Will Twitter Become Your Personal Assistant?

twitter_logoIf there’s one thing people love to speculate about, it’s what a future business model might look like for Twitter, the belle of the Web 2.0 ball. Founder and CEO Ev Williams has said the company will come out with more details in the new year, which has only increased the frenzy of speculation. That frenzy got another boost on Monday, when Twitter announced that it had acquired Values of n, a company founded by well-known programmer Rael Dornfest, the former chief technology officer at O’Reilly Media and one of the developers responsible for creating the RSS standard.

In separate blog posts, both Dornfest and Williams said that Values of n would be shutting down the two services it offers — a smart sticky-note application called Stikkit and a personal assistant application called I Want Sandy. However, both also hinted fairly broadly that aspects of these services might find their way into Twitter. “[T]he technology behind the scenes will live on and potentially re-emerge as part of Twitter’s systems, services, user experience, or open source libraries,” wrote Williams, while Dornfest said Twitter “has no immediate plans to incorporate Sandy or Stikkit’s feature sets into its core product [but] those who know our apps well may notice familiar-feeling bits and bobs appearing in your Twitter experience.”

Stikkit and I Want Sandy are similar, in that they are both personal productivity-related apps. The former makes it easy to collect bits of personal data about friends and co-workers — phone numbers, birthdays, reminders, and so on — as though you were writing them all down on a sticky note, which is then integrated with other applications and services such as email, etc. I Want Sandy, meanwhile, is a kind of virtual assistant; you send “her” emails with specific instructions or keywords, such as birthdays to remember or appointments you need to keep, and she emails you or text-messages you at a time of your choosing to help you remember.

The fit between both of these services and Twitter seems fairly obvious. In the same way that Twitter “bots” can be set up to send specific messages at certain times or when users type certain keywords (try sending a message that contains the word “pony” in order to see the Wheee! Pony bot in action), it’s easy to see how a user might set up something like I Want Sandy and Stikkit combined — so that he or she could direct message the bot with details about a meeting or appointment, and then receive a message later with all of the relevant info. I Want Sandy, in fact, is already connected to Twitter so that you can send your virtual assistant direct messages.

Who knows — for the ultra-connected and time-starved business traveler, that might someday evolve into something worth paying for.

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