Scripting News for 6/24/2008

Can Twitter become ubiquitous? 

First today’s news: Twitter announced investments from Spark and Bezos. Bijan Sabet will become a Twitter board member. They haven’t announced a business model, their approach is to get big and stable and figure it out later. Unlike some, I don’t see any problem with this approach. Lots of companies have made their investors very happy (and users) with such an approach.

Disclaimer: I have two friends on Twitter’s board — Sabet and Fred Wilson. Yet, I say exactly what I think about the company, as a user and a developer. I don’t think Bijan or Fred would have it any other way.🙂

Mike Arrington: “If they can get the platform stable, I believe they will eventually become as ubiquitous as email, instant messaging, sms and other forms of communication.”

This is an interesting idea that deserves serious discussion.

I agree that Twitter is that useful that it could become as ubuiquitous and valuable as email, IM and SMS. However, they have to become a fully open platform before that can happen. I don’t believe it will become ubiquitous in its current form. The platform owner has too much power. And there are disturbing indications that it may take more power. The fact that they can do this unilaterally is the big limit on Twitter’s growth. It will be hard for investors to risk on new ideas that build on Twitter knowing that the company can foreclose on them at any time.

6/21/08: “I was forwarded an email yesterday posted by a Twitter employee to their developer mailing list that suggests that once Twitter is healthy the terms will change, requiring developers to get a license from the company to use data that previously was available without a license. This is exactly what developers hate, because Twitter gets to decide how much competition they want, they can reserve markets for themselves, even ones they’re not serving. No one should have this power, it’s not a healthy situation for anyone, not even Twitter, imho. Can’t help but think they’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg here. Also feels a bit screwy that we helped them build their network, for free (isn’t it funny people only look at how they give stuff away) — only to find that now they want to take back what was open about it.”

It’s actually worse than I said on Saturday. They can decide retroactively to take over markets that were once the province of developers. Now, that can’t happen in email or IM — there’s no single vendor that has the power to destroy businesses without even launching a product. At this stage in the market development, that’s too much power. Bijan and Fred, ask yourselves what guarantee you’d need from Twitter to feel comfortable investing in its aftermarket. I don’t think you’d settle for anything less than complete freedom, upfront, before you invest a dime.

Getting NewsJunk through IM 

I haven’t tried it, but this comes recommended…

http://www.imfeeds.com/

Since there’s a NewsJunk RSS feed, it should work.

I’m going to try it now. Please let me know if it works for you.

Update #1: It was pretty easy to join.🙂

Update #2: I signed up to follow the NewsJunk RSS feed. It took a while but a new item showed up. And like FriendFeed, they ignore the RSS <description> element, which is a mistake, I think. Here’s a screen shot.

Okay, there was a short description that went with that item. Why not push it down the line?

How to push stories to NewsJunk using del.icio.us 

Underneath its simple user interface there’s a lot of RSS that goes into NewsJunk. It’s like flour to cake or ice to hockey. The product is more than RSS, but without it, it wouldn’t be happening.

As you know I’ve been re-exploring del.icio.us, yesterday I asked if it could do what FriendFeed does, keep a feed synched with its internal structure, and found out that the only way to do this was to write a script. I decided not to do that, at this time, but I did write a script that made our FriendFeed support much better. It wasn’t refreshing often enough, only once an hour, which makes the news not-so-fresh. And it bothered me that even though FF can display longish bits of text, more than Twitter, the descriptions in RSS feeds were ignored. Well, if you use the FriendFeed API, you can get around both of these problems. It took a couple of hours to connect NewsJunk to FF through their API, and it’s really nice. Highly recommended.

Another dividend of this exploration is that I hooked up my inbound del.icio.us links feed to NewsJunk so there’s a way for anyone, through del.icio.us, to add a story to the input flow, just send a link to “for/scripting”.

However, there’s no guarantee that it will appear in the output flow, we’re a very focused site, our only interest is US national politics. We’re willing to wander off-topic for a moment or two, for example when George Carlin died on Sunday, that story was added to the flow. When OPEC meets to talk about oil prices, that’s grist for our mill, because oil prices are a huge issue in the 2008 election. And when a NASA scientist says that this, now, is the last minute to take drastic action to head off a global warming disaster, we put that in too, because while it isn’t a major campaign issue, perhaps it should?

The basic qualification for inclusion is the same as for a blog — would an informed person want to be aware of this fact or point of view? That’s why we run outrageous claims from both sides, because even if you support the candidate they’re defaming, you should still know what they’re saying about your guy.

Also, the better FriendFeed interface gives us a place to discuss news events. I notice that people are starting to do that, and I think it’s great! Use all the tools and learn from them and each other. This is how politics and the Internet move forward, we think we’re right on the leading edge, and want to keep pushing.

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