Appliances and Applications: Tools Eavesdropping

I have been talking a lot about what I am calling Twitter appliances, by which I mean tools that listen to our streams and take actions based on what we say. I contrast these with applications, where we have to go and tell the tools what to do.

Microsyntax plays a big role in my thinking about Twitter appliances. For example, geoslash (like the tweet “I will be in /New York City, NY: November 17-19/ for the #Whoozis conference”) is an obvious way that geolocationally inclined tools could pick up information about my comings and goings. All they would have to do is overhear my intentions, and capture them.

So I envision a new crop of tools that eavesdrop to do much of their work.

Take the example of online invitation services. Imagine that I want to initiate an event, a get together with a a small number of friends this evening, or something much more elaborate a few weeks away.

I could create an event by an extension to the geoslash microsyntax that would indicate not only a location and a date, but a time and a name to refer to the event, which might look like this:

stoweboyd: @twinvite @gregarious @gravity7 come to the “Karaoke Party” /Mint, 1942 Market St, San Francisco CA: Nov 27, 8-10pm/

The geoslash provides location and time information to the proxy for Twinvite, called @twinvite. But the introduction of a preceding name for the event in quotes allows a listening event appliance to put a name to the event. Since this is the first time I have referred to “Karaoke Party” the appliance would figure out that this is a new event, to be called “Karaoke Party”. It could also keep track of who I invited.

I might invite other folks to the event later, always remembering to include @twinvite in the tweets:

stoweboyd: @rachelannyes please come to “Karaoke Party” tonight! @twinvite

@gregarious might have forgotten the time and place for the party, but just remembered the karaoke aspect, so he could query the proxy:

gregarious: d twinvite karaoke

and the appliance could send him a private message back with the information about the party: location, time, and who’s coming.

Because the appliance is keeping track of who’s coming, anyone could use the appliance to send all a message to all those planning to attend, by using the name as an alias for the group of people coming:

stoweboyd: @twinvite @“Karaoke Party” looks like I will be arriving around 8pm, folks. See you!

Obviously, an application like the hypothetical Twinvite could would still provide a more conventional interface, as well, where users could browse to specific event pages, be provided with a list of events in some location or to which they have been invited. However, I predict that as people spend more time using specialized clients for Twitter, the natural tendency will be to provide more of these appliance characteristics, so that tool interaction will become intermixed with communication with other people, as in these examples.

(Anyone interested in implementing an event appliance with this sort of user interaction might want to contact me. I have other ideas about it, as well. And, amazingly, I was able to get the domain this morning, as well.)

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