It's been a been quiet around these parts this past week, I know, and I'm sorry. I am currently in the midst of packing up everything I own because I am moving this month, so the web has taken a bit of a back seat. On top of this, I have been toiling away on some exciting projects for my clients that are keeping me very busy, too. 

I do have a great post coming up for you tomorrow on Posting Frequency (irony, how I love thee), but in the meantime, please enjoy this guest article by my friend Jonathan Crossfield, from the great blog CopyWrite. This is the very first guest post I have hosted on Smithereens, and I do believe that choosing these carefully is important, because it's your reputation on the line as a blogger. But I couldn't imagine anyone I would more readily entrust my blog to than Jonathan. So please make him feel welcome - enjoy this post and leave a comment, and be sure to visit his site as well, it's chock full of great stuff!


photo "Akron 293 AA Meeting" by watz on flickr, used under CC.

Blogaholics Anonymous

The room is stuffy. Dust floats in the narrow beams of light filtering through the broken Venetian blinds. In the centre of the room is a circle of old, metal folding-chairs.

Gradually, people arrive, nervously finding a seat. One decides to pass the time by Tweeting a message from his phone, until the accusing gaze of his peers forces him to switch it off. Another nervously slides a laptop bag under his seat, as if to to conceal it from the others. Even if he tried to explain that he needed to complete those spreadsheets for tomorrow’s meeting, no one would believe him. Best to hide it.

The last person arrives late, blaming it on her sponsor for confiscating her PDA last night. There are mumbled greetings and uncomfortable looks. A voice asks who wants to go first. The mumbling stops. After an awkward pause, I slowly get to my feet, my eyes never once straying from my shoes.

"My name is Kimota..."

“No avatars or screen names please.” The voice came from the group leader, sitting to my left. I cough nervously and nod, ashamed by such an obvious mistake.

“My name is Jonathan Crossfield. And I...I’m a… blogoholic.”

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

If you’re concerned about blog addiction, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve seen the damage blogging can do to people’s lives. But it is common for people to be completely unaware of their own addiction, missing the signs that indicate intervention may be necessary.

The following list of questions relate to 15 common symptoms of blogging addiction. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than 50% of these queries, there is a folding metal chair here in the circle for you.
  1. Do you become agitated if it has been more than 48 hours since your last blog post – even if you have nothing to blog about?
  2. Do you check your blog traffic stats more than once a day... even though your stats aren't much to look at?
  3. Do you check your Alexa rank regularly...even though no one trusts Alexa?
  4. Have you ever done a vanity search to see what people are saying about you and your blog?
  5. Have you ever boasted to family members or complete strangers about how you’ve made it to the top 100,000 blogs in the world on Technorati... even though they have no idea what Technorati is?
  6. Have you ever missed an opportunity for...uh... meaningful personal contact because you wanted to finish a blog post first?
  7. Are you unable to resist dropping text links to your blogs into everything you do online?
  8. Do you carry a PDA, laptop or other digital device around with you wherever you go for blogging on the move?
  9. Have you treated arguments over whether Wordpress is better than Movable Type or Blogger more seriously than a general election for the ruler of your country?
  10. Have you ever signed an online petition arguing for the reinstatement of Capital Punishment for comment spammers?
  11. Do you find yourself choosing activities – such as movies, books or days out - based on whether they may inspire blog posts?
  12. Do you know more about fellow bloggers who live half a world away than you do about your next door neighbours? Or some family members? (If yes, the latter counts for two.)
  13. Do you get frustrated when someone you’re talking to doesn’t know what a Tweet is? Or an RSS feed? Or a widget? What is wrong with these people?
  14. Does your ideal weekend involve hacking the code in your template, missing a bracket and then spending the next twelve hours finding your catastrophic error?
  15. Did you spend more time updating and designing the header for your blog than you did repainting your kitchen?

These are just some of the major symptoms that addicted bloggers can display. Left unchecked, a serious blog addiction can affect relationships, destroy social skills and reduce mental capacity to the point that discussions over whether Plurk is better than Twitter seem relevant and interesting to you. (This is a late-stage addiction symptom.)

But luckily, there are some things you can do to make sure you don't fall prey to the medium's heavy grip.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Don’t let your blogging get out of hand. If you are worried about developing a blog addiction, here are some precautions you can take now to avoid disaster later.

