Event Firehoses On Twitter

On Sunday night, our family sat down to watch the Oscars. Out of the six of us, four had laptops. Jess was doing her spanish homework. Emily was Facebooking and IM’ing. Josh was playing facebook and miniclips games. And I was twittering the Oscars.

I had the following tabs open; IMDB, twitter, and three or four tweetscan tabs. I was following my own twitter stream on twitterific.

I’ve been using twitter a lot lately to follow events, usually when I am watching them on TV. I’ve done that for several of the democrat debates. And I did that for the super bowl. But the Oscars were the best event so far. The banter about the various outfits, monologues, and speeches was very entertaining.

I’ve been thinking that there’s a better way to do this going forward and I am hoping someone will build this for me and everyone else who likes to hang out in twitter for these kinds of events.

Tweetscan does a great job of surfacing up interesting conversations about a certain keyword. Here’s the tweetscan result for Jon Stewart. Here’s the tweetscan result for Oscars. Here’s the tweetscan result for Diablo Cody. All of those tweetscan pages are interesting, but not nearly as interesting as they were during the Oscars.

Here’s what I want. Give me a twitterific style desktop client that I can type keywords into. For the Oscars, those keywords would be jon stewart, oscars, diablo cody, javier bardem, etc, etc. When I told Andrew this idea yesterday, he suggested that you call these collection of keywords "events" and you let one person build them and many people subscribe to them. Exactly.

Then you sit back and watch the conversation happen. When you want to wade in, you can post or reply. It’s as simple as that.

On top of everything else that it is, Twitter is a humongous chat room that you can subscribe to slices of through various interfaces. You can follow a certain group of people. That’s the primary use case. You can  track all of the conversations about certain keywords using the twitter track function. And increasingly, you can create other slices. Tweetscan has really opened my eyes to the value of slicing into and out of twitter discussion.

When an event goes down, I don’t want to just follow my established group on twitter. I want to follow the event in its entirety. Via a firehose of twitter chatter. That I can participate in when I want. Someone is going to build this. And I am going to love it.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. stone

    I’ve recently heard of a killer and commercial idea for the Twitter concept. Even though I’ve just started company #2, I may incorporate this idea or start company #3. Happy to share the idea once I figure out what to do with it.

    1. fredwilson

      Please do

  2. Eric

    You might try out a program called Twhirl. It runs using Adobe Air and works on both Windows and Mac. http://www.twhirl.org/

    1. mdoeff

      One of my Twitter contacts had a interesting comment related to this yesterday. He TiVo’d the Oscars and had to turn off his Twitter because he didn’t want to see any spoilers while he watched the event hours after it happened. I’m finding that I’m watching more and more events in real time. The networks must love this trend because they have more captive viewers for commercials.This got me to thinking that someone should build a tool that allows you to timeshift your Twitterstream. For example, if you started watching the Oscars 4 hours later, you could dial back your Twitter 4 hours (e.g. with a timeline slider at the bottom of the page) and you’d be able to see your Twitterstream in synch with the show that you’re watching. You’re own tweets would be back dated based on the timeshift. BTW, my wife thinks I’m nuts with these ideas.

