Twitter can expand its vocabulary a bit

I find it strange that advances in technology seem to somehow induce us to learn less and less: we become more and more ignorant as technology improves. Examples abound, semi-randomly: the advent of the pocket calculator means we can’t do mental calculation any more, email, SMS, and now Twitter! Arguably email and SMS have induced people to write badly, just check your last few emails – I bet people wrote beautifully crafted letter before all this appeared. As the Twitter generation comes of age, what’s communication going to end up like?

To expand on the Twitter example, hermits aside Twitter has been all the rage lately. Yet on Twitter, the verbs that can be conjugated are limited to tweet and retweet, both of which suggest that we have become birds. Incidentally, people don’t appreciate being given bird names 🙂 . But even birds are known to have a larger vocabulary, if you watch some of David Attenborough’s gems. So why wouldn’t Twitter expand its vocabulary, or just open up an expression platform?

There’s a whole range of impressions, feelings and knowledge that could be usefully expressed on Twitter:

  • like, nice: I like it (or, I dislike it)
  • interest: Interesting (or, Not Interesting)
  • buy: I would buy this  (or, I wouldn’t)
  • recommend
  • know: I know about this (or, I would love to learn more about this)
  • explain or reference: here is more information on this topic (or references)
  • etc.

I think there’s potential for a large ontology to grow here, making the platform even more powerful. Twitter would be terrific as a core ontology engine: create, visualise, browse knowledge and connections. Knowledge would organically build up, there’s an untapped crowd-sourcing opportunity in this. I’m sure there are groups out there harvesting and mining the massive amount of data generated on Twitter, but what if some of the mining was also partially occurring at real time on the platform itself?

The challenge in designing useful ontologies would also be entertaining, but it needs not be difficult or even be moderated.  So like any upgrade path, I would make such a service an opt-in branch and see if it catches on. Clearly this would only apply to a small group of the users, but who knows what might develop if it were available? It could be fun to see large crowds playing with ontologies in new ways and in real time. This would be more than just staring at a tag cloud evolve.

Note: this is an oldish post that sat as draft for a while, time to publish it.

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