Call it the art of the tweetstorm: long-winded epic rants comprised of many individual tweets. The problem with tweetstorms—aside from their hacky nature—is that they still require more work than just tweeting consecutive thoughts. You can just spout off tweet after tweet, of course, but it’s not always clear they’re supposed to be connected as one thought. Most prolific tweeters have taken to numbering their tweet-rants, so that people can reconstruct the narrative even if they discover it mid-stream. But that's a pain.
Thunderstorm is the new (open source) app designed to help you compose your tweetstorms, and unlike most Twitter apps, this one actually has the potential to change "Twitter culture" as we know it. By making epic Twitter rants more workable for writers (and navigable, for readers) Thunderstorm could create something of an atomic storytelling trend (or accelerate whatever trend already seems to be emerging). Here's how it works.
Inside the app you basically create a table of contents for your storm of tweets, then give it a description or summary. Once the skeleton is laid out, you compose all your thoughts (tweets) in an ordered manner. The app numbers each tweet and then turns red to let you know when you’ve hit the 140-character limit on each one. Long-pressing on a numbered tweet allows them to be re-ordered and the numbered list changes automatically.
There’s also a setting to set the timed interval between each tweet being posted. The longer intervals make the bombardment of tweets a little more manageable to users and can help avoid spam filtering. Essentially, it's the same table-of-contents logic that desktop book publishing apps like Scrivener have, but with a distribution mechanism bolted on.
For the users following along, the app also posts a link to a timeline of just the ordered tweets on Twitter and includes the title and summary. It’s a nice touch that helps keep the storm of thoughts cohesive. It finally gives Twitter the "micro blog" feel it’s been labeled with for years.
"Tweetstorming is definitely a new take on blogging—or micro-blogging, as it was originally described in 2007," says Thunderstorm developer Darshan Shankar. "Instead of spending days carefully crafting and revising a 500-word blog post, you can instantly fire off a succinct set of tweets. Discussion, sharing, and virality is built in, as people can share individual tweets from your tweetstorm, much like pull quotes and sound bites in traditional media."
One of the most prolific tweetstormers out there remains Marc Andreessen, cofounder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. There’s even specific apps dedicated to capturing only Andreessen’s tweetstorms. A project by Yvo Schaap, for example, automatically collects them and will send an email or Yo whenever the storm starts brewing. The site also links to the original source and allows users to easily embed the entire collection of thoughts.
Tweetstorm.io is another web app that can assist in creating your tweetstorms. Of course the site has a section specifically dedicated to Andreessen as well to give people an idea of what a tweetstorm really looks like. For some of us, the 140-character limit seems to have permanently shaped our way of thinking; for others, narrative never changed.
[Image: Flickr user ian munroe]