Social software du jour: Twitter and Virb

Recently I’ve been toying with Twitter, a viciously addictive little social networking/microblogging application intended to work on mobile devices. Twitter lets you post 143-character bursts of self-expression (where you’re going for lunch, what the cat ate for breakfast, what social networking app you’re moving to next) and broadcasts them to all your friends foolish enough to subscribe to your feed. You can both post and read through text messaging, IM, or a web interface. Twitter seems to have the attention of the early adopters — all the usual social networking cool kids are on it.

me at twitter

Oddly enough, Twitter isn’t location-sensitive, unlike its competitor Dodgeball. It seems to me that being able to filter by location would be a natural for both senders and subscribers. If I’m out for the evening or attending a conference I might want to be able to connect with only those of my friends currently in the area. Perhaps Twitter’s decision to be both mobile- and IM-friendly is a limiting factor: it has a minimalist set of controls suitable for texting from a keypad, and it can’t use location info from the mobile service provider because that would be unavailable from an IM client.

Another social app I was recently invited to is Virb, a wannabe MySpace killer. So far it seems pretty much like a feature-for-feature MySpace clone without the totally disgusting design. I’ve heard that Virb does a better job with music features but I haven’t investigated that yet.

If anybody would like a Twitter or Virb invitation, let me know. Virb is presently in stealth beta and I only have a few invitations left, so act fast.

Update: ValleyWag has reported (or manufactured?) a flap about Michael Harrington being embarrassed on a panel recently when he brought Twitter up on the screen and somebody in the audience twittered something flip. Surely that has happened whenever a brave presenter has tuned into the livebloggers and IRC. Of more interest to me is Twitter founder Evan Williams’ remark (mistakenly attributed to Stewart Butterfield) that “Every time I hear ‘UGC’, a little part of me — and everything I’ve ever believed in — dies.” What’s the gripe with user-generated content? Is it a question of marketing-centric terminology or really something he doesn’t like about the idea?

Vlogging == slogging

Chandrasutra has posted some thoughts on video blogging , to which Tony Walsh replied with a screed in the comments:

[Vlogging] robs me of granular control over my information. Text is somewhat random-access, and easier to skim. Video and audio are more sequential and harder to breeze through. With video and audio, I am at the mercy of the media creator. With text, I’m the boss. …

Then there’s the fact that video footage isn’t very search-friendly without spending time manually-annotating the footage or providing a transcript.

Hear, hear. Video and audio are too damned real-time.

Of course there is inherently visual and/or auditory content which calls for multimedia. And I suppose that vlogging is a good thing if it empowers some couch potatoes to become active producers of video culture rather than passive consumers. But I see vlogging as a special case rather than as the natural next step in the development of blogging.

Which reminds me of another semi-curmudgeonly point I’ve been meaning to make on the related topic of podcasting.

Has there been a semantic shift in the term “podcasting”? When I first heard of it I thought it referred to the practice of aggregating audio in the form of RSS feeds and automating its delivery to your MP3 player. I understood it largely as a way to time-shift your online audio listening — TiVo for npr.org and bbc.co.uk, you might say. And it was a natural fit with MP3 bloggers and other aggregators of online music.

But now I hear podcasting used to mean “audio blogging”, with a number of people working on turning their daily thoughts into audio feeds. That’s a fine experiment, but unless they’re producing content which is most compelling in spoken-word form, I’d probably rather just read it.

So — did podcasting mean audio blogs all along, or is that a more recent development?