  3. Jim Parker

    Fred,Great idea. This is something I have been thinking about for quite a while. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to subscribe to an event in such a way.For the sake of discussion, I like to throw a couple of problems and a possible alternative solution:First, in order for a person’s tweet to show up in the event, they would have to use one of the tracking keywords. That means correct spelling is required and existence of that keyword is a obviously critical. “John Stewart” and “Jon Stewert” wouldn’t be picked up. My idea of what keyword is associated to the Oscars event might be different than yours. Or, I might be a horrible speller.But also, that means tweets couldn’t become part of the context of the event unless a keyword was present. “Wow he just slipped on stage” (as Colin Farrell and John Travolta did) wouldn’t show in the feed as there are no keywords that identify the context – yet obviously, this tweet should appear in the “Oscar Event Feed”.So what is an alternative?What if Twitter had the concept of events built in? For example, the organizers of the Oscars could register “Oscars” event at a Twitter event config site. Then, from my phone, IM, Twitter client, or via the web, I could get a list of current/upcoming events. If I had done that Sunday night, I would have seen “Oscars” as a list of events of the night. Then, I could type eventon Oscars on my phone. From this point on, all tweets I send would go to the “Oscars” event group. Also, I would receive all tweets from other people who were attending (have joined) the “Oscars” event via Twitter.So rather than depending on keywords, I simply join an event. I get all tweets within the event context. When the event is over (i.e. the twitter event expires) then I stop getting tweets in that context.Custom Twitter Nodes is the Answer- In my opinion, it is this sort of functionality that will (should) take Twitter to the next level. What if Twitter were to add the concept of Custom Twitter Nodes where people could setup and configure Nodes to meet the needs of their event, or group, or whatever? The possibilities are endless were Twitter to start offering “Custom Twitter Nodes”. Events would be one type of node with a set of rules. Perhaps there would be a Private Twitter Node type that people could setup and join without content being publicly available. How about an Custom Twitter node at the club? Or a conference? What about a Custom Twitter Node type for the grocery store? Hmmmm. Somebody might pay for that.Yes, much of this functionality can be hacked by third parties. And many of these third parties are doing great and cool stuff. However, this type of service – Twitter Events via Custom Twitter Nodes – would be much better if it were provided by Twitter itself.(Cross-posted at http://www.attentiongrab.co

  4. Gregg Smith

    Fred-I attempted to twit you during the broadcast, but you don’t follow me (understandable considering the numbers who follow you). Do you track @fredwilson? http://tweetscan.com/index….Anyway, I twitted you about Buzztter, which aggregates the top twitter terms into an hourly twit. Pretty fascinating (I found it as it had one of my tweetscan terms listed and it popped up on my tweetscan rss). I enjoyed “watching” SNL and the Oscars with it. Right now, it’s buzzing about the apple store being down. Yesterday it was Youtube’s troubles. Looks like it was created by @dara in Japan. http://twitter.com/buzztter_en or http://buzztter.com/en.Take careGregg Smith (@taterhead)

    1. fredwilson

      I saw your post and immediately checked out buzzterThe concept is greatBut I found the interface clunkyfred

      1. Gregg Smith

        No doubt. Could definitely use some refining.Gregg

  5. Timothy Post

    Fred:I think you may have just identified one very lucrative business model for Twitter.First a little vocabulary off the top of my head:Channel: A Twitter-based SMS conversation.Event: A Twitter-based Channel with definite beginning and end dates.Campaign: An open-ended Twitter Channel.Moderator: A person/group responsible for moderating an Event or Campaign.Sponsor: A person, group, organization, company which pays Twitter to be commercially affiliated with an Event or Campaign.Anyone could submit a request to become a Moderator for an Event or Campaign. There would be both a free version and a paid version.In the free version, you could be the Moderator but Twitter would assign to your Channel a Sponsor(s). The choice of Sponsor would be determined by Twitter. People, groups, organizations, or companies would sign-up directly with Twitter to be a Sponsor. The fee structure might be based on active users. Say RPMs (Readers per Thousand). The rate per thousand? Depends on the popularity of the Event or Campaign (Channel). Like Google Adwords, each Channel would be open for bids by 3rd Party Sponsors.One simple example might be where a student from Boston decides to set-up an Event for Spring Break in Cancun. The student would then serve as Moderator for this Event and the service would be free to that Moderator/student and all Channel Subscribers. Twitter would put the Event out for bid and give Sponsors 1 day to place their bids. The winning bid? Corona Beer wins the Sponsorship of this Event by bidding 5 cents per student per day.The Boston Spring Break in Cancun event then attracts 2,350 subscribers and the Event lasts from March 12 through March 18 (7 days). The cost to Corona Beer is $822.50 (2,350 x .05 x 7). Is the value to Corona Beer worth the cost? Don’t know. Let the market determine that like it does with Google Adwords.Then there would be a paid version. In the paid version, a person, group, organization, company would be both Moderator and Sponsor. I would guess that many companies would like to use Twitter for many different purposes (marketing, special sales, employee communications, customer feedback, fan-clubs, etc).Twitter would still host these Paid Events and Campaigns. Additionally, Twitter would have both a Directory listing Events and Campaigns as well as a Search function for finding Channels of interest.An example of a Paid Event might be a political campaign. For example, Barack Obama’s political campaign would pay for Twitter to host multiple Channels related to Obama’s run for the White House. There might be a Schedule Channel, a Live Channel where a staffer continually Twitters on what Barack Obama is doing, a Issues Channel, etc.Another example might be Stop n’ Shop supermarket. Stop n’ Shop would Sponsor and Moderate a Campaign where they announce Daily/Weekly Specials. There might be separate Channels/Campaigns for each actual brick and mortar store.You get the idea.Free and Paid Channels (Events & Campaigns) would not be exclusive. There might be an official Events Sponsored and Moderated by The Academy of Motion Pictures itself and another Sponsored and Moderated by Vanity Fair. This is where Fred’s request that someone build a Twitter Control Center comes into play.For an Event like the Academy Awards you may want to subscribe to multiple Channels and the Control Center would let you simultaneously follow all Channels.Thanks Fred, yes this could be very cool.

