Resonate – the twitter client for thought leaders

Introducing Resonate

Resonate is a Twitter client for community activists, small business networkers, artists, bloggers, and platform-specific indie developers. If you need to connect with like-minded individuals or minor celebrities in your industry, then Resonate is for you. In contrast, Resonate can’t really help you to amass huge numbers of Twitter followers.

Word cloud

Resonate was born out of my information overload from using Twitter. That is the low signal-to-noise ratio that often plagues a Twitter timeline. Resonate helps dampen the noise by aggregating tweets into word clouds so that you can quickly see what are the important happenings in your world. Word clouds enable organic, dynamic, hassle-free filtering without needing you to know what filter conditions to setup beforehand. From a bird’s eye view of tweet clouds (pun intended), you can then dive in to join individual conversations with the people that you follow.

This post shows very early mockups of Resonate’s screens. Please feel free to provide your input in the comment’s section at the bottom of this article. Better yet, join Resonate’s list and get notified when we launch.

Home Screen

The first (or “home”) screen is dedicated for incoming messages. Your @ mentions and direct messages from all accounts are consolidated into a single view. This way you can quickly glance which tweets that are important and you can immediately jump in to those conversations.

Composing tweets is easy – just tap on the compose button in the upper-right corner to compose a quick tweet. The compose button is always available and you can tweet from anywhere within the application.

From the word cloud you can also swipe to get a more traditional list of reverse-time-ordered list of messages. This is useful if you are currently engaging in a heated discussion and would like to see up-to-the-minute messages.

Account View

Tapping on an account in the home screen shows the account view. Here you can see more information related to individual accounts. You can see the account’s primary timeline, timelines from lists, direct messages, @ mentions, searches, and the tribe builder.

As always, the timelines are displayed in a word cloud. Tapping a word in a cloud shows the individual tweets which contains that word. Here you can reply to the tweet to engage in a conversation with the person or even retweet to amplify his/her message.

Tribe Builder

The tribe builder provides suggestions of who to follow and who to unfollow. The follower suggestion works by using your Twitter search results. For every match in the search result, the account will be added in the list of suggestions if you haven’t followed or add the account into one of your lists. The account’s recent tweets are shown in a word cloud form, so that you can see whether this account is interesting enough to follow. Tapping on accept button means that you want to follow this account. Whereas tapping on the reject button removes the account from the follower suggestion and will not suggest the same account again in the future. In addition, the tweet that match the search result is also shown for your review.

What about unfollow criteria? Frankly I haven’t given much thought about it. Do you want to unfollow an account if it haven’t followed you back after a few days? What if you haven’t replied any of his/her tweets for a month, should you unfollow those? Tell us in the comments why do you unfollow an account and how do you “clean up” your followings.

What’s next?

So that’s all I have for you at the moment. As you can see for yourself, we’re still in the very early stages of the design. Please let me know what you think of it in the comments. Better yet, register your e-mail address to get notified when we launch Resonate.



 

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An intelligent Twitter client?

Do you think we should make yet another twitter client?

My gripes about existing Twitter clients is that they aren’t much helpful in taming down information overload, dampening the noise and removing spam. A lot of these 3rd party clients just repackage the Twitter website or clone the official client. They don’t do much data processing to improve the user’s experience to help them gain insight and engage in meaningful conversations.

The problem makes me feel that we should take the matter into our own hands. That is making a Twitter client that can solve these problems. One use case is for extracting meaningful contents and conversations from a large number of follows. Another key feature is something to help you discover and connect with like-minded people. Something that makes the thinkers stands out above the sea of airhead teenagers and opportunistic trolls.

With these in mind, the application will probably have zero features meant for amassing herds of Twitter followers. There is plenty of stuff out there claiming to do this. Some even allows you to procure Twitter followers. I found that a large number of these followers are useless anyway since they are likely to be spambots and mindless meta-marketers. If you need something to stroke your Twitter ego (tweego?) please move on – nothing to see here.

