Twitter recently added a very cool and somewhat unproductive way of what I call strolling the social graph (a technical term some folks really don’t like, but offer no good replacement). It is called Blocks and allows you to graphically see who the people you are following follow and what they’re up to. The tool itself is very well designed and fun to use. The idea is that if you are following someone, you might be interested in who they are following too. What is unproductive about it, is that it doesn’t go the extra mile of allowing you to follow people by proxy.
In JabAbout, you decide who to push your messages to, and how far you want your messages to go from friend to friend. What is missing from Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, and other microblogging sites is the ability to follow the people someone else follows without having to actually follow them. Why is this useful? Because it allows me to use someone else’s ongoing preferences in receiving content. Instead of having to constantly discover what people are following, I can just receive it. I might even want to say how far to follow (as in follow everyone my friend’s friends are following – 2 degrees away).
Microblogging will soon become more established as a general way to create newswires and deliver content (not just the social brain-farting it is mostly known for – and this is not criticism on any particular service as most are also used for valuable content). And when it does, it will need better tools to discover that content. But unlike blogs, microblogs are faster and easier to populate with content and create a completely different scale of content search and discovery challenges. Some form of tags will help but social tools are even more useful.
Social bookmarking sites such as ma.gnolia allow you to subscribe to your friends’ bookmarks though RSS or other tools, instead of keep checking and adding their bookmarks to your list. This can be even more powerful when applied to microblogs. If I use Twitter’s Blocks to find new interesting people based on the preferences of the people I am following, I will now have to maintain that list, figure out who is really useful and who is getting too loud. I also lose the information about how I got to follow that person in the first place.
If I want to get interesting content I follow to those following me I have to repeat it. This is unneeded duplication and can be very loud when done by many people. Earthquake loud.
‘Twitter Earthquake’ created by Cherilyn Nowak.