax) … and, if you use the hashtag #mttl, then they automatically feed a triple store with a SPARQL endpoint.

    Wouldn’t be great if all hashtags were actually common tags [6] (yes, a la flickr machine tags)?


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  5. naaman Post author

    Hey Raphaël, first of all apologies, your comment had to be fished out of the Spam pool. Too many links for the Spam detector, I guess!

    Interesting – I certainly didn’t know about all these. However, I am pretty sure you know what I would say about… I like my triples free like the wind! (well, they can be represented in some well-defined format, but should not be exclusively tied to any specific “well-defined concepts” – yes, a la tags. 🙂

  6. Dean Eckles

    Hard to disagree: ZoneTag was visionary 🙂

    Interesting to think about how different tag structures create different spaces for conversation. I wonder how optimal (conceptual) size of a tag for conversation changes with the size of the network.

  7. Joe McCarthy

    Well, I think Twitter is almost ready to take over the web. A recent spate of new followers on my Twitter account (@gumption) all had 10,000+ followers and were following 10,000+ other Twitter users. Upon examining one of their tweetstreams, I saw one of them promoting a service, (aka, a “reciprocal following system” that promises “automated followers and automated cash”. From what I can gather, when you sign up for the service, the service immediately adds all current subscribers to your Twitter follower list, and all of them are added as followers of your Twitter account.

    This commoditization of followers suggests the beginning (or continuation) of an arms race that will rival the manipulations that SEOs use to gain greater Google PageRank … and it doesn’t appear restricted to adult-material spammers.

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