  1. Once per day, stick your head out of the window. That weird smell is what is known in technical circles as ‘fresh air’. Inhale.
  2. Proactively dump the girlfriend or boyfriend. That way you have no relationship to destroy and you’ll never miss an opportunity for blogging due to an opportunity for meaningful personal contact.
  3. Avoid having to repeatedly tell people about your Alexa and Technorati rankings by buying tee shirts prominently featuring your blog ranks. Of course, you may need to buy a new t-shirt every few weeks, and the Technorati one may only display the rank one day per week if you're lucky, but at least it will be much easier to keep your circle of family and friends informed.
  4. On second thought, ridding yourself of family and friends may be more cost-effective and efficient.
  5. Blogging on the move is great and PDAs and laptops make it so easy. But since doing so will help others recognise and criticize you for being compulsive blogger, it is probably best to just to stay indoors.
  6. Ask your neighbours if they are bloggers. If so, you may be able to befriend them online instead without feeling overly awkward AND nurture a sense of commnunity within your neighbourhood.
  7. Kill two birds with one stone - model your kitchen after your blog header.

Blogging may be addictive. But if you follow these simple pieces of advice, you may just avoid its sticky grasp. And next time you're about to lecture your grandmother for her ignorance of Twitter, take a deep breath and remember: there's always an open chair here for you.

Are you a blogoholic? Reach out to us in the comments. We're here to help.

For the longest time, we technophiles had a nagging problem. You see, we were creating all this content and interacting with others on countless social networks across the web every day, but as more and more must-join networks cropped up and unending avalanches of friend invites poured in, it all became increasingly difficult to maintain... 

Then came our aggregation salvation (or so we thought):  FriendFeed. 

With much fanfare, the brainchild of some former-Googlers arrived on the scene and promised to make sense of all that scattered social media information, aggregating into one, easy-to-follow interface. Phew, what a relief.

But, alas, we all know that when it comes to web 2.0, solutions are just invitations for new problems, and this scenario was no different than the rest. 

For just as the early adopters had started to get their FriendFeed on with a vengeance, out of the cracks came countless new startups vying to be the bigger, better social aggregator. 

Second Brain. Swurl. Profilactic. iminta. Socialthing!. The list, unbelievably, goes on and on. And then, to make matters worse, other established web services like MyBlogLog, blogcatalog, Facebook and Plaxo started making "lifestreaming" a core part of their own offerings, too.

Before we knew it, we had effectively moved from a web 2.0 landscape of social media overload into an era of social media aggregation overload. So much for technological progress.

But hey, don't give up hope, for I have a solution. 

That's right, with this post, it is my great pleasure to present to you a project I have been slaving away at, which will solve this exact problem.

This service is admittedly still far from market-ready, but if Cuil has taught us anything, it's that being market-ready is extremely over-rated. And so, in true web 2.0 fashion, I'm excited to launch my startup prematurely so that you, the user can risk all your data help me iron out the wrinkles and improve the service prior to the "real" launch. 

So, without further ado I give you the answer to your aggregation frustration:

What is

Quite simply put,, which is currently in private pre-alpha (omega?) testing, is the aggregator for all your aggregators. It is the lifestream for your lifestreams. It's the...ok, ok, you get it. It's pretty darn amazing.

Using this wunder-app, it will only take you 5 minutes to pop in your credentials on an exhaustive list of 15 aggregators, and presto- all your aggregations are belong to us will be automatically fed into your stream!

With the advent of, you will never again have to visit 15 sites in order to not have to visit 100 sites! 

Still not convinced? Well then check out my '3 Ways Will Probably Change The World.'

1) You'll Never Visit Another Aggregation Site Again

Have you ever seen a Twitter Tweet talking about some Shiny new Tech object that promises to help you manage your social network clutter, only to follow the link and realize that, oops, you already signed up for that thing the last time Rubel Tweeted it.. and you've never been back?

I know I have.

And clearly, if we can't even keep track of our keeping-track-of-stuff apps, something is amiss. 

What we need, obviously, is another app. A better one. To keep track of the keeping-track apps. What we need... is 

On, all the activity of all your friends from every aggregation service that has ever been launched (and 2 that don't even exist yet) will be fed directly into your personal stream! No more logging into dozens of services. No more hassle. 
2) You Can Use as Your Web Megaphone, Too

But won't just be useful for managing all your aggregation streams. It will also be an excellent way to broadcast yourself to the masses. Let me explain with an illustration.

