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Giving Smaller Internet Voices a Bigger Online Stage

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First Published: Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology – April 13, 2007.

If In a previous life, I had a business partner who would explain to me that the future of technology was just an incrementally smaller version of what we already did. For example, in 1996 he described to me that the huge brick of a cell phone I carried around was eventually going to be nothing more than a tiny device in my ear. (The Bluetooth earpieces interrupting us daily are a clear indication that my partner was right.)

Getting smaller is not just about the technology we use — it’s also about making the time it takes to get things done smaller. News once took weeks to make it across the Atlantic on shipping lines. Now we see a blog posting and an attached cell phone snapshot go from event to front-page news in the time it’s taken me to write this article. If blogs weren’t a publishing voice fast enough for you, then you’ll be glad to know about microblogging. Using your cell phone, you can send blogs that are no longer than 140 characters via your cell phone, IM or web.

People using social networking sites like Facebook have begun to micro-blog on the recently added “Newsfeed” option. Using a new micro-blog service called Twitter, bloggers have a new voice. Users embed a Twitter badge on their MySpace page, for example, so real-time updates go from your phone to their MySpace pages. They usually just explain what they are up to at any given moment. It can be pretty mundane, but is sometimes amusing. Twitter.com recently came on the scene as another one of these Web 2.0 items. Web 2.0 is being greatly defined by social networking apps. Twitter makes it incredibly easy to update your friends, “followers” and the world at large about your every thought or movement if you so choose.

Twitter is more than just another noise in the blogosphere — it has an addictive set of features. Sending text messages to the Twitter Vision or Twitter Map provides instant gratification and provides a great shared experience as you watch the blog blips appear out of nowhere. It’s unclear whether this technology will lead to less blogging or just add to the clutter.

Applications for this technology are not yet completely clear, but I immediately thought about emergency notifications or a good source of leads and info in breaking news. It doesn’t take much to imagine how celebrity sightings on TMZ could be mapped by the Twitter Map technology. Alternatively, if you are part of an activist group, you can have your group members “follow” the group via their cell phones so any text updates go to all members. The technology is not brand-new, but the application seems somewhat unique. As you read in this space last time: Web 2.0 is not about the new; it’s about taking what’s been around for a while and making it better.

There are some questions we won’t have an answer to until this plays out a bit longer. For example, how does microblogging affect your Technorati and Google rankings? Will the technology be more useful as a plug-in to existing communities like RSS, or can this community of Twitter fans exist on its own?

The answers are all a little blurred, and we’ll just have to wait to find out if this is another flash in the pan or something attractive to all online communities.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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