A River of TWiT

twit.pngTWiT started as two podcasts way back when in 2005. Today it's a dozen shows, a live, nearly 24x7 video stream, a 24x7 audio stream, two very active chatrooms, a microblog for listeners, and a forum for contributors. In short, it's a large and growing community of tech enthusiasts built around downloadable and streaming audio and video content. My experience with Twitter, the TWiT Army, the TWiT chatrooms, and the real-time feeds at Friendfeed, plus my extensive conversations with Steve Gillmor and the other participants at Bearhug Camp, have inspired me to attempt one more live feed: a live text stream of links, comments, and notes related to the live programming. The chatrooms offer something similar, but they're more conversation focused. I see this stream more like the live-blogging that occurs during a Steve Jobs keynote, or the tweets surrounding a major news event, like the recent election. Think of it as real-time show notes created by me, our show hosts, and our community. Let's call this stream the "river." This is an experiment, but I think it could be very useful, both informative and entertaining.

176px-XMPP_Logo.svg.pngbear has set up a Jabber server for us at twit.im. That's the engine that would power this river. Now it's time to think about how we'll implement the user interface, both for readers and contributors. I'd like to make it easy enough to use that readers naturally become contributors.

Aside from installing a server and buying the domain twit.im, we haven't done anything else. So the following is purely speculative. I'd like to get your comments on it before we begin implementation. Consider the following an RFC.

The best interface to this river would, I imagine, be an IM client, but as with any stream there might be other ways to view it, in a Friendfeed room, on a dedicated web site, as a ticker on live.twit.tv, etc. I think these instances can be created by the TWiT community as needed over time. And since the river is just an XMPP stream it should be very simple - the API already exists. I would also like to have a real-time RSS feed of the full-river - that should make it pretty easy to write viewing tools. But initially, any Jabber-compatible IM client, GTalk, Trillian, Pidgin, iChat, or Adium, would work fine.

People post to the river by adding river@twit.im to their IM client. They'll also get the river content fed back on that channel. I think we'll encourage the use of hashtags so posts can be categorized: #link, #note, #location, #wisecrack, and the like. We might even want to require that every post be tagged to make it easier to filter the river. Some folks, for instance, might only want links, others might just want wisecracks, and so on.

More importantly, we'd also need some commands.

FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW/FOLLOWING - so users can control whose posts they see BLOCK/UNBLOCK/BLOCKING - to prevent spamming, by handle and IP address I think TRACK/UNTRACK/TRACKING - to allow you to watch for particular content on the river

Are there any other commands we need? Ultimately a search of some kind will be important, but we can get this for free by piping the RSS of the river into a Friend Feed room (as an example).

By implementing FOLLOW, BLOCK, and TRACK we can open up the server to anyone who wants to participate, since users will be able to precisely control the content of their feed, just as they currently do with Twitter (only better).

riverindinan.jpgI would also like to be able to create special-use instances of the river. For example, at my Macworld keynote, I'd like to be able to create a one-time use backchannel, say macworld@twit.im, that attendees could post to and follow, and that, perhaps, I could put up on screen.

At this time we don't have any plans to let users register for twit.im accounts. I don't want to bog the server down with additional duties. It's going to be busy enough as it is. But if you have an existing GTalk or Jabber account you'll be able to use that.

What do you think? Have I missed anything? Is there any functionality you'd like to add? Please add your comments below. Thanks!