    1. Jim Parker

      Well thought out. Right along the lines of what I was trying to say above – you just did it more eloquently! 🙂

  6. billerickson

    I know you’re not a big fan of hashtags, but they worked great for the academy awards. Over 700 tweets were tagged #aa08 – http://hashtags.org/tag/aa08/

    1. Gregg Smith

      Those popped up on Buzztter (above) and i had no idea what it was. thought it was a twitter error.How does one follow a hashtag? I see how to add one to my post…

    2. fredwilson

      I am a fan of hashtags, I just don’t understand them

  7. RacerRick

    It would be neat to have a fast past meme for Twitter… based on current/upcoming events.Or like a Digg / Delicious spy… tweets scroll by.

  8. Doug

    Hopefully if we ever get it out, the latest product we are working on will do just this. We are modifying the technology behind politweets and twittertale so you can pick what you want to track.

  9. Srinagesh Eranki

    MyPunchbowl does something similiar. That is, a News Feed for Parties(an Event if you will). More on Techcrunch:-http://www.techcrunch.com/2…Disclaimer: I’m not associated with either of those companies.

  10. Ric

    Fred – can’t believe you haven’t caught up with Craig Cmehil’s eventtrack (http://eventtrack.info/) – it started with Twitter only, but Craig has also now aggregated feeds from Flickr, Jaiku and a bunch of other socnets … follow Craig (@ccmehil) and/or @eventtrack on Twitter – or have a look at the link above; Oscars were tagged #aa08

    1. fredwilson

      There has to be a more elegant way to do this than hashtagsMy wife and kids won’t know where to start with hashtagsFred

      1. Jim Parker

        I think that hashtags are ugly.

  11. mmcbride

    We’ve been working on a very similar project, and have it in a near-alpha state right now. You can see the current version at http://www.kebima.com. Documentation is nonexistent, and it isn’t twitter class yet, but the basic idea is very similar to what you outline. It follows a model similar to twitter, but tweets are posted to events, not a personal timeline. Over the next few weeks we’re planning to add better documentation and some sample scripted events, but it’s fairly straightforward to get going with, and is open for signup at the moment. We’d welcome any feedback at this early stage.

  12. jackson

    A family that multi-tasks together stays together.I suppose If I was somehow forced to watch the Oscars I’d need something to do as well.

  13. Turker

    Part of what you describe here is interactive TV experience. This reminded of what Joost tries (tried) to do with its widgets that enable chatting with viewers that watch the same broadcast.A service like Twitter seems to make us realize that the family circle is not enough to help one enjoy TV and twittering gives us sth to do during the commercials. This may really be good for networks since people may be more inclined to watch events live rather recording them.

  14. Mike

    this is a genius idea. I had teh same one and came searching for it online and found this. Would love to find out more. It could be great for pay per view sports events where not everyone can watch – commentry by the fans for the fans type of thing. excellent.