Things Only Twitter Can Do

Dave Winer proposes (as he has before) that Twitter should focus around being a news service. I tend to agree, although I don’t know if “news” fully captures what the platform is capable of. Twitter is able to provide answers to questions that no other service can answer and at a speed that no other platform can match.

Here’s an example: While watching Eminem’s performance at the Grammys I wanted to know the story behind the medallion he was wearing. I did a search on Twitter for “Eminem necklace” and learned that it was a symbol for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Another one: My power went out on a Saturday morning. I was worried that it might be a problem with just my house rather than some upstream issue. The first thing I did was check Twitter for any nearby tweets mentioning a power outage. (In this case I didn’t actually find any answers but the point is that I even thought to check Twitter). I’ve had good results with these cases in the past – why is there so much traffic right here? What are those sirens about? I’ve been able to get answers to those questions through Twitter. Twitter is a window into what’s happening not only right now, but right here.

I generally find that I could care less about the trends (worldwide, regional, it doesn’t matter), because they don’t matter to me. They don’t answer any of my questions and they rarely align with my interests. I think it would be a real missed opportunity if Twitter where to go in the direction of so many other aggregator services and focus on the global “what’s popular”. If there’s one thing I’ve seen from services that attempt to surface relevant information from aggregated community input, it’s that crap floats. The lowest common denominator stuff is what rises to the top.