Twitter – the world is watching?

I begin by reminding my readers that I’m a simple IT Director; but perhaps not as simple as some, and perhaps more adventurous than most. That’s the disclaimer out of the way.

I started using brightkite last week, just as a mechanism for seeing whether adding location information to tweets would have any value. I tweeted that it was a shame that my BB with its inbuilt GPS didn’t provide a means of capturing location and feeding it direct to twitter (or whatever) but persisted in telling those that were interetsed that I was moving around Cardiff …. boring. However the idea of updating your profile (in twitter, and potentially in any other system or Web2 2.0 service) of where you are is a potentially very interesting and valuable idea. Indeed, if you take it to its logical conclusion you have links between presence awareness (through GPS and Instant Messaging, or Twitter) and the potential for real face-to-face meetings. That sounds really interesting on a campus as spread out as ours, which is on the edge of a city centre where so much social interaction takes place. So, it’s worthy of further investigation.

Then yesterday evening I discovered twittermap and twittervision which display in real-time the public twitter stream. It’s a neat mashup using the Google Maps and twitter APIs and you don’t need to do anything to get on it. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean. You don’t need to do anything, you just start the thing! All of a sudden you see “twitterworld” passing your frontdoor. You see people close (spatially) to you, who you don’t know – tweeting away. You see, in real-time, the conversations on a global scale of all that is going on in twitterworld – some of which you’d not wish to be associated with. In other words – you see the public tweetstream. It’s really neat, and yet it’s really scarey too!

My first reaction was to come off the public twitter timeline … after all I don’t really want to share anything I’m tweeting with anyone who isn’t following me (as if I felt I had anything worth reading). That would take me off the public twitterstream and therefore (possibly) off any other less-obvious API that was catching my profound utterances through twitter.

But then I had a chat with my mate – breadedcod.

Once again the issue is one of education. It’s one of context … Maybe I’d been lulled into a foolish sense of community-security by seeming to be only tweeting to a community that I was controlling [I want to follow X; I don’t want Y following me] I do have to say however that when I decided to follow 10 Downing Street, and the response came back that they were following me …. that really freaked me out!!!!!

Wake-up call.

Just reflect that if you’re on the public line and you do  see everything I’ve tweeted. That means (as in twittervision and twittermap) that someone (any supplier, any interest group, any …. whatever), somewhere, could be gathering information and making market intelligence interpretations of everything you tweet.

Now, I’m not that naive … I did know that twitter was open … honest.

But …. and this is the crux … I hadn’t done the risk analysis. That’s the one I’d already done when I decided that I needed at least 3 blogging platforms. I’d talked publicly about context, appropriate language, etc etc and although I’d subconsciously applied it to my posts on twitter (I hope there’s nothing that proves me wrong on that one); I hadn’t proactively, and consciously applied the same rules to twitter as I had to my blogging.

So … this blog is a personal reminder to mself and anyone else that reads it . When using any like-tool to twitter, to remember that the “world is watching”. After receiving the wise counsel of breadedcod, I’m not coming off the public timeline of twitter, pownce, brightkite, jaiku or anything else ….. but I am going to be more circumspect in my tweets – after all my boss might just type in

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