Have you ever felt like no one listens to you on social media networks? 

Come on, you know what I mean. You post a witty, insightful Tweet on Twitter, and sit back with a sheepish grin, waiting to see the flood of @-replies praising you for your mastery of the delicate balancing act that is mixing humour and intellect. 

Only, no replies are forthcoming. 

It's like that old proverb: 'If you send a Tweet on Twitter, and nobody is around to care, does it still make that annoying sound in Twhirl?' 

Think about it.

Anyway the point is, many of us often feel like no one listens when we are active on social media. But luckily, can help!

That's because, with its super-aggregation powers, can also be an awesome amplifier for your online voice. If you take full advantage of its aggregator-compatibility, for example, you can force a single Tweet to appear in your friends' stream up to 15 times!  

Ignore that, Scoble! 

Just take a look at the screenshot below to see this awesome broadcasting overkill in action (Click here for a bigger version):  

When it comes to blatant self-promotion, it doesn't get any better than this.

3) Follow Your Favourites Closely With Our Patented "Stalker Streams"

Finally, will be different in one other important way: we'll have Stalker Streams.

This feature is still under development, and will not be included in the alpha release because I am still ironing out the "legal wrinkles." And I can't provide screenshots at this time for the same reason, but I still want to give you a taste of what's to come because it's so creepy awesome. 

The Stalker Stream will be a one-of-a-kind feature that allows you to track your favourite online friends in very fine detail. 

Using patented technology that hijacks borrows your identification information for other aggregation networks like those I listed earlier, and exploits makes use of weaknesses in their respective APIs, will be able to tell you everything your favourite friends have been up to, whether they want you to know or not, in one quick glance. 

The level of trivial detail in this Stream will be much greater than in the regular Streams and you will be able to click on each item to dig down further if you want (and you know you do.)

Frankly, this incredible feature is best demonstrated with an example, so just to give you an idea of what to expect, here is a plain text rendering of my own Stalker Stream of Louis Gray:

Louis Gray has Logged In on 
Louis Gray has Saved A Draft on ["How to Write Blog Posts Without Getting Distracted by Social Media"]
Louis Gray has Logged In on Friendfeed
Louis Gray has Clicked Ten [10] Links on FriendFeed
Louis Gray has Liked Six [6] Items on FriendFeed 
Louis Gray has Commented On Two [2] Items on Friendfeed
Louis Gray has Retrieved a Saved Draft on
Louis Gray has Saved A Draft on ["How to Write Blog Posts Without Getting Distracted by Social Media"]
Louis Gray has Commented On One [1] Items on Friendfeed...

You get the idea. Needless to say, the potential for snooping on your soc-med pals will be truly limitless using this feature. Stay tuned.

So, To Sum It All Up: is the future of tracking social media-tracking media, socially. is the shiniest, newest startup to launch this week. is the Answer to Your Aggregation Frustration.

So what are you waiting for? Why not give it a spin? Sign up for the closed pre-Alpha here now, and be sure and let me know what you think in the comments!

I know, I know, you all probably thought Wordplay Wednesday was dead and gone, a relic of a bygone era (last month.) But alas, if you did, you were wrong. 

For this Wednesday, our date with clever diction will be kept! 

Well, on this Welcome-back Wordplay Wednesday, I thought it would be fun to highlight a common canvas of cleverness: The Witty Tee. (Or if you prefer, Wit-Tee-Shirt  works, too.) 

Plenty of online shops have popped up in recent years to cater to our inherent desire to wear t-shirts that make people think we think we're funny. But who has time to go through all those designs and find the best, most punny shirts?

Well, luckily for you, apparently I do.

That's right, just for you, I've scoured through some of the most popular tee-shirt shops online, looking for designs that in some way used wordplay to elicit the requisite chuckles (or groans.)  In the interest of keeping it G-rated, I also filtered out quite a few models (including a few entire sites that were decidedly NSFW.) 

The fruits of my labour? They're all organized nice-like in the slideshow below, complete with my own not-nearly-as-funny-as-the-shirt commentary. Enjoy! 

[By the way, if you're reading this in a feed reader, you'll most likely have to click through to the site to see the slideshow. Sorry! But it'll be worth it, I promise.]

