Posts Tagged Twine

The Continuing Evolution of Twine

By now, you’ve no doubt read multiple posts on Twine opening to the public with version 1.0. Though breaking news isn’t my strong suit, I have a special affinity for Twine and had to put in my two cents.

I’ve been using Twine for over a year now and wrote about its beta launch back in March. In that post, I called it “an incredibly deep, incredibly smart app that hasn’t yet found its ultimate form,” and said that “in order to ‘get’ Twine, you need to jump into it with both feet and play around.” The former statement still holds true, though version 1.0 takes several big steps in a positive direction. The latter, though, is completely off the table with this launch, a fact that will no doubt take the product further into the mainstream.

There is no longer a barrier to entry with Twine, as there is with so many other online services. I mentioned in a recent unrelated post that “users don’t get the value [of a service] without a large circle of connections and you don’t gain connections without a deep level of involvement.” There is no such problem with the new Twine, which shows you value almost immediately, without signing up. Just plug in a few interests on the homepage and Twine builds your interest feed. Theoretically, one wouldn’t even have to sign up for Twine to get some value out of it; use it as a search engine on steroids. But that would leave its real value on the table, ignoring its ability to organize your content in ways no other service today can.

Chris Morrison at VentureBeat wrote an excellent piece on Twine today, calling it a “modern-day Dewey Decimal System.” For a detailed description of how exactly Twine works, I recommend Chris’ piece, but his Dewey Decimal label gets right at the heart of the site’s real potential. Yes, at its most basic, it’s a bookmarking service, but the broader view reveals a mass categorization and organization system that requires little effort from the user.

Ultimately, I’d like to see Twine as one giant repository for online content – almost another level of the Internet. And that’s not unachievable either, when you consider the services that could plug into Twine. Let’s say that Twine develops plug-ins/partnerships with Facebook, MySpace and other walled-garden environments. You’d still interact socially on Facebook, play your Scrabble games and write on walls. But you would also have at your fingertips in Twine every note, status update, photo, and chat, automatically tagged and categorized and easily searchable. Say you’re planning a trip to Italy and are able to use Twine to find relevant content submitted by other users, alongside personal anecdotes from your Facebook friends. Read the travel article on top restaurants in Italy and see your best friend’s pictures from her Italian honeymoon, all in one place. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, as walled-garden integration is obviously not available in Twine’s current version. But I’m trying to lay the groundwork for where I think Twine could go, an important point for many who still don’t ‘get’ the service.

The path to an “a-ha” moment in Twine looks different for each user. Mine came with my private Twine, into which I dump notes on startups I meet with. I need to recall companies, people and technologies quickly in daily conversations and there aren’t any services that know my content as Twine does. My key complaint here is that I want the search refinement to improve. It’s not wholly intuitive, can be a bit slow, and I’d like more filter choices. But even with those nits, I’m still able to zero in on the precise information I need. And as a bonus, I also get other applicable articles, comments and conversations from which to draw.

Twine continues to innovate on an impressive trajectory and even more feature upgrades are planned for the next several months. As you delve further into the service and watch its tagging capabilities, think about the other online services you use frequently and what that content would look like in Twine. It could mean a whole new era in information interaction online.


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The Other End of Semantics

I wrote about Songkick last week, praising its focus on technology for the mass consumer and referenced an impending announcement. That announcement came yesterday, with the launch of a music recommendation service. Put three bands you like into the system and it returns recommendations of area concerts you might enjoy. Simple but brilliant. It works pretty nicely, too. I typed in two current obsessions – The National and Vampire Weekend – and one mainstay, PJ Harvey, and it returned Radiohead and The Cure. Two concerts I’m actually interested in seeing and will try to get tickets to. It should be said that I did stump the engine by throwing U2 in once. But perhaps it’s trying to tell me I need to update my music library.

What I like about Songkick, as previously mentioned, is that its creators aren’t interested in parsing the ins and outs of the technology. They instead want to spread their love of music through enabling technologies. I called it “music semantics” and, though the pundits in the semantic realm may take issue with that label, it’s time we embraced apps that are less wonky in their approach and focus. While Twine, Hakia, and MetaWeb are laboring in the code mines, working to build what will be the framework for the semantic Web, companies like Songkick are out in the market, showing consumers real-world applications of semantics. It’s vitally important all such players are represented, in order for semantics to develop fully and organically.