My re-discovery of Twitter

It’s been about four months since I started seriously using Twitter again. I registered my first Twitter account back in 2009, but I was not sure what to do with it. Thanks to the miliscoble that lead me to think that Twitter was for letting off steam and venting out crap. So at the time my account only served as a sink for announcing my blog posts and various public Internet activities automatically delivered by a clever combination of Yahoo Pipes and Ping.fm

About five months ago at the influence of some podcasters Twitter again made its way into my mind. I began to actively and personally use Twitter, trying to see “what’s all the fuss about this Twitter thingy?” So, I started doing these:

  • Tweeting parts of my personal life
  • Sharing news & interesting articles
  • Tweeting my own blog posts
  • Following a number of tech celebrities and commenting their tweets
  • Got involved in a number of ad-hoc tweet-discussions.

Things that have been working so far

Talking with famous people

I found that Twitter is great for interacting with minor celebrities or thought leaders — people well regarded in their respective niches. Usually I chat with technology and small business activists in Twitter. They tend respond nicely to my queries and comments. This is quite a change from contacting many public figures via e-mail, which often goes unanswered.

In case you’re curious, who are these so-called “celebrities”? These are some of them, in no particular order.

“But I don’t know any of them”, you might think. Yes, that’s why they are called minor celebrities. The individuals listed above are pretty famous in the micro-startup and independent developer scene. But you only know them when you are “in” this field (if you are and you still don’t know them, it’s about time you do). You probably also know some relatively famous people in your own industry.

Content discovery

Another great use of Twitter is discovering relevant content. That is, finding articles, video, etc that are interesting for me. Finding content in Twitter is somewhat different from subscribing to blogs or websites via RSS feeds. When you subscribe to a website’s feed, you get a steady stream of content from only their site. In contrast when you follow a person’s Twitter stream, you get content from other sites that they find interesting along with a short comment of what they think of it.

You might think, how does this differ from Facebook? For one, you don’t need approval to follow people’s stream (in Facebook, you both need to acknowledge each others as “friends” before you both can see the other person’s activity stream). In addition since Twitter streams are public by default, there are less personal information that gets posted which may be not interesting outside the person’s real-life friends and family (i.e. those baby photographs, family gathering pictures, etc).

How do you get relevant content? By following people with similar interests. For example, I first found out about the Lodsys issue in May 2011 on a Saturday morning via Daniel Jalkut’s tweet. Then about patent troll bootstrapping model via Florian Mueller’s tweets and his blog. Of course if you don’t have diversity in your follows, you’ll get caught inside a filter bubble of online groupthink.

What are not working so far

Small business marketing

I didn’t find small business marketing to work in Twitter. Specifically, marketing our niche software products via Twitter doesn’t produce any measurable results. I followed Pluggio’s methodology and signed up with Pluggio for the past two months with the hope that this can help improve recognition and sales of our products. Within these two months there wasn’t any noticeable increment in the sales figures. Similarly click-through rates from Twitter are also low. Yes, the number of our Twitter followers grew, but we don’t have a humongous ego that needs stroking with a large number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends. So in essence this kind of Twitter marketing didn’t work well for our products.

Why it didn’t work? My guess is that people are not in the “ready to buy” mode when browsing Twitter. This is the key to selling niche products on the Internet – you want to target people who are looking for solutions to their problem and thus ready to buy your stuff (or your competitor’s stuff) which solves their problem.

Lazyweb queries

Asking open questions in Twitter – also known as #lazyweb queries — also didn’t work. Some bloggers may argue that this isn’t true since they get good quality replies most of the time. Probably it works for them since all that they do is just talk on the Internet all day and night and their followers are all hungry for attention from him/her. It didn’t work for me that still need to take care of a life-sustaining dayjob in addition to a nightjob bootstrapping a software startup.

What are the challenges for me in Twitter

The biggest problem I face is the signal to noise ratio. Specifically there is lots of irrelevant noise compared to actionable or useful information. People being people have many facets and not every tweet is interesting nor relevant. Like for example I have zero interest to which baseball team is playing this season, and I would like those kind of irrelevant tweets de-emphasized from my view, even if they came from the people I follow. Yes, they do have a right to say whatever they want, but I also need a way to filter out the unnecessary baggage.