[All the shirts in this show can be bought from Busted Tees (the vast majority), Threadless and CafePress. None of the above are affiliate links. The show itself was made using the very cool]

Also, Jon Jackson left a comment below with a link to his own little t-shirt boutique called

There are some excellent punny shirts on his site, so check it out! Twitter fans might also like this one.  


So, dear readers, what did you think? Good ones or groaners? Let us know in the comments

Or do you have a favourite funny tee shirt that I didn't come across? If so, drop a link in the comments and let us join in on the fun!

Oh and here's another fun game we can play, as well: If you were going to design your own hilarious tee, what would it say?

I would probably go with: "Treehuggers are Sappy."  (Busted Tees, call me.)

Ok, your turn.



I've been testing out Plurk today and so far, the discussion has been really lively. There have been some great witty tee shirt suggestions from fellow plurkers on the threads about this post over there, too. You can check them out here and here.

Twitter is one of those services that seems kind of stupid until you try it, and then you can't get enough of it. It's kind of like meth in that regard. Ok, bad metaphor. But anyway, the point is most people (my former self included) just don't get Twitter until they give it a whirl (Twhirl?) Then, they're hooked. 

Something about the seamless merger of instant(ish) messaging, link-sharing, micro-blogging and forum posting just keeps users coming back time and time again, even when they were seeing more of the Fail Whale than the Twitter birdies.

Twitter has been a textbook example of the strength of community ties and the importance of being first-to-market. Even though they were (and to a lesser extent, still are) plagued by embarrassing downtime issues, and even though early adopters and tech A-listers talked up a storm about leaving Twitterland for Friendfeed or Plurk or Jaiku or Las Vegas, in the end they all came back when Twitter got its act together. The bottom line is this: nobody wants to move if they can't take their community with them.

And besides, those of us who use Twitter on a regular basis, well, we just like it, ok?

But hey, that doesn't mean we don't have our gripes.

Over the past month, I've been using the service on a nearly daily basis, and I've been compiling a wish-list of features I think should be available on Twitter, but for whatever reason, aren't. Now that Twitter seems to have, for the most part, gotten its Fail Whal-itis under control, went on a little shopping spree, and has even been trying out a new lookI thought the team might be looking for some other ways to spend whatever's left of that 15 million dollar seed injection.

And so, without further ado, here they are The Top Ten Features Twitter Should Have, But Doesn't (According to Me.)

1) Let Me Reply to a DM From Email (Like You Can From Text)

Ok, this feature won't change the world, but it sure would be nice. If someone DM's me and I have Twitter set up to forward DMs to my cell via SMS, when I reply to the text and include "d TheTweepWhoWroteMe...blah blah blah", it automatically delivers a reply via DM. Smart. Intuitive.

But when I receive a DM by email on the other hand (which is usually the case), I can't count the times that I've instinctively clicked Gmail's Reply button, only to remember belatedly that...oh right, you can't do that.

Instead, you have to fire up your Twitter client of choice, or go to the Twitter site, to respond to that message.

It should be easier: You should be able to hit reply, type the same "d Username" string that you would use in an SMS, and then type your message. Press send, and Twitter would route it to the right person. Presto. Make it so.

2) Stop Splitting @-'ems

Bad puns aside, the way Twitter treats @ Replies needs a serious overhaul. Perhaps you didn't know this, but when you publish a Tweet that begins "@smithereensblog...", it will show up in my Replies tab, even if I don't follow you. 

Makes sense, right? Otherwise you could never send a message to the A-listers who don't follow anyone back, or just to someone you've come across in your stream, but hasn't yet followed you.

But if you don't put the @ at the beginning of your Tweet and instead say something like: "Thanks a lot for being such a great blogger, @smithereensblog", it won't be added to my Replies tab and I may never receive your unabashed flattery. (Unless of course I manually search for "@smithereensblog" on Twitter Search, the former Summize, but I shouldn't have to do that.)

Scratching your head? Well that makes two of us.

Twitter, an @ should be an @, should be an @.

Whether I am talking to someone or about them, it really shouldn't matter. If I'm taking up the precious characters specifically to @ them, chances are I want them to see my Tweet. And if I want to talk about someone behind their back without them knowing, I could always drop the @. I'm sneaky like that.

3) AJAX Up My Twitter, Please

Ok, so sometimes, I forget who people are, even when I follow them. I know, it's horrible. But because of this, if someone I don't recognize right away says something profound or funny or interesting (or sometimes all three), now I have to click all the way through to their profile just to find out who they are.