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Is Thoughtful Analysis Dead?

Mike Arrington’s post on TechCrunch this morning about bloggers and the capital around them was uncanny, as I spent yesterday pondering the ins and outs of blogging in the current climate. A bit of a ramble and frankly, lacking introspection, his post was nonetheless an interesting perspective on the blogging market and its potential future. It’s prompted me to lay bare some concerns and questions I’ve had of late.

The Guidewire is a relative newcomer to the blogosphere. Not counting personal blogs and the weekly posts on DEMO.com, Chris and I haven’t contributed much to the blog conversation. To be honest, our initial stab at a Guidewire Group blog collapsed under its own weight. We approached it with too heavy an editing hand, too complicated an interface, too… much thought, if that’s possible. We’re industry analysts by nature and trade, a profession that doesn’t lend itself to off-the-cuff musings and breaking news. We spend weeks, sometimes months, weighing market trends and startup viability and only then do we craft our analysis aimed toward Guidewire Group’s primary audience of VCs and C-level execs in technology firms. As we delve deeper into directing some of those thoughts into a blog, though, I increasingly struggle with how to build and maintain an online presence by producing interesting, mindful content that people want to read without turning into a ranting egomaniac. It’s right there in About The Guidewire:

Our goal… is to add to the conversation, not echo it. We hope that when we do wade in on an issue, we can offer a different perspective, one that’s missing from the discussion.

Easier said than done. All the well-intentioned, reasoned thought in the world isn’t worth much when people don’t see it. I think Chris best summed up our abrupt education in blogosphere politics when she said recently, “I’ve become a link whore.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Twine is Lifeline for Semantic Tech

It’s always fun to watch the evolution of a great idea. I first talked with Radar Networks, Twine’s creator, a year ago, in January 2007. In fact, Radar’s was the inaugural profile of The Guidewire Report, kicking off our in-depth look at up-and-coming companies with a bang. Unable to speak specifically to the Twine application (which wasn’t even named at that point), I mixed my praise for the idea with a bit of skepticism.

A Web that learns from its users and manages the infinite amount of knowledge available, in a unified Web-based environment, is without question where technology must head in the next few years….Convincing set-in-their ways consumers that a new form of communication, collaboration and information management is needed is perhaps the biggest challenge. Educating users on the semantic Web and why it should matter to them may require more effort than is reasonable.

It’s surprising that not much has changed in a year. The landscape in which Twine launches is just as undefined, if not more so. The chatter is rising to louder levels, as I mentioned in a recent post on semantics, making it that much harder to clearly define this important but hazy sector. Even worse, any application tied to the semantics label these days carries a heavy weight. So many are touting the life-changing aspects of semantics that disappointment is all but inevitable. By the time you’ve read dozens of articles on the brilliance of semantic apps, you half expect these programs to answer your email and write your blog posts.

It’s into this environment that Twine is finally opening up more – to the press, as of this writing – with 30,000 people on its waitlist and arguably an entire market sector watching. So…. what’s the verdict? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Encumbrance of Over-Choice

Sometimes a phrase just leaps out at you. I was reading a thought-provoking piece on ReadWriteWeb, about whether technology complicates or simplifies our lives, and was struck by the phrase, “the encumbrance of over-choice.” It comes from Richard Szafranski, Partner at Toffler Associates, and I hope he’ll forgive me for stealing it for this post’s title. Szafranski stated it as he participated in an Economist/Oxford 2.0 debate over the following premise: if the promise of technology is to simplify our lives, it is failing. The public isn’t with him on this at the moment, with 64% of voters siding with simplification. The phrase struck a chord with me, though, as it nails precisely what I’ve been trying to put a finger on for several weeks. Where does my social graph end?

Until a couple of months ago, I had admittedly only dipped a toe into the morass of social innovations now available. Screening companies for DEMO and providing analysis to The Guidewire Report monopolizes my time and I tended to try out a service for a week or two, only to leave my profile languishing afterward. But as I wade deeper into emerging tech and blogging – and present myself as an expert on startups – I’d be remiss not to immerse myself fully into key services. So I’ve dove headfirst into FriendFeed and Twitter, Twine and PlaxoPulse, Persai and YouNoodle, Facebook and LinkedIn, and some 10-15 others I won’t assault you with. The problem isn’t that these services are faulty. It’s the exact opposite – I’m loving them. Read the rest of this entry »

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