Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, can be powerful platforms for discovering new, interesting, and relevant information from people with whom you share interests. (If you’re not yet on Twitter, wait: There’s a “how to use Twitter productively” post coming up at ProfHacker in a few weeks.) In addition to simple status updates, which can obviously turn into conversations, Twitter makes it easy to share links with your friends and followers. (For a provocative example of how this link-sharing acts as a kind of collective realtime editorial screening process, see Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Now.)
The problem with Twitter is one of scale. I mutually follow around 900 folks, because I write online for three sites, each of which have their own communities (this one, GeekDad, and Blog of a Bookslut. You should follow me, too.) Even if I were on Twitter all the time, which I’m not, it would be impossible to click on all the links people post. *Plus*, on Twitter links look like this:
The URL shorteners that make it possible to fit links into 140 characters make it impossible to read.
You have to guess what’s going to be interesting.
Flipboard, a brand-new iPad app, solves this problem in a graceful, elegant way.
The best way to grok what it does is to watch this video:
What it does, then, is scan your Twitter and Facebook accounts for links, and preloads them for you in a spiffy, magazine-inspired format. In addition, once one of your friends has shared a link, Flipboard also tracks who else in your network has posted the link, so that you can participate in any online conversations about it.
You never have to click a blind URL to discover an article again! Flipboard’s fast and pretentious stylish, and puts the focus where it should be: on making it easy for you to decide whether something’s important.
What’s nice about Flipboard is it’s the first Twitter app to think seriously about how the experience might be different on an iPad. On a phone, Twitter often really is about sharing status updates and coordinating with people. On the iPad, though, the experience is much more about sorting through the great content that your friends have shared.
There are times when what you want from social media is conversation, and there are tons of ways to do that. But there are times when what you want is to learn something new, and Flipboard is an ingenious solution for that.
[Image by Flickr user Johan Larsson / Creative Commons licensed]