Why not use some fancy AJAX to provide an unobtrusive popup with the Tweep's basic info: name, location, bio? I know this stuff is already pulled away by your API anyway, because sites like MyTweeple conveniently present contacts alongside these tidbits. So why not make better use of this info yourself, Twitter?

Oh, but one big caveat (and please take note, Friendfeed), if you do implement something along these lines, please make the popups appear on click, not on hover. There is nothing more annoying than scrolling over a page and suddenly being attacked by popups you didn't know you asked for. 

(Yes, I know some of the Apture links on this blog do the same thing, and as much as I like them, I may be removing the plugin for that reason alone.)

Oh and hey Twitter, if you're going to be AJAXifying the site anyway, how about a Gmail-esque auto-refresh function? (One that doesn't require a Greasemonkey Extension, that is.) And if you're feeling extra generous, everyone loves that never-ending-page trick, too... 

To demonstrate the benefit of adding these features, I've created a helpful illustration for you:

Disclaimer: I'm not a coder and don't claim to be one, so maybe I sound like an idiot suggesting that a Ruby-on-Rails app should include AJAX. Who knows. But I'm sure there must be some way to at least do things like hovering popups in Rails. There must be. Right?

4) Let Me Reply to Tweets From Profile Pages, and DM Friends From the Main Page

I admit it, I have favourite Tweeple. These are the people that publish such interesting Tweets that I will often click through to their profiles to see what I've missed while I was away.

And nothing annoys me more than when I come across a particularly insightful Tweet, and want to send a reply...but can't. At least, not from the profile page.

The only way to do so is to go back to the main Twitter page and manually type "@WhoeverItWas" and then send my reply. And when you do that, it messes up Twitter's Reply-Threading.

(Without getting into too much technical detail, when you click the Reply button on a normal tweet in your stream, your new Tweet gets linked to the first one, so that when other people click the "in reply to" link on your Tweet, they will be directed to the initial comment... which make it easier for people trying to eavesdrop, I mean, join your conversation. Got it? Well anyway, if you just type "@Whoever", you don't get this linkage... Hm. Well, you never know, that might have been clear to someone.)

In any case, the bottom line is that I can Reply to Tweets from TweetDeck or Twhirl or myriad other Twitter Clients. I can reply to Tweets from inside Friendfeed or from a Summize (now Twitter Search) query. I can even Tweet in reply to a blog post using TwitThisBut I can't Reply to a Tweet from that person's profile page WITHIN Twitter itself? That's just plain dumb.

And here is an issue that is sort of the opposite of this last one: On a Twitter Profile Page, you can't Publicly Reply to someone's Tweets (see above), but you can send them a private Direct Message using the Send Message To link.

But on the main Twitter page, where you can Reply to any Tweet that appears in your stream from any of your friends... you can't send a Reply AS a Direct Message, unless you click through to their profile first.

Again, this just doesn't make a lot of sense from a usability standpoint. If I see a Tweet from someone who follows me, and I want to reply to it, but not publicly, it should be just as easy to send that message privately. It's not.

5) Let Me Correct My Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes. That much we can agree on. But if that's the case, why do we insist on developing messaging platforms that provide no way to repair damaged comments? 

When email was developed, for example, the ability to edit one's message once one has clicked the send button wasn't built in. Years later, companies are being funded to invent email that allows users to recall messages. (Sadly, it's too late to ever catch on widely, in my opinion.)

But Twitter- you are the pioneer when it comes to microblogging and nano-messaging. This is your platform, you can do with it what you like and dare to innovate. Why not break the old mould and allow us to edit Tweets after they're sent? Even if it's a timed feature, similar to the one used by Digg for comments or Mixx for submissions and comments.

The reality is that we all make typos and say things we didn't mean to sometimes. If there is no insurmountable technological barrier (there may be), why not allow us to fix those embarrassing muckups without having to simply delete-and-retweet? 

Take a chance, Twitter: become the first messaging medium that allows us to have second thoughts.

6) If You Can't Stay Live, Well, You Could Always Just Pretend

As I mentioned above, Twitter has mostly gotten its downtime issues under control. Mostly. But we do still get to see our favourite Whale from time to time. Sometimes it's plain old overloaded servers. Sometimes it's the absurd decision to run maintenance in the middle of a major tech conference. Regardless, the point is that there are still times when Twitter Addicts are frantically refreshing their browsers, hoping to get their fix.

