Over the last few weeks I’ve slowly become addicted to Twitter, and I got to thinking about how Twitter could fit into a corporate environment. It’s a bit difficult to see where it could work at first, largely because it’s actually quite difficult to explain exactly what Twitter is, and how it works. In some ways it’s like IM presence, but more dynamic - my IM status reflects what I’m doing, but in a very non-granular kind of way. It’s even less helpful if you’re working in an IM environment that ties into a system like Exchange, because that picks up calendaring information but doesn’t support more detailed presence information.
Twitter on the other hand is like IM presence crossed with a very, very short blog.
It’s kind of difficult to think of too many hard applications for Twitter inside the firewall, but the soft benefits are easier to make tangible. Some of my coworkers are now using Twitter, and as a result I now feel that I know them that much better because they’re Tweeting about the mundane fine detail of their lives: the kind of mundane fine detail that real relationships are built on. If I know that they’re off to play football, or are playing with their kids, that’s social information that may not neccessarily be normally available to me - so by subscribing to their Tweets I start to build up a richer picture of their lives.
That’s got its own dangers, of course - some people want to deliberately keep their personal and private lives separate, so Twittering away too readily would break down that Chinese wall.
Travelling to Interesting2007 yesterday I was getting Tweets from others doing the same, so even though I was travelling alone, there was a real sense of a massed group of fellow slightly-mad people converging on a single point.
And Twitter was also functioning as a virtual back channel during the day - I’ve been to a number of conferences where the real action takes place in the back channel rather than the presentations themselves, but the use of Twitter - and Jaiku at Reboot, for example - means that the backchannel spreads far wider than just the physical location of the conference itself.
So is there a corporate application? I don’t know - but I’m sure if one emerges, it won’t have been overtly designed, and it won’t have been something that’s been pre-approved by a committee.