Thursday, July 22, 2010

Twitter as Lightweight Public Database

I was checking out the home page for a new radio station that I've been enjoying, and a note at the bottom of the page caught my eye:

Looking for tracks we played further in the past? Our extended playlist history is available on Twitter.

And sure enough, Twitter shows a record of what they've played:

It occurs to me, that normally this functionality would have been custom built into the site. A programmer would have whipped up a couple of pages that would allow you to browse and search previously played songs. However, by storing this data on Twitter they've realized a number of advantages:

  1. The browsing and searching is automatically taken care of for you
  2. Concerns about storing an infinite stream of data become someone else's problem, versus your company's DBA
  3. Users can subscribe to the stream via RSS, SMS updates or using a custom reader application. All this was done without writing any code.
  4. Twitter lends itself well to sharing (retweeting) the content
  5. The data now lives where users are more likely to look for it. This is the same principle behind selling a book on Amazon, or storing a video on YouTube. Sure, there's some pride in providing this functionality on your site, but you're missing out on reaching a huge community of users who are likely to stumble upon your offering.
  6. Programmers who would have been involved in a custom data storage and browsing solution can now be assigned to more critical tasks.

My the team over at is a creative bunch.

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