Twitter Annotations and Events

Twitter is rolling out annotations for each tweet. An annotation is a user-specifiable extra bit of free-form data for each tweet sent. Annotations could be used to mark tweets that describe events – a future time and place. Twitter clients could treat these tweets in a special way.

An example tweet is “The sunny weather necessitates a lunch tweetup! 12Pm at waterfront park.” While I have though about how to build an event record from just the wording of the tweet, it might be simpler to have the twitter client allow for a place record and a date record to be inserted into the annotations.

Ok I'm going to step back and talk about the old-school or pre-annotations style of event creation anyways. If @ means user and # means hashtag, then another symbol should be used for place. This is especially likely now that twitter is building a database of places. Lets say * because it looks like something that might mark a location on a map.

The tweet in this style might read “The sunny weather necessitates a lunch tweetup! 12Pm at *waterfrontpark.” Twitter clients could sense that a tweet with a time and a place signifies an event, with the rest of the tweet being used as the title of the event. I thought about using % to signify a title but it gets too syntaxy and there is no good way to support spaces. Let me jump back to the world of annotations. While writing a tweet there would be extra UI elements in the client to add a date, place, and maybe a title too, as metadata for the tweet. This would require a new version of each twitter client to add this functionality.

Now that the hard problem of getting event information into the tweet stream is addressed. The benefit for the readers can be described. Picture tweetdeck with its various columns. Now picture a new column for upcoming events. There are a class of events that are short lived, casual, and created quickly where I dont want to create an event and tweet the URL. I might do that for a large event, but this twitter event creation is for quick meetups. As I am reading the tweetstream throughout the day I would notice events showing up at the top of the column dedicated for events. I dare say such event invitations are important enough to garner their own column.

One could go further with using the existing tools and designate an event hashtag. I could use the current tweetdeck and add a search column for #event. The example tweet would be “The sunny weather necessitates a lunch tweetup! 12Pm at waterfront park. #event” While this is barely adequate if the #event scheme is adopted, I think there is enough to gain by having programmatic understanding of the event to justify the two systems presented earlier. A programmatic understanding could alert me 15 minutes before any event started. A GPS enabled twitter client could alert me if I am near an in-progress event. An aggregation site could harvest these event announcements for whatever reason.