Home Tinker Builds Microblog Communities Around Topics

Tinker Builds Microblog Communities Around Topics

Tinker, a new service that aggregates Twitter conversations around topics, came out of private beta today. Unlike services that merely attempt to track Twitter hashtag trends or attempt to describe what context a hashtag brings to a tweet, Tinker lets its users select popular events that are already being tracked, or create their own event stream by choosing a keyword or hashtag and adding a few filters, such as ‘no swear words’ and selective blocking of individual Twitter or Tinker users.

In essence, this service is attempting to build communities around keyword-based categories. Once you follow a popular event, say SXSW Interactive, you can see other people who are following the event, and who has been most active either sending tweets or Tinker posts (essentially tweets sent from Tinker), along with some helpful activity charts on the event topic. Creating a new event is almost as simple as following an existing one, just fill out a small form and your event is created. Once your event exists, you can update Twitter directly from the event page, and hopefully other Tinker users will see your update and will start following your event.

Tinker lets you get the word out on your event by allowing you to embed a widget with recent activity around your event. The widget they allow you to use, however, uses an iframe, which may not appeal to everyone. Each event does have its own RSS feed though, so a generic RSS feed widget can be used.

We spent some time tinkering with the new service and we have some reservations. The big one: You can search for hashtags or keywords directly on Twitter’s search portal. Since Tinker does not actually have its own comment engine, all contributions made via the Tinker interface go straight back in to Twitter and, more importantly, have the same issue as Twitter posts, which is simply that there is no ‘conversation’. Your posts, either on Tinker or Twitter simply serve to enlarge the buzz on those topics, but nothing to really connect Tinker users together through conversation. This can be plainly seen on the most active events where it’s impossible to keep up with all the updates happening at any given time.

Tinker has other problems too, like the standard ‘free’ accounts only allow creating events around a single keyword or hashtag. Apparently, more powerful searches are reserved for paying customers or site partners. Again, this severely limits what an average user can do, to the point where making a new event seems almost redundant. Finally, maybe it is because the service is new, but when I tried to create an event (using the occasionally used hashtag #sleep, you can see it here), it took quite a while for Tinker to show relevant tweets, then it decided to double all the tweets in the listing. On top of that, it allowed me to send several updates without confirming that they were actually posted to Twitter. As a result, I ended up spamming my Twitter friends with a bunch of duplicate tweets.

Update: Samir Arora (@samirarora), founder of Glam Media sent me a tweet stating that they are looking in to the duplicate issue. Thanks Samir!

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