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  • Andrew T Schwab 6:38 pm on April 28, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , communication, global village,   

    So What is Twitter – Part Deux 

    This tweet come across from Jason Calacanis today on my new favorite subject – what is twitter?:

    JasonCalacanis This quote “twitter is dial tone” from TWIT is really trending…  http://tinyurl.com/ce5v6n @ev @biz @leolaporte

    Which got me thinking about my last blog post “So what is twitter anyway?” in which I so eloquently compare twitter to the old party line service where several households shared the same phone line, (or did I?)

    If Google is the card catalog to the library then Twitter is the village party line.

    Well actually I started to, and then through the edit process ended up with this:

    If Google is the village library then Twitter is the village.

    So is twitter the dial tone, the party line or the village?

    Put simply Dial Tone is a connection waiting to happen.  In the 20th Century it was the dominate connection right up until the Internet hit in the late 90’s.  Since then we’ve been in a state of flux communications wise with the advent of email, Instant Messaging, Voice Over IP, Cell Phones, triple play voice/data/TV service, etc… Personally I think the Dial Tone of the 21st Century is more about the ubiquitous, always on connection to the Internet we keep hearing about and not so much about what we do once we make the connection.

    A party line on the other hand is something that comes after the dial tone fades away and a connection is made.  It connects multiple people simultaneously provided they pick up the phone and participate.  I think this gets us closer to what twitter looks like today.  But just as the party line evolved into the one to one and one to many traditional phone service we know today, so too will twitter.  Already people are finding ways to narrow the focus and bring twitter more in line with “mainstream” communications.  The use of # tags and search allow for a filtered experience of the party line, allowing a listener to hear only a subset of conversations.

    So perhaps Twitter is more like a party line than Dial Tone (sorry Jason) but what about the idea that it is a village?  Well this is where I was struggling a bit while writing my last post.  I wanted to make the point that Twitter is a tool, just like google, the World Wide Web or Skype.   They all allow me to access information and communicate in the old ways.  What twitter has done that Google and Skype have not is empower me to quickly and easily participate in a global conversation.  I don’t have to subscribe to a mailing list, belong to a forum or exist in a contact list to participate.  I don’t need to install any software or even know any of the other participants.  I can just open my browser and start posting and everyone watching the stream can see me.  It is as though all of us on twitter are sitting around a giant campfire and as we feel like it, we stand up, shout out into the blazing darkness and then sit back down again.  Twitter Founders Evan Willams and Biz Stone built the bond fire and invited us all to come out of our huts and share.  So in that sense I do feel like Twitter is more like a village than anything else.
    What do you think?

  • Andrew T Schwab 6:30 pm on April 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Edubuntu Loadbalance, , LTSP-Cluster, MILLE-XTERM,   

    So what is twitter anyway? 

    Yesterday I was using Google to search for a way to load balance more than one Edubuntu Server for an upcoming summer project.  Usually I can find what I am looking for on Google in the first page or two but this time all I could find was an old Linux Journal article from 2006 about a project called MILLE-XTERM.  I grew quite excited as I read through the article as the application was exactly what I needed.

    My excitement was short lived as I went to the MILLE-XTERM site only to find that the project hadn’t been updated since 2006!  A dead end.  I went back to Google to see if I could find something more current but failed miserably.  During this time, twhirl had been chiming away with twitter posts and suddenly a light bulb went off.  Why not ask the twitterverse?  So I posted this question:

    What ever happened to the MILLE-XTERM project – http://is.gd/ukpq? Load balanced LTSP thin clients, is there another way to do this?

    I then went back to searching Google not really expecting anything to come of it.  Not 2 minutes later this popped up in twhirl:

    AlexDLWS @anotherschwab Yup … LTSP-Cluster

    Bingo! And shortly thereafter more good news :

    bligneri @anotherschwab Hello. In fact, MILLE-XTERM has been integrated into LTSP and is now LTSP-Cluster. Same design, same team ;-) http://www. …

    bligneri @anotherschwab Blog of developer http://tinyurl.com/dxkx3f, Revolutoin Linux page : http://tinyurl.com/ltspcluster

    In less then 5 minutes, twitter had found the answer.  And then I realized what had happened.  This was the same feeling I got when I started using Google so many years ago.  The simple page with the little box you typed your terms into that magically revealed sites with the right answers.  The multiple search terms, having to use AND and OR, the quotes, re-arranging the terms.  No more.  Compared to what had come before google deserved to become a verb.  It just worked and the answers came.

    Starting out in my career, my technical knowledge was broad but not very deep.  No matter; Google had the depth.  Together we were unstoppable.  Not sure how to setup RAID5 on an HP, Google it.  Need to repair a corrupt Exchange Information Store, Google it.  Windows, Linux, Solaris, Mac.  It didn’t matter.  Google expanded my abilities in ways I could have only dreamed.  Knowing what to search for became more important than simply knowing how to fix something.  I have used the former skill for life long learning, the latter continues to expire as technology evolves.

