What is dented!?

Recently, when I run into people I haven’t seen in a while, the number one question I’m asked is “What is dented!?”

I then wonder for just a split second what they mean and then I realise they’ve seen it on my Facebook statusses:

facebook-status

Before I can explain what “dented” means, I should explain the concept of Microblogging. Twitter is probably the most biggest and most widely known microblogging service. The idea is that people post short status updates (140 characters or less) called “tweets”. When millions of users post their tweets, it starts to resemble an on-line version of a tree full of birds making a lot of short noises. When you look at the big picture, and look at what the current top tweets are, it becomes a powerful tool to track trends and to find out what’s going on in the world. Twitter also supports tags and groups, which provides more functionality in terms of tracking tweets and finding other users.

twitter

Twitter became imensely popular, and it’s one of the biggest social networking sites on the Internet today. Following its success is Laconica, which is completely open source microblogging platform software. The first major site to implement a Laconi.ca site is Identi.ca. Initially, users called their messages “tweets” just like you do in Twitter, but then some clever users started to call their messages dents, they also often say “I dent!” when someone makes a Twitter reference (where “I dent” is the first 5 letters of identi.ca). Identi.ca is probably the most popular Laconica driven service currently, and it’s widely used by free software advocates.

identica

Karl Fischer has set up another Laconi.ca service specifically for FLOSS (ugh I hate that term) professionals called floss.pro, which provides more focus than Identica.

flosspro

Other South Africans have also jumped on the bandwagon, the guys at Afrigator have written their own microblogging service called Gatorpeeps. I joined today and tried it out, I think it’s quite well done comparing it to Twitter and considering that it’s still such a new service.

gatorpeeps

That’s basically the microblogging sites I have accounts on. It would be daunting to update all of them individually, so I use a service called Ping.fm to send the updates to all my microblogging sites. It’s handy when I’m at someone elses computer or a public computer and I want to send a quick update out to all my services.

pingfm

When I’m using one of my own computers, I run a tool called Gwibber, which fetches the updates from the people I follow, and when I post my updates in Gwibber, it gets syndicated my update to all the tools I use that supports status updates.

gwibber

In Facebook, I have the Identi.ca application installed, so when Gwibber posts an update to Identi.ca, the application posts it to my Facebook status as well, and that’s where “jonathan dented:” comes from. I hope that clears it up :)

People also do all other kind of things with microblogging. Some people even connect things like washing machines to twitter and let them tweet when they’re done with their jobs: http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/03/washing-machine-hacked-to-tweet-when-the-loads-done-maytag-y/

One person has even managed to tweet his way out of jail: http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/25/twitter.buck/

Many people are sceptical about microblogging, but as the concept matures, the value and the applications become more apparent.

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9 Responses

  1. LucidFox says:

    I should admit, I thought hard over the concept of microblogging. I read articles, watched one video explanation of Twitter. I just don’t get it. Completely and utterly. I fail to understand what it’s for, its use cases, and the problems it’s supposed to solve. The wave of hype just makes me sick.

  2. foo says:

    Its like IRC, but archived on the web (and therefore teh awesum!).

    Think usenet vs forums. Its all taggy and web2.0 and shit.

  3. jonathan says:

    @LucidFox I used to feel that way too, but I’ve actually watched the way some people on IRC use microblogging services, sometimes tracking things like swine flu, etc. Some times people do really cool things with the data that is stored in these tweets/dents.

  4. Jason Crane says:

    Nice post, Jonathan. I also use identi.ca to update my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I didn’t really like it saying “dented,” though, so I turned it off using the identi.ca application page on Facebook. NOTE: This can only be done via Facebook, not directly at the identi.ca site.

  5. Mackenzie says:

    Twitter doesn’t have groups, just Laconi.ca.

    And it’s like…you can put all the random off-topic stuff you think but don’t have anyone nearby to say outloud to on there. Like “wow, the snow looks so pretty.” You would say it out loud if anyone was there, but you’re alone, and saying it on an IRC channel might be a little weird and interruptive, but saying it in microblogging’s ok.

  6. TGM says:

    “””The idea is that people post short status updates (140 characters or less) called “tweets”. When millions of users post their tweets, it starts to resemble an on-line version of a tree full of birds making a lot of short noises.”””

    There was me thinking Facebook was a car-crash made up of many dents :P

  7. Shantanu says:

    Very well said Jonathan. Even I wrote a simple hack to connect a webcam with twitter and make your own real-time security monitoring service :P
    http://tech.shantanugoel.com/2008/05/14/keep-tab-on-home-security-with-a-webcam-and-twitter.html

  8. James Tait says:

    I had exactly the same question just this weekend. I have the same setup as you, so I actually used identi.ca to update my Facebook status to explain to people what all the “James dented” malarky was about. I think Mackenzie hit the nail on the head about the utility of microblogging. I didn’t see the point for ages, but when I started posting quick updates, more-or-less commentary on what was happening at the time, it started to sink in.

  9. LucidFox says:

    Meh. I hardly see the point of letting people know of what I’m currently doing in real life (who cares?), and for short random thoughts and feedback on them, I’d need a wide friend userbase in microblogging that I don’t have the luxury of having. I’ll stick to IRC.