Well, Twitter, if you can't stay up all the time, why not offer your users a safety net? A backup?

There is already a service called Twiddict that lets us Tweet to our heart's content when Twitter is ailing: it just sucks in your garble and spits it out at Twitter when it decides to come back online. Don't have time to implement the same features natively? Well hey, if you can't innovate, integrate. That tact worked with Summize, didn't it?

Ideally though, I'd like to see an even more comprehensive solution, something like Google Gears integration.

Imagine being able to continue reading and replying to Tweets long after Moby Dick rears his ugly head. No, you wouldn't be getting new Tweets, but at least with a Gears-Enabled Twitter interface, you could continue Tweeting until you ran out of content to respond to.

And who knows, by the time you've worked your way through all that material, Twitter just might be up again.

7) Make Your FriendList Portable Already

For all the talk of portable social network data in the past six months, you wouldn't think it would still be such a chore to re-add your friends to each new social network you join.

But alas, not much has changed. If I have 200 followers on Twitter, and then join FriendFeed, it sure would be nice to have someway to automatically follow all the people I know I like already. Instead, I have to manually go through and add them one-by-one. (Which explains why I follow almost 250 people on Twitter, and only 50 on FF.)

Now if you're on a Windows box, you're lucky: This guy has hacked together an app that will import all your Tweeps into FriendFeed. But if you're on a Mac (like yours truly) or Linux, no such luck.

Twitter has shown promising signs of openness with their recent decision to open their XMPP firehose data to Gnip, so that third party apps won't have to ping Twitter directly every time they want to grab Tweets, they can just slurp them from the Gnip stream. Now I'd like to see them take the next step and make our friendlist portable too.

Wether this is an extension of Google's interesting Social Graph project, or an in-house solution, or even just a data-sharing partnership with FriendFeed for starters, I don't care. Just make it happen and stop holding my friendlist hostage, capish?

8) Provide Bulk Follower Management Tools In-House

This one's easy. If it weren't for services like Twitter Karma and MyTweeple, trying to figure out who follows you and who doesn't would be an extremely arduous process. For a service that revolves around social interaction, why do you make it so difficult just to keep track of reciprocating follows?

As I said above, don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to. If it would take too many resources to make follower-management somewhat usable on Twitter, then just figure out a way to integrate one of the great services that already provide the service. But as it is, the two I've listed here only work sporadically, often giving API Rate Limit Exceeded error messages if you use a Twitter client at the same time. Sorry, that's really annoying.

UPDATE: Dozens of people have been adding me on Digg today, thanks to Problogger's great Social Media Love-In project, and as a result, I've realized something else Twitter is lacking: a user-friendly "New friends" notification. 

On Digg, even if I miss a few email notifications, I know I can log in to my account and they will all be there in one place under New Friends (there's even an unmissable flag at the top of the screen when you log in alerting you of this fact.) 

On Twitter, if someone follows you and you miss the email (or it just never comes, as has often been the case), you may not know about your new friend until much, much later when you see them pop up in your bulk manager of choice. So while you're at it, Twitter, maybe take a page out of the Digg book on this one too.

9) Thread My Tweets, Please

This one is a stretch, I'll admit, and something I unfortunately don't see happening for quite some time, given the architecture overhaul it would likely require. But boy, would it ever be nice to see conversation threading in Twitter!

New-kid-on-the-block Plurk has it. But unfortunately Plurk also comes with another "feature" I'm not very fond of: an unusable interface. (Oh I'm only poking fun, Plurk fans, don't worry. But seriously, I do find the timeline view confusing. Must be my lack of spacial intelligence.) Anyway, I digress, but the point is, one of the most often-praised features of Plurk (as well as other services like FriendFeed) is the threading of conversations.

After all, it just makes sense to be able to view conversations as, well, conversations. The focus on conversations, rather than disjointed messages, is one of the things that has made Gmail so popular, for example.

But currently, trying to follow a back-and-forth exchange on Twitter is a bit like a scavenger hunt, only often without the excitement of finding the treasure at the end.

