Osprey: event backchannels from tweets.

The signal to noise ratio within our social networks has long been an issue and no more so than when a major conference is in session.

Going beyond the hashtagAlmost a year ago, after SXSW 2011, I thought there had to be a better way to discuss events like this on Twitter without flooding the feeds of followers who might not be interested. "Going beyond the hashtag" was born which was my idea for creating temporary, implicit networks within the normally explicit world of Twitter.

I tried to pitch the idea directly to the company but no feedback mechanism exists for this kind of submission. Tweets to the likes of Dick Costolo and Jack Dorsey seemingly fell on deaf ears.

Another take

Fast forward a year and Twitter engineer William Couch (@couch) has presented a system called Osprey at SXSW 2012 which, somewhat familiarly, aims to stop tweets for specific events clogging up the feeds of our followers by creating a separate backchannel. The execution might be different but the goal is the similar.

He has created an external tool which utilises "replies and favorites, because they are inherently quiet". People wishing to participate in a particular discussion tweet @replies to a specific account which can the be voted up by favouriting. As Twitter does not have a native method for counting favourites the tool provides this ability on an external site - event panelists or organisers can then use this a way to direct the flow of their event.

Osprey at work

Obviously, being able to vote up tweets and questions is a major plus but the need to create both a new Twitter account and an external site might be seen as a drawback.

Channels

When suggesting my idea for implicit networks within Twitter I proposed that the separation of event based tweets could be achieved by the creation of temporary "channels" that could show as an additional tab within the Twitter interface.

Affirmation

It's good to see that someone within Twitter itself is recognising the problems caused by the inevitable flood of tweets in our streams caused by a major event but it would be nice for some kind of functionality to exist directly in the service. The problem with introducing any new functionality, however, is that there is a trade-off with simplicity and ease of use - especially where Twitter is concerned.

A combination of a native Twitter channel and the voting ability provided by counting favourites would, in my opinion, be the perfect mix without needing to resort to an external site.

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