Thursday, November 29, 2007

Useless Tools of Importance

The latest and greatest of the web provides us with a plethora of tools to play with and communicate with. Some of the tools out there seem pretty...well...silly at first glance. Some of these probably still seem that way to people who don't "get" what we are calling web 2.0.

Of course this "useless" moniker could have been applied to a lot of stuff that is now common place. Who needs a web page? Why do you need email? Wireless - what for? The list goes on - probably forever (who needs a telephone in their home...)

A few of these tools were tools I used on in my recent road trip. The two tools that took center stage were Twitter and Utterz, and to some extent the two of them together.

Twitter was definitely something that I didn't get when I heard about it. It sounds narcissistic at best, and pointless for the most part. Oh yeah, let me broadcast details of my daily life, like people care. Well the truth is - in physical space we do broadcast details of our daily life, not to everyone, but to anyone who is in listening range of our casual conversations. "Hey I'm heading to the x movie.", "I'm on my way to a restaurant", "I read this really cool book". Just over the web we didn't chat in public spaces and how many of your friends were really on line that you'd tell them online instead of in person.

Twitter sort of changed that picture, and although we may have started with only a couple of friends, or people we thought were interesting that we wanted to eavesdrop on, eventually this evolved. People we followed followed back and casual chit chat developed into relationships - in part by the other places where we could "go out and talk" like chat rooms on the live video websites, real life meet-ups and Second Life.

Utterz is a bit more recent. Quite a few people that I was following on Twitter were using Utterz (I know because their Utterz were tweeted.) At first I though it was yet another add on service - there are many out there. Eventually enough people were uttering that I had to check it out. (Ok, it got my curiosity going.) Something about Utterz is better than the other "record audio" services out there. You can call in on your phone and it records your message. You can send videos and pictures and text and also have it be part of your Utterz. And, and I think this may be the key feature, it can tie into other services - twittering, auto-posting to blogs, and the like. That feature is what let me know about it in the first place.

A road trip is an awesome time to spend time thinking, and experiencing the road. With all the thinking there is a desire to capture those thoughts because once back in the crowd of civilization that perspective can be lost. I suppose the answer for some would be to keep a journal of the adventure, or even record ones thoughts on tape. (Admittedly I did record some of my thoughts on voice recorders.) However Utterz and twitter added to this experience. They provided a way to record my thoughts and at the same time share them with others. The people who cared about my progress (and safety) on the journey could all receive messages as I progressed on my journey, and for others they could enjoy my journey vicariously. At the same time when I came to a place to stop I could check in and see the responses to my updates. It was a pretty amazing experience, and it was interesting seeing peoples responses to the journey. At the same time these "new tools" provided comfort for those who worried about me journeying alone.

Could I have done it without these tools. Sure - for now. But it may be that some time in the future broadcasting tools, and the way we gather information, will make tools like twitter and utterz essential, just like the "luxury cellphone" has become an essential item when traveling.

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