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Secret Twitter Society

So, are people rolling their own private microblogging networks yet? And knocking together mobile pages and writing/hacking desktop apps to work with their private microblogging networks yet? It would seem to me to be the obvious outgrowth of the Twitter phenomenon: ambient communication for secret societies.

(Which you can take to mean "gated communities," "dev teams" "people who like their privacy" or "bomb-throwing anarchists.")

Doesn’t replace the gated message-board community, of course, because microblogging is obviously shit for long thoughts. Doesn’t replace Twitter’s old "killer app" of sending & receiving tweets as SMS, either — but I live in Britain, and they turned SMS off for Britain, so I use custom apps like Twibble or mobile pages anyway.

I’d happily run two microblogging desktop apps: one for Twitter, and one for My Spooky Friends Net. And, after a while, I’d probably stop using the Twitter app, I’d imagine.

Just thinking out loud.

Published in brainjuice


  1. Yeah, there are already some interesting open-source Twitter clones, but not many on the desktop app front.

    The main one so far seems to be the Laconica project, which is running

    I’m waiting for someone to wire up a BodyBug or similar to a device that tweets how well it’s working. Once it shuts down, you know something Really Bad happened. Sort of like your Clatter in Doktor Sleepless.

  2. Ian Ian

    There’s Yammer ( which is similar to Twitter, but only individuals with the same corporate email address can join a given network. I work for a non-profit, and a lot of folks here are in our Yammer group.

    Posts aren’t restricted to 140 characters, you can attach files, there are iphone & Blackberry clients, and you can also receive messages via IM/SMS/Email.

  3. i was sat in a room of geeks this morning and we were talking about almost exactly the same thing. Twitter reaching that ‘one step from mainstream’ tipping point and that the influx of morons might cause the early adopters who kicked the whole thing off to shoot elsewhere, or start their own.

    you can almost do what you’re saying with tweetdeck, splitting up the peeople you follow into catagories etc, but having a closed, invite only microblogging service, for a specific network is an interesting thought


    This is exactly what you’re talking about. is an opensource microblogging system that can run the gamut from being a public and federated system.

    For example, if you make a public install, you could subscribe to people on other installs (and they could subscribe to you). The decentralization is a big feature that makes it desirable.

    Somebody like you should really look into something like this. I abandoned Twitter in favor of If you set up a install, you could have it repost to Twitter and I could follow you again.

    Something I’d probably regret doing.

  5. Back in the late 80’s I hacked an AppleTalk network chat client (MacOS 6…) to create my own channel and distributed it to members of my cabal. Hadn’t thought about that in quite a while. (Now days the officers of my Masonic lodge are in their own World of Warcraft guild… Guess it allows for the secret society element while also beating up the beasties…)

  6. Microblogging is quickly becoming fodder for marketing and branding. As an example, lets look at Warren Ellis – his comical/insane/serious/ranting tweets are a refreshing and welcome distraction for the cubicle shackled. I think the secret society idea is coming into play – nothing like imposing an upper limit on the tweet to help secret languages and the proverbial code words from appearing all over the twitterverse.

  7. Sounds like what you have in mind is similar to Google’s vision for Jaiku – it will be open source too so it will be for flower waving hippies and collectivised communised as well as bomb throwing anarchists. Imagine the chaos

  8. Quine Quine

    I found it was easier to bend Twitter to my will than to build my own network from scratch. Plus I get to keep SMS (for submission). With the privacy settings, you can set up heavily restricted private publishing and then use the available rss feed for consuming/displaying the data elsewhere.

    Working mainly with, but when I last grabbed a copy it needed a lot of cleanup work (and I still haven’t added the caching).

  9. Big bump for Developed by nutsy canadian open source fanatics. Actual community.
    Installable anywhere and actually lets you syndicate to other nodes where your friends have their own installation…

    It’s what the appleseed project should have started as.

  10. WordPress (which we all know and love) has a theme that is a twitter clone, with all the functionality of WP. You can post anything WP can, invite friends, subscribe to specific writers, and even write from the front end it logged on. And with various plugins, you can make it completely private. The theme can be found here:

    It isn’t the twitter killer people thought it would be, but it is an interesting alternative.

  11. allana allana

    i’m waiting for a group-based twitter where you can tag various posts (say, “family” or “work” or “geek”) and they will only get posted to people in those certain groups. so you can still joke about arse eels without your coworkers wondering about your off-hour interests.

  12. Justred Justred

    Honestly, why think of hardware/software limitations. Why not follow certain historical and current trends of entire vocabularies designed to exclude those from the society? Far easier an multi-platform compliant.

    Tanagra, when the walls fell.

  13. Hoodwink’d, the underground mumbler’s club exists.
    Lurking on the underside of the internet.

  14. WordPress just came out with a new version of their “twitter-alike” theme called P2. It is on now, and will be released as a full self-hosted theme shortly. It live updates posts and threaded comments. Posts can be created with tags from the front end.

    Keep in mind, this has real time updates, and an rss feed.

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