Thursday, December 04, 2008

Watching a Great Idea Unfold: Customized Microblogging Networks

Shout'Em logoSteve Dembo alerted me to shout'em, which professes to be the "Ning" of microblogging (like Twitter)--a "roll your own microblog" service.  I think this is a great idea that would combine the simplicity of the Twitter concept with the more targeted information flow of Plurk (did you ever think you'd hear Twitter described as simple?).

Right now, shout'em is more promise than delivery, but there is enough there for you to get a real idea of the potential.  Basically, you can start a shout'em network around any topic, allowing each of us to then join any particular networks we are interested in.  For example, I started a network (of course) for Classroom 2.0:  http://classroom20.shoutem.com.  You could join this network and track the conversations, but instead of having to watch every post people make about all kinds of topics by following them on Twitter, theoretically posts to this network would just be about Web 2.0 in the classroom.

Now, there's a lot of functionality still missing from the service (RSS feeds are supposed to be available in the next day or so, for example), so it's hard to say for sure that this will be all that it promises to.  The privacy functions which seem to be coming aren't entirely clear to me, but maybe they will be when everything is functional.  I can also think of lots of features they aren't showing yet--for example, I'd love a way to text messages to one or more specific network.

I do think the analogy with Ning holds, and so the promise is great--but so much of Twitter seems to depend on third-party apps that help users to interact with it in ways that work for them, and I wonder how hard it will be for shout'em to incorporate all the usability needs as it's growing the service.  And I wonder about responding to the interest and growth, which I predict could be massive, and even Twitter suffers outages and sporadic service because of what must be huge logistical and technical loads.  I really hope that shout'em can do this because I see all kinds of great potential--from classroom to family to ad hoc networks that become incredilby useful because of their being so targeted. 

You need an invitation code to join shout'em right now, but it didn't take much fishing around to find one for me.  I'll also keep tracking their progress here if you want to wait until it's not so experimental to try it out. 
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