If you dipped your toes into Twitter but found the whole thing a disorganized, confusing mess, have a look at the just-launched social networking serviceeSwarm
. The idea is to take the best features of existing social networking service such as Twitter and Facebook, streamline them and apply a technology based on "swarm theory" to create, if the company's plans bear fruit, the Next Big Thing.
"This is all about the conversation. This is all about the technology," says Matt Etlinger, co-founder of the Boulder-based venture. "This is all about looking at social networking technologies, things like Twitter and Facebook and MySpace, and saying, 'There is a huge opportunity to do something more simple and organized.' And that's what we've done."
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The fancy technology in question here is based on swarm theory. As it's explained on the website, "There are principals found in nature where solutions are distributed to swarms of animals and insects without centralized control.... Realizing that people are also swarming in many aspects of their lives, they decided to build a website that would harness the human potential of swarming."
In practice, it looks a lot like Twitter, with some built-in tools to help organize conversations into meaningful groups. It seems promising, but until the userbase grows -- Etlinger reports that it's currently in "the thousands," but says they'll hit a million within a year -- the "swarms" (or conversation topics) will remain slow. Still, it looks fairly promising, fusing some of the Twitter approach to one of the 'Nets most venerable technologies, the forum. "Forums and message boards have been around -- it's kind of like the dinosaurs of the Internet," Etlinger says. "It's been around from the beginning. The tech behind forums is archaic. If I want to find three or four conversations relating to... different topics or interests, I have to go to three or four different websites. That's a little inconvenient."
Currently, you can build a streamlined profile (think Facebook with a minimalist slant) and add friends and join in any number of ongoing conversation, or start your own. Next for the company -- which was founded in 2004 in Palo Alto, California by John Temte, Tim Newcomb and Etlinger -- is an iPhone/Blackberry/smartphone app to allow the service to operate on the go. Also in the pipes are improvements to the site, such as private "swarms." The focus, now and in the future, is firmly on conversation, according to Etlinger.
"It's the most simple way to have a conversation [online] that matters. Twitter is extraordinarily disorganized," he insists. "They are not conversations [there]. A conversation is when a variety of people are talking about a topic or interest simultaneously, in real time. We know that we have broken ground on a piece of technology that is a true conversation. This is the website where the most relevant conversations are happening."