First, you might read an intriguing comment from one of your followers, directed at another Twitterer. Wondering what prompted the response, you click the In Reply To link, and it brings you to that other person's comment, but of course, that wasn't the main comment. So then you click the In Reply To Link again on that Tweet, and it brings you to yet another witty retort, but alas... still not the original. Finally, you click on the In Reply To Link one last time, only to find that the reply-provoking comment must have come from @chrisgarrett, except when they decided to reply to him, they didn't use the Reply link in Twitter but rather manually typed "@chrisgarrett", thus breaking the threading (See my attempted explanation of this problem under number Feature Request 4.) So after all this clicking, all you have to show for it is a completely unrelated Tweet from Chris displayed on your screen, and a defecit of 3 minutes of life you'll never get back.

Bottom line: Every tweet should have a Tweet-page, just like every Plurk has a Plurk-page. But instead of the Tweet-page being a largely useless floating message on whatever beautiful background that particular Tweep has chosen, why not show the message and any replies that are attached to it, in a meaningful, easy-to-follow chain?

There is a third-party service called Quotably, which aims to provide this exact service, and does it fairly well... some of the time. But it also acts as a reminder that if Twitter were to implement such a feature natively, they would have quite a bit of work to do first in making Reply-To use, and thus Tweet-threading, a lot more accurate. 

To illustrate, take this interesting "conversation" Quotably says I was a part of yesterday:

rjleaman: Nothing like an evening spent scrubbing down a dog breeder's kennels to put the whole blogosphere into perspective.
ephealy: It's too bad about SU, @rjleaman - They're great for driving traffic.
siyab: @rjleaman Have you heard of a thing called 'sleep'? ;)
smithereensblog (me): @rjleaman @kristenking I do the same thing. It provides a neat, organic kind of growth.
khalidh: @rjleaman excellent article. Thanks for sharing!
Reading that, you could be forgiven for thinking that Rebecca (rjleaman) had stayed up all night writing an article on cleaning kennels, then submitted it on StumbleUpon and that I agreed with her "organic" promotion strategy (and felt the need to let Kristen King know too?) But in actuality, none of that happened. As best I can tell, none of those 5 Tweets were related at all. Worse still, most of them were replies, only to different comments made by Rebecca. I rest my case.

Twitter needs to make threading better, and then they can either buy Quotably (hm, are we running low on VC funds yet?), or implement a similar service themselves. If they don't, they'll forever be playing catch-up with the services that already offer this functionality.

10) Give Us Groups

I've written before that Twitter should really have a Groups feature, but alas, it does not.

Last time I checked, Twitter was a social network. Sure it might get called a micro-blogging platform, but at its core, its all about the communities people form there, and the conversations that are fostered among those groups.

And because of the community-centred nature of this service, sometimes people want to post Tweets that are related to an event, or a project, or a subject. Currently, they often use hashtags to provide a way for Twitterers to track these linked Tweets. For example, check out this Twitter Search for #f8, referring to the conference that Facebook is currently putting on.

But here's the thing: when we only have 140 characters at our disposal in the first place, we shouldn't have to use up any of that space to add hashtags in order to hack together makeshift groups.

In the use case described in my article (the link above), the Copyblogger Twitter writing contest attracted 700 entries that each had to be exactly 140 characters to qualify, leaving no room for hashtags. 

How great would it have been if there had been a way for entrants to categorize their Tweets as "Copyblogger-140" or some such?

As a start, I would humbly suggest the addition of a simple box underneath the Tweetbox where users could add optional tags or categories. Then, de facto groups could be formed just by tagging one's Tweets accordingly, but without eating up valuable Tweet-estate.

The creation of full-out group pages, akin to those on Facebook or FriendFeed's Rooms, might be great too, but I can foresee arguments about Twitter starting to overstep its boundaries, and that contention may be true enough.

In any case, as of right now the hashtag solution is clearly a workaround, and it looks and feels like one. So how about an official groups/tags/categories feature to make our lives a little easier Twitter?

So What Now?

First of all, let me just say that this wasn't meant to be an attack on the Twitter team. In fact, if I didn't love the service so much and believe in its potential, I wouldn't have spent all week banging out such a comprehensive post.

Just know that I could just as easily have written a post entitled "10 Things I love About Twitter." But the nature of web 2.0 is that services need to be fluid, flexible and constantly improving in order to survive, and so this list is meant to be helpful to the Twitter team as they try to do just that.

So please, take a second to comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of these feature requests. 

And if you think Twitter would indeed benefit from more than a few of these ideas, why not give this post a Digg using the button below and help make it as visible as possible. 

Who knows, if we yell loud enough, the Twitter Fairy just might hear us and grant our wishes.