Capillaries can carry compressed context

I’ve been playing around with FoxyTunes, installing it in Firefox, getting the TwittyTunes extension. And it’s not just because I like music. I think what’s happening here is very powerful.

Let’s start with Twitter, it looks harmless and gormless, what possible use could it have? After all, what can you do in 140 characters? Let’s see.

First off, I can send messages that look like the one below. I typed it in myself, it described what I was doing at the time.


What don’t I like about it? Well, it’s not good enough for the 21st century. For starters, I shouldn’t have to type it in. Something should be scraping what I am doing, capturing it in a way I can choose to share with others. Choose, we must remember that word. And what else? Oh yes, wouldn’t it be nice if I could enrich the information I was sending? Provide more information about the artist or group, maybe YouTube video links, maybe Wikipedia links, maybe Flickr links, maybe even the homepage of the band or group. How about a link to the song itself, so that someone else can sample it, try it out, decide for themselves if they like it? Maybe even a way to search for more information, and the tools to buy the CD or DVD in physical or digital format?

Chance would be a fine thing, but ….. how can I SMS all that? But wait a minute, the 140 character limit isn’t a real limit, not if I send a short url linking to all that. Or even better, having someone do that for me, a web service like tinyurl.

So now all I need is for someone to build an app that scrapes what I am listening to, figures out what it is, goes and collects the enrichments and conveniences I want to send with the information (band links, YouTube, Flickr, Google, Amazon, the Facebook fan page, maybe a Netvibes collection of related feeds, the Wikipedia entry and so on) and then packages all that into a small space using something like tinyurl.

Which brings me to TwittyTunes and FoxyTunes. Now my Twitter message looks like this:


It does the scraping, directly out of my iTunes. It lets me choose whether to share what I am listening to with others, song by song. It sends the message on to Twitter. But that’s not where the value is. For that, you, the “follower” of my tweet, need to click on the link, and hey presto, you get something that looks like this:


You see, this is why I play with things like Twitter. Not because I want to appear cool. But because I am so old and grey and slow that the best way I learn is by playing. Now I can really see how something like Twitter can add value in the enterprise. And I’m secure enough in myself to want to share what I find out, openly and freely. Which is what I’m doing here. [Without a business model or a monetisation plan in sight :-)]

It’s worth bearing a few things in mind. First there was the web. Then there was SMS. Without SMS there is no Twitter. Without the web there is no Twitter. Now we’ve had tinyurl for a long time, but it starts coming into its own when we start using something like Twitter. As a result of all this, someone else could build something like FoxyTunes (which looks like Netvibes meeting, and then building TwittyTunes to connect up with the Twitter world. And then suddenly everything else waltzes in to enrich what we can see and do, ranging from text to audio to video, from search and syndication and conversation to fulfilment.

What strikes me is the power manifest here, the power of connecting simple things like SMS and tinyurl and Twitter. Small pieces loosely joined, as David Weinberger said.

We are moving into a world where open multisided platforms will dominate, with simple standards and simple tools connecting up wide open spaces. We are seeing it happen now. This post is not about FoxyTunes. Or TwittyTunes. Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Google. Or Amazon. Or iTunes. Or Flickr. Or YouTube.

It’s about all of them. It’s about all of them, and the apps we don’t know about yet, the ones that will emerge tomorrow. How we can find ways of bringing all of them together and moving information around them, linking information between them, enriching and sharing that information beyond them.

By the way, we do stuff like this in the enterprise already. This is what we use e-mail and attachments for, this is why we use mailing lists and address books and spreadsheets and documents and presentations. All the things we’ve grown to love.

Or, in my case, hate. If you’re like me, you’ve had it with those tools. Absolutely had it. H.A.D. I.T. They are so not fit for purpose. Or. looking at it another way, there is a generation of tools out there that are so much more fit for purpose.

We’re not dealing with firehoses any more. We’re dealing with capillaries, as I discussed in my post yesterday. And these capillaries carry and distribute information nutrients, and process and eject information waste and toxins. The real power of all this lies in the increasing transportability of context.

Oh, incidentally, in the past, I’ve found the tools for grabbing screenshots frustratingly complex and time-consuming, so I’ve tended not to use them. It is fitting that this time around, I could do all this easily. Because of a project called Jing, and because I then had simple and seamless ways of going from Jing to Flickr to iPhoto to ecto to WordPress. And guess how I found out about Jing? Through someone’s tweet.

