Is Twitter the Cloud Bus?


Courtesy of Michael Coté, I received a Poken in the mail as one of the lucky listeners to his IT Management and RIA Weekly podcasts. I had to explain to my oldest daughter (and my wife), what a Poken is, and how it’s utterly useless until I run into someone else in St. Louis who happens to have one or go to some conference where someone might have one. Oh well. My oldest daughter was also disappointed that I didn’t get the panda one when she saw it on the website. So, if you happen to own a Poken, and plan on being in St. Louis anytime soon, or if you’re going to be attending a conference that I will be at (sorry, nothing planned in the near future), send me a tweet and we can actually test out this Poken thing.

Speaking of the RIA Weekly podcast, thanks to Ryan Stewart and Coté for the shout-out in episode #46 about my post on RIAs and Portals that was inspired by a past RIA Weekly podcast. More important than the shout-out, however, was the discussion they had with Jeff Haynie of Appcelerator. The three of them got into a conversation about the role of SOA on the desktop, which was very interesting. It was nice to hear someone thinking about things like inter-application communication on the desktop, since the integration has been so focused on the server side for many years. What really got me thinking was Coté’s comment that you can’t build an RIA these days without including a Twitter client inside of it. At first, I was thinking about the need for a standard way for inter-application communication in the RIA world. Way back when, Microsoft and Apple were duking it out over competing ways of getting desktop apps to communicate with each other (remember OpenDoc and OLE?). Now that the pendulum is swinging back toward the world of rich UI’s, it won’t surprise me at all if the conversation around inter-application communication for desktop apps comes up again. What’s needed? Just a simple message bus to create a communication pathway.

In reality, it’s actually several message buses. An application can leverage an internal bus for communication with its own components, a desktop/VM-based bus for communication with other apps on the same host, another bus for communication within a local networking domain, and then possibly a bus in the clouds for communication across domains. Combining this with Coté’s comment made me think, “Why not Twitter?” As Coté suggested, many applications are embedding Twitter clients in them. The direct messaging capability allows point-to-point communication, and the public tweets can act as a general pub-sub event bus. In fact, this is already occurring today. Today, Andrew McAfee tweeted about productivity tools on the iPhone (and elsewhere), and a suggestion was made about Remember The Milk, a web-based GTD program with an iPhone client, and a very open integration model which includes the ability to listen to tweets on Twitter that allow you to add new tasks. There’s a lightweight protocol to follow within the tweet, but for basic stuff, it’s as simple as “d rtm buy tickets in 2 days”. Therefore, if someone is using RTM for task management, some other system can send a tweet to RTM to assign a talk to a Twitter user. The friend/follower structure of Twitter provides a rudimentary security model, but all-in-all, it seems to work with a very low barrier to entry. That’s just cool. Based on this example, I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll start seeing cloud-based applications that rely on Twitter as the messaging bus for communication.

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