Twitter – a New Tool in my Offshoring Toolbox

Eric Pan asked an interesting question on Linkedin – “Other than IM, email and phone call, I am thinking if twitter can improve communication with offshore teams in software development. Do you have any success story to share?”

The immediate reaction of the community was quite negative, e.g. “…the security is horrible and the 140 character limit (as noted in other answers) precludes its effective use… ” or “ … It will be a big distraction. I am not sure how you envision project communication…” I am afraid people behind these answers totally missed the point. I found the question rather thought provoking and after giving a few minutes of attention came to conclusion that twitter could be a rather helpful tool in some type of outsourcing / offshoring projects.

Twitter is quite a new phenomena and in its buzzpower its is successfully wrestling with Facebook and Google, it remains to be seen how rich he’s going to make its founders and whether it will stay for a while or fade away like many fads of the net era.

So far I had a few attempts to become a regular twitter and found neither pleasure nor purpose in it. Some say it could be helpful for my blog promotion, some suggest that it’s mandatory for building your personal brand. Not sure, I will probably give it another try… but that is not the topic here.

On the other hand communication is a backbone of offshoring engagements. One can not overestimate importance of communications for running teams of all kinds, 100 fold so for distributed ones. So if there is a tool that helps in communication processes it at least is worth careful consideration. There are plenty of tools we already have at our disposal – face to face meetings, phone conf calls and one on one discussions, email individual and group, intranet, wiki and sharepoint, chats, do we need another one? Well, is there a gap that needs to be covered? Probably there is none. Is there some way to improve current coverage, I bet!

Going back to twitter origins – it is all about status reporting. What are you doing? In technolingo that translates to What are you working on? Or What is your current status? That makes total sense. Skype chat is for discussions and instant updates. Twitter provides a vehicle of distributing status updates to a group of people in rather non-invasive form without clutter and overhead of email. The follower model is a solid alternative to to:/cc:/bcc: where the sender has to determine distribution list, putting the distribution in the hands of the receiver makes a lot of sense in a group setting.

Are there limitations to twitter – oh boy, where do I start? – but that’s not the point, if instead of nixing the idea for the tool limitations you take a proactive positive look you suddenly find many features that could be indeed very helpful.

I see a good fit to use of twitter in several areas of my offshore SDLC, for example milestone notifications on regression test runs, build reports, etc. There are also multiple possibilities in other areas, take for example production support / uptime notifications…

Not too long ago tools like YIM or Skype were considered bad practices and were banned from corp. IT world, for exactly the same reasons my distinguish LinkedIn colleagues are bashing Twitter today. Will see how this one pans out… let’s reconnect in a year or so?

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5 thoughts on “Twitter – a New Tool in my Offshoring Toolbox

  1. Thanks for being supportive on the idea. Many times, one has to fight off many naysayers in order to achieve one’s dream.

    Actually, the conversation leads to another idea I have in mind. How about coming up with a product similar to Twitter but for enterprises only just like the intranet for smaller and protected network. This product will allow build master to publish their results without sending to an email list; company executives to receive updates, short reports from his departments like build and test progress, development progress, sales numbers, etc.

    Well… who knows, right? Just like who would have known that Twitter become what it is today. :)

  2. That’s a great idea. It is interesting whether twitter will open source it’s technology – replicating what they have done and making it secure is far from trivial. At the same time it could be done. I actually know a few developers who can do it in very short period of time; the $$ is common obstacle. Also i would not be surprised if someone is already working on secure twitter and enterprise version would pop up shortly.

  3. Eric, I just run into an interesting tool – Twingr.com take a look that might a way to run somewhat secure twitter like comm. channel. regards, nick

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