In Real Time

So in the past couple of weeks we've seen the proliferation of a couple new "real time services," for various kinds of data. Enjit brings real time data from friendfeed (which itself aggregates a lot of data pretty close to real time), and then there's which finally brings something approaching real time twitter interaction back to those of us who have been begging for a real time/xmpp twitter interface for a while.

Though to be honest, I think that the lag is a bit more than 30 seconds, but I'm not sure and I'm not going to quibble for now. Actually I'm not convinced that this redeems twitter, given the number of other features that they've turned off (can't delete posts anymore, can't elect to not receive updates from people you follow, not to mention track) but it's a start. When they get Oauth and Open Micro Blogging implemented, [1] I won't worry. But in the mean time, there are people on twitter that I want to be able to talk to, and this is a much appreciated move.

In any case, what this week has taught us is that real time services are here, and that companies and developers are beginning to realize this and provide services based on that. The man said "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing," and I don't think you need an ubergeek to know that realtime is on the way.

Which means, its my turn--as a resident uberworkflow/user interest geek--to parse out what this means. You might think that this means that there are geeks who are wanting as much data as possible as quickly as possible. But I don't think that's the case. Really i think it's about, having as much control over that data as possible.

Ken Sheppardson, one of the folks behind enjit, talked about wanting to have was all about consuming as much data as he could. said " I only want a notice every hour or so when somebody's talking about something I care about, but I want it in time to participate." (Edit Note: I totally flubbed up the reference and introduction to this section and have edited to make me seem like less of a dip. Apologies.)

The secret is that real time means push, and the truth is I think that I read less content and spend less time reading content that comes at me real time, than I do reading the same content that I have to check on in a special client or on a web page. Why?

Because the time/energy spent on checking disappears. So if twitter is coming at me in an IM, I can trust that there's no reason to visit, unless it's to look at someone new to follow. And it's easy to tell if I've seen something before, and avoid reading the same content that people blast all over the internet again and again. (, how I hate you). And when you get your data real-time, it's easier to make filtering decisions, which is a good thing.

Converging these data streams in real time/xmpp (ff, twitter, laconica, etc.) means that your data comes to you, not that you get more of it. So from a usage/workflow perspective, I think this is wonderful.

[1]So you're probably thinking, how then would twitter make money. I'm not, for the record making this argument out of some idiomatic Open Culture position, though I'm sympathetic. Rather, I think that Oauth and OMB are features that twitter's userbase might value. I'd, totally be willing to pay nominal fees for services, like IM and track, and text messaging, and the ability to filter that stream? Totally worth a few bucks a month. And twitter could totally have special features (like their election coverage) be ad supported (which would be the most logical solution anyway) and that might be really effective. So the next person to say "but twitter has to make money somehow, they can't give everything away for free," gets branded an uncreative apologist.
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