I love Twitter and the real-time web. I am more connected to and better informed by those people and information sources whose thinking I admire. David Carr has a nice overview today in the NYT of how Twitter, for those who use it regularly, becomes a powerful and somewhat transformational tool the more you use it and prune it. I feel exactly the same way and find much of the same benefits he describes. Twitter, for me, is nothing like Facebook and far more useful for my professional and intellectual pursuits. Indeed, it is not a social network, but an information network.
Twitter is powerful because, as a platform, it is what we make it out to be. We, the users, provide the content, the links, the data, the meaning. Twitter just gives us some tools. Actually, Twitter really doesn’t give us tools, it provides a set of APIs and 50,000 other developers have created the tools that make it a useful platform. I bet Twitter power-users never even visit twitter.com except to search the firehose, and that will soon happen at Google.
The next step in its transition from experiment to enduring information platform is curation. Yahoo began as a human-powered directory of web sites. They categorized the web. This primitive curation was essential to the adoption of the web as a useful medium. It was not really crowd-sourced, as we think about that term, but it did require human intervention. This is what is now starting to happen on Twitter. By pruning and tuning the people/brands we follow, and selectively retweeting those tweets we find most compelling and interesting, we, collectively, are curating the real-time web. But I think this individual approach is going to fall by the way-side now that Lists are beginning to see more adoption. It does feel like brands and information sources will now build and prune lists as an important means of curation. Much of my thinking here has been influenced by @jonathanglick and @gregory who have each produced Tlists and Listorious respectively, two leading efforts at curating lists.
As Twitter soon passes 100M users, and Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace and other social nets publish into the real-time web, curation becomes more and more important. And we are all part of the solution. We just need the right tools. And they are coming.