Thursday, September 24, 2009

Observations: Document Management with Twitter? A Start Anyway

Observations: Document Management with Twitter? A Start Anyway

Last month I promised a column on some interesting findings regarding Twitter and its document-management capabilities. It's been a fascinating exploration, with some very surprising findings. It turns out that “Twitter Document Management,” a seeming oxymoron in itself, is a developing area, with the humble clippable coupon playing a starring role.

For decades now, document management, at least to many of us in the printer industry, has maintained a lofty, sometimes seemingly unreachable position. Currently, it occupies the ultimate position as a part of many Managed Print Services (MPS) offerings, but long before the current popularity of MPS, document management has been "something better" than simply printing, and a search of the The Hard Copy Observer archives shows the phrase "document management" appearing in virtually every issue since its first appearance in April 1992. (The Observer dates back to its first issue in October 1991.)

So to think the fact that the 140-character-limited Twitter, with all its simplicity and even (dare I say it) fad-like characteristics, could play a role in the management of documents, brings a smile (or is that a smirk) to my face. But Twitter has a start…with solutions like TwitDoc coming on the scene to offer document portability and accessibility via Twitter.


While not the only Twitter application of its kind, I was attracted to TwitDoc as an easy-to-use solution for attaching documents to tweets, and its tie-in with old friend Scribd (Observer, 5/08) made it an interesting one for me to explore. I might add that I am taking the bold step to include TwitDoc as part of a "document management" solution, as the company's more explicit description of its product is "The EASY way to share your documents on Twitter."

I first blogged about TwitDoc in May of this year, and have used it a bit. My typical Twitter mode is sharing links and other tidbits with readers and students, so the occasional TwitDoc application is appropriate. For example, when analyzing tweets on HP's June announcement of the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web all-in-one, I was able to compile all the tweets on the topic (sorted by hashtag #hpreveal), put them into a document using, (Observer 7/09), and then distribute the document to my Twitter followers using TwitDoc (see screenshot).

As my interest in TwitDoc grew, I found they had some excellent coverage already. The RockyRadar blog has an excellent profile of TwitDoc (see "TwitDoc Becoming the Source for Document Sharing on Twitter") that covers much of the background I was interested in, but a call to co-founder Bob Brinker answered a few of my additional questions. To those for whom that name sounds familiar, Brinker shares his name with his father, a Broadcasting Hall of Fame member and longtime host of the radio talk show, "Moneytalk." Both junior and senior Brinker have interests in financial publishing as well, with financial newsletters to both their names. The younger Brinker's career in IT, combined with this financial publishing interests, combined to inspire him, along with fellow IT veteran and partner Mike Ormsby, to establish TwitDoc.

While using TwitDoc is simplicity itself and easier to use than describe (go ahead give it a try), some of the business aspects of the application were intriguing to me. When asked about revenue models, Brinker replied, "We have an advertising model on viewing docs, and since Twitter is marketing and PR-oriented, we have made it (TwitDoc) freely accessible. As Twitter gains traction, becomes more reliable and more relied upon, TwitDoc will be in [a] position to offer custom branding, as in 'create your own branded viewer'." Alternatively Brinker adds, "[Revenues also may be available] via micropayments for documents. There is currently no real overall leader in micropayments, and even those out in front, like PayPal, are not all that slick. The model is iTunes. We will get there in the Twitter world, I believe, with both advertising and micropayment models."

When asked about overall document volumes, Brinker is bullish. "A lot of business documents will continue in Word, Excel, PDF, and it does make sense to distribute them via tools like Twitter."

What about the relationship with Scribd? Brinker says, "We were drawn to Scribd, as we didn't want to recreate the viewer. Scribd, with the largest user base out there, and the most developed system. Other competitors require a download-then-view, Scribd doesn't." Additionally he adds, "Scribd has been good to work with. From a publisher's point of view, they're strict on copyright, their publishing engines automatically block copyright."

And other than Brinker and his financial newsletters, who else, and for what, is TwitDoc being used for today? Again, back to the premise that document management can generally sound a lot more lofty and presumptuous than it needs to, without practical examples, a quick search of Twitter reveals a typical application: coupons. For example, Dave's Auto of Ohio was offering a $50 off deal! (See illustrations.)


Greg Walters said...

Jim - interesting angle.

Sharing documents on Twitter - who woulda thunk.

Nice read.

Davis Business Machines, Inc. said...

Awesome Post! Very Informative, especially for companies like mine, that specialize in document management solutions.