Also incidentally, it would be worth looking at the role played by the opensource movement in making sure we can move around so freely between all these applications. Which brings me to a strange conclusion. More a hypothesis. Am I right in considering the possibility that VRM is necessary only because everything is not opensource? That good opensource obviates the need for VRM? Doc? Don? Steve? Chris? Chris? Anyone out there?

20 thoughts on “Capillaries can carry compressed context”

  1. Open source and VRM complement each other but one doesn’t replace the other.

    Open source just means that it’s easier to exchange data because you can see the code that created it. It doesn’t mean that someone will actually do the tweaky work of pulling in someone else’s data, or that the maintainer of the data source won’t change it in a way that breaks the recipient

    On the VRM question…business apps typically just sit there and wait for the user to fill in a form. When can an application go get the information for itself? What kinds of resources can a user set up in order to let more applications do that, make the user fill out fewer forms with the same information, and push out the information that the user wants to be seen?

    “To me this 300,000+ person organization feels like a small company.” — Sacha Chua

    JP, if you’re looking for examples of connecting social software to other information, try Sacha’s blog.

  2. Since Pandora has become hard to access outside of the UK, I have been trying Meemix, but theri attempts at connecting with Twitter are lousy. And it was pretty much the first thing I was looking for.

  3. Windows Live Messenger has been integrating your “now playing” with Windows Live Messenger for a long time and has much of what you’re looking for JP.

    however, the integration is too client side focus and what you’re suggesting is way more powerful and more cloud based. we should have done this ages ago…

  4. I love the capillary metaphor and how you’ve highlighted how these apps mash together presence, Twitter, sharing, context, automation, hyperlinking, etc. for music. My head absolutely explodes (happily) when I start to apply this model to the dozens of other core things we all do with our computers all the time. The magnitude, speed and potential editorial quality of what we could all curate for one another in our networks is a little mindblowing. Great post.

  5. Thanks for the comments and the encouragement. Steve, I think the key difference is that I want to choose. I want to choose when and how and what. As part of an open multisided ecosystem.

    That doesn’t make Windows Live Messenger or Windows Media Server wrong or evil, it’s just that I want to be able to operate across historical silos; I then become the integrator.

  6. Hey Philos, thanks! BTW I went to your site and the first thing I saw was the Don Quixote illustration. Thought you may be interested to know I have over 180 different editions of the book, each with a different illustrator, covering 300+ of the 402 years the book’s been around.

  7. “If you’re like me, you’ve had it with those tools. Absolutely had it. H.A.D. I.T. They are so not fit for purpose.”

    BUT–they ARE “fit for the purposes” of about 97% of people out there. Does that put you on the edge? Maybe. But most people do not need any more than what is already out there, and probably NEVER WILL.

  8. Conceptually, capillaries are an amazing, spot on concept. I have been thinking about this same space for some time now, but your thoughts have really brought some other things into focus.

    In essence you are advocating for – but you are looking at the ways in which we can make the systems smarter for us, which I referenced in this post earlier this year on “Smart Agents”

  9. My only collection is this of Donald Duck’s comics! But again nothing special and all in greek language.
    I believe that your collection of Don Quixote must be unique of its kind worldwide!
    But I also believe that there is a good karma because the theme of my post was different and I chose the Don Quixote illustration just in the last minute. I loved it through dozens and dozens of others that I found in the specific site!
    Have a good night!

  10. Have to agree with FND here ( that whilst this information is cool, it’s a bit noisy.

    I have ( scrobble my tracks, and when you add friends into the mix you get some interesting results. plays your friends ‘radio stations’.

    I can also see what friends are listening too, trends of all those across are listning too, users with similar tastes and what they’re listening too.

    I think all these tools are great, they all have mashup friendly APIs which makes powerful plumbing possible.

    Twitter asks the question: what are you doing now? What you are listening too is an appropriate answer to that question, but that answer can be powerful elsewhere too.

    There’s no right or wrong answer, for me I like separate tools with loose plumbing rather then cross-pollination of information. However, then there is the question of discovery and context.


  11. I like the capillaries metaphor! Pushing out the odd earworm is cool, especially when annotated, especially with a URI, but if you tweet every tune you play amongst your tweets then it’s no longer a capillary, it’s a twerp-firehose and you risk alienating some of your followers.

    What’s needed is a separate capillary for your music feed, maybe a @radio_jobsworth user might be in order?

Let me know what you think