bored of tracking twitter et al.

You know when you have a great idea, you tell a bunch of people who are vaguely skeptical but some time later a weak version of that idea comes out and everyone thinks it’s bloody fantastic?

Maybe you don’t.

I had such an idea just over two years ago. I was noticing how people on MS messenger were changing their screen name to say what they were up to and using a community tagboard to make personal mini-announcements. I was getting into MySQL/PHP at the time and so knocked up a working prototype. I didn’t have time to do major development but did a lot of thinking and observing of how it was being used.
I was also watching, waiting for someone to jump into the evolutionary niche that was staring me in the face.

There was a site called buddyping based on location with SMS and then last year something called twttr came out. It gained a few disambiguating vowels and became a big hit in the blogging community. Initially, I was irked by this but then I realised:

  1. It’s proved my original motivation. There is a basic need to be met. However…
  2. It’s still not as good as my app. I have extra features but I also have a fundamentally different underlying model. This comes from…
  3. Having sorted out my ideas with little precedent, I have a clear, independent vision of how it should work. It’s very hard to be original when you have already adopted an existing model. Any twitter-clones that come along are likely to be twitter++ rather than anything really innovative.

I think Facebook could still flatten the field and I think they know it. They have the large network and a decent mobile interface. Scan their developers group and the API and you’ll see they are careful not to let any third-party run away with their networks. I’ll probably get more worried when they lose the ‘is’ (if you know what I mean).

So, anyway, this is where I declare that I’m going to stop obsessing about this stuff to friends and actually do it. I’m doing it because if I don’t I’m going to have to wait for another couple of years for the twitter-clones to get round to recognising the issues that I already have elegant solutions for. And that would be even more frustrating than the last couple of years have been already.

My Cercia contract expires at the end of June by which time I’ll have my corrections done and a few quid in the bank. Interested parties are encouraged to get in touch.

4 thoughts on “bored of tracking twitter et al.

  1. I remember trying out your bodtracker years ago. It wasn’t bad but I haven’t checked it out recently. Where do I go?

  2. yes…. well i’d have been one of those vaguely skeptical people, and i was also one of those people who constantly updated their msn name and posted what i was doing on the circus board. The difference between those apps (+ facebook) and the likes of bodtracker and twittr is that the status thingy isn’t the main purpose of the app, rather a convenient secondary function. Admittedly i’ve not looked too much into Twittr but this is because of the way it is sold – simply constantly posting what i’m doing seems rather egotistic (esp when i’m out), and not constantly posting would make me feel guilty for having an out of date status (as that’s it’s main function – if you can’t use it properly don’t use it at all). As for looking at other people’s statuses, i wouldn’t log in specifically somewhere just to see what other people are up to (seems a bit stalkerish) where as with a status integrated with another system is a useful feature (i know there are rss feeds and an api, probably even a firefox plugin but i’m talking about real (non cs) people here.

    Plus the last incarnation of bodtracker didn’t have anyway to post messages to other bods (i presume this will change) so you don’t have anyway of knowing who’s read and has any comment on your status (i don’t suggest you allow people to see who’s read their status as the stalkers wouldn’t like that) so you’d just feel like you’re status updating for no reason and get bored.

    Also i was under the impression that your original bodtracker idea was to do with location – like “i’m in the park – come find me” while this seemed very well suited to university life i couldn’t see it working elsewhere (admittedly the popularity of facebook has shown the uni market is fairly huge anyway) – also i didn’t think many people would (at current gprs rates) post via mobile.

    right, having said all that i wish you the best of luck and hope that gives you some food for thought to make your app even better.

  3. Yeah, I know the feeling. But it happened so many times that I take it for granted now. Nowadays I’m just happy that they built it and proved that it was a good idea. After all, I have a million and one great ideas but limited time in which to do them… and being incredibly lazy doesn’t help, either.

    Hopefully I’ll get Flukebox up and running in some useful form before somebody else does it… or maybe I’ll just check one more RSS feed… 😉

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