    Google plugged me into a vast library of technical information and put it at my fingertips.  Now twitter has done something much the same; only it is not a library of information that is available, it is us.  We the people, the creators of the vast online forums and electronic documents, the blogs and the technets.  The authors are now on line and accessible.  But not just the authors.  As Google cataloged the digital knowledge of so many who took the time to contribute to the world wide web, now twitter makes it possible for the rest of us to participate.  The readers and the lurkers.  The admins too busy to write up a how-to or post a blog.  The teacher with 3o years experience that just learned how to get on the Internet yesterday.  We are now all just a tweet away.  Trying to find the best netbook to deploy in education, twitter it.  Need to load balance Edubuntu, twitter it. Don’t know how to follow the #educhat discussion on twitter, twitter it.

    And so a new verb is born.  Google was a boon to the sharing of knowledge, but in many ways it is now confined by its great success at such a single purpose.   If Google is the village library then Twitter is the village.  And so my ah ha moment came for twitter this week just as it did once upon a time for Google.

    People talk a lot about what twitter is or isn’t and how to use it.  Twitter is different, its disruptive, its new, its exciting, its the buzz.  Twitter is something for everyone.  For me it is a tool.  Where Google was the favorite tool in my tool bag, the big sledge hammer I could pull out and use to fix most any problem, twitter is my new shiny multi-tool, able to adapt and change to meet unexpected and challenging situations.  It can be search; it can be IM; it can be chat; it can be customer relations; it can be advertising; it can be collaboration in a classroom; it can be my PLN.  It can be whatever I need whenever I need it.

    Friday it was search, today it’s shameless self promotion and whatever tool twitter becomes for me next, one thing is certain it won’t be arriving in a box.

  • Andrew T Schwab 6:01 pm on April 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: global food crisis connected   

    Food for thought 

    I just finished reading an article by Lester R. Brown about an impending global food crisis entitled “Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?”.  In the article Brown makes the case that the combination of global warming, population growth and declining fresh water aquifers is a recipe for a global disaster.  The prediction is pretty grim and completely feasible.  Nation states will fail as their food supplies disappear.  As more nations fail, the world will destabilize.  As Brown points out, ” It is not the concentration of power but its absence that puts us at risk.”

    Or to put it more bluntly, we can negotiate with a head of state or as we’ve shown ourselves capable in the past we can  bomb the state back to the stone age.  Try doing either to a failed state comprised of a bunch of warlord militias and starving mobs and suddenly our political and military advantages go right out the window.  As we have seen in places like Somalia, the old ways do not work anymore.  Has any great nation ever succeeded in keeping the barbarians at bay?

    An impending global food crisis is but one of many such global challenges we face.  Generations before us have also faced great challenges and as a result of their determination, creativity and effort, we stand here today confronting our own.  However here today in this age, we have something past generations could only have dreamed of.  We have global instantaneous communication.  We have mind share, the cloud, Skype and Google.   We can twitter a thought out loud and someone half a world away can hear us and join in on the conversation.   This is why I found the last paragraph of the story to be most striking.

    We desperately need a new way of thinking, a new mind-set. The thinking that got us into this bind will not get us out. When Elizabeth Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker, asked energy guru Amory Lovins about thinking outside the box, Lovins responded: “There is no box.”

    There is no box. That is the mind-set we need if civilization is to survive.

    There is no box.  The title I chose for this blog over a month ago when I realized fundamental change was going to require a fundamental shift in how we look for solutions to the challenges we face.

    The time has come for us to stop defining ourselves, our actions, our responses by what was possible, but rather let us leap ahead and look to what is possible now.  Let us tear down the four walls that have defined us and confined us.  Let us take a step forward into a future that is connected and realize that there are new and better ways, together ways, to make a difference.  To live connected.  The time has come to think, not outside the box but about what we can do without the box.

    • Sam Walker 7:01 pm on April 23, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Couldn’t agree more – Enough with the box. Hasn’t anybody realized that the world in food, water, economics, politics (and the list goes on) is all interconnected now. It amazed me to see Europeans smirking at the US at the start of the economic crisis (thinking we’ve done this to ourselves through greed) only to realize a couple of months later this was happening to us ALL.
      I’ve thought for long time the way the US can bring back its credibility in this world is to focus on feeding the world. We actually pay farmers NOT to grow food when we could be telling them to grow more, gaining the ability to feed ourselves and much of the starving rest of the world. This idea dates back to Bible times, but it is relevant even today. We have the technology to work on the water problem as well, but it’s not a priority – yet. Just my thought. As always, you can take it or leave it.

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