Another challenge is in finding interesting people to follow, more importantly interesting to me. That is their tweets are relevant to the things I’m doing right now or I will be doing in the near future. Twitter’s “who to follow” lists isn’t useful for this since they tend to cater for the “mainstream”, the average, whereas I have specific needs.

Proposed solution

These are the features that I believe will solve my problems above. Strangely, there isn’t a twitter client that fits the bill. I’ve yet to see a Twitter client that has all of these features or will solve my problems above by some other way.

Why am I sharing this? Aren’t I afraid that you would steal my idea? Actually I’m thinking out loud and refining my idea with potential input from you. Besides, in the software world, people don’t buy ideas – they buy implementations of ideas (that’s why software patents should be abolished from the world, but let’s stay on-topic and save that for another post). Ideas without implementations are practically worthless.

Word Clouds

Word clouds can be used to summarize your timeline. This way you can get a bird’s eye view (pun intended) of what’s happening in your world (or more precisely what are the people that you follow are talking about). From this view, you can dive in to individual tweets that you find interesting.

Wordle word cloud of this article

Another good use of word clouds is for discovering who to follow. They can be used to summarize what a person generally tweets about. From there you can easily decide whether he/she is interesting enough for you. The idea goes like this. First you enter some keywords of the things that you’re interested in. Then the application will search Twitter for people who said those words. Afterwards you will be presented with word clouds of these people so that you can make decisions whether they are worthy to follow.

Relevance Filters

This is yet another tool to help you see more valuable information from Twitter and tune down much of the noise. Ideally there should be commands like “show more tweets like this” and “hide tweets similar to this”. In response the software will only show tweets that are relevant and important to you. In the real world this may not always be possible and the software could be wrong.

The next best alternative is to de-emphasize tweets that the system sees as less important instead of completely hiding them. That way you can still make corrections and the application can gradually learn from your preferences. One way to do this is to have the application re-order your incoming tweets based on a scale of importance. It could use bayesian filters to achieve this. Then again there are other methods of dynamically prioriting text messages.

Spam Filter

This is pretty similar to e-mail spam filters but applied to tweets instead. Based on my personal experience, the algorithms to detect twitter spams should be far simpler than e-mail spam detections since spam tweets and spam accounts are easy to spot (I’m not really sure why Twitter didn’t do this automatically already). Obviously I wont reveal my idea here since it would easily tip off the twitter spammers and made the spam detection algorithm useless. Another useful feature in this area is to quickly block spammers and report them to Twitter.

Thread support

Public ad-hoc discussions happen in twitter all the time. It’s a shame that a lot of Twitter clients don’t recognize this type of tweets and treat them in a special way. If two or more people that you’re following were having a debate, it would make sense to reorder their tweets in your view so that their conversations are placed near each other. That way you can quickly glance what they are talking about and be more informed should you want to jump in their discussion (since this is a public conversation in the first place, they shouldn’t be bothered about it as long as what you say is relevant).

Coalescing of re-tweets

If more than one person re-tweeted the same message, that’s a tweet that you need to read twice. One way to solve this is to combine re-tweets together and add an indicator how many people re-tweeted this message. But what to do about quote-retweet? That is what if someone adds more information to the retweet? I haven’t figured out how to solve that one yet — please tell me your ideas in the comments section below.

Conclusion

This is a pretty long blog post. It also took about two weeks and many failed drafts for me to gather all the thoughts and come up with a somewhat coherent article that are you reading now.

In bullet points, these are what you’ve learned from reading this post:

  • Twitter are useful for interacting with celebrities and discovering interesting content.
  • Twitter aren’t much useful for small business marketing and asking random questions.
  • The biggest problem in Twitter is the high signal to noise ratio.
  • Existing Twitter clients aren’t much help in distilling information and discovering like-minded individuals.
  • This article proposes a number of features for a next-generation Twitter client, which centers on refining tweets via word clouds and filters.

Do you agree with me? What are your problems in Twitter? What features would you like to see in a Twitter client but you can’t find it anywhere? Please tell us in the comments section below. In addition, we’re developing our own Twitter client and you can register your e-mail address to be notified when we launch.



 

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