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17 July 2008

Using twitter as a free trade platform

Buy and sell anything online using Twitter for free.

I thought this was worth a try. Twitter has taken off because it is short, simple, easy to use and readily accessible from a number of different platforms. It's so easy to post a short tweet when that's all you want to say rather than a long blog article. It's more immediate and like SMS is particularly useful when you have a short message or series of short messages to put out quickly. Microblogging is taking off, even the Prime Minister uses it. Having received a twitter message from a government minister earlier today, it seems to be an effective way to reach people.

However, rather than considering Twitter as the SMS equivalent of blogging, what about using the Twitter API via sites such as tweetscan to scan the entire twittersphere for anything of interest? Twitter needn't just replace blogging - the free posting to a large audience via Tweetscan and others could rival other free advertising platforms such as Craigslist (ugh) and Gumtree (also ugh), both owned in part by Ebay. It needn't stop there - if enough people set up twitter wanted feeds you could list for free on Twitter rather than paying to list on Ebay.

Paying for such a service is a problem with no feedback mechanism but it's no worse than currently exists with Craigslist and Gumtree.

However, let me suggest a format. This is based loosely on the XML content I receive in RSS feeds for jobs etc and seems to work well enough for that.

You have 140 characters. I suggest the "tweet trade format" as follows (illustrated by examples)

<WANT|BUY|SELL|LIST>:<ITEM NAME> :<PRICE> <Tiny:ITEM URL> <CITY/LOCALITY/COUNTRY> <EXPIRY>


  • Want: Wanting to use a service (e.g. a plumber sought)

  • Buy: Wanting to buy a physical product (e.g. a PC)

  • Sell: Wanting to sell a physical product (e.g. a PC)

  • List: Listing offering a service (e.g. I am a plumber, I am listing a job on offer, etc)



Supposing you have a mobile phone for sale in Mt View California. The listing would look like this:
SELL: Nokia E61 (Used) :$50 http://tinyurl.com/siliconglen Mountain View/CA/US 2008-07-20

Maybe you want to buy a house?
BUY: House 4 bed :$500000 http://www.example.com/moredetailshere Sunnyvale/CA/US 2008-08-31
The price here being the maximum

Supposing you have a job listing, this is a service listing so comes under the LIST category. Contract Project Manager in London, UK for £500 per day.

e.g. LIST: Contract Project Manager Agile PRINCE2 :£500pd http://tinyurl.com/siliconglen London/UK 2008-07-20

The "where" would end with the 2 letter ISO country code (ISO3166). If the item is relevant to a global audience then WW could be used (world-wide) as in WWW (world-wide web).

e.g. WANT: Domain for Web2.0 startup :$10000 http://www.example.com/contactme 2008-08-21
The price here being the maximum price willing to be paid.

Dates would be in international ISO8601 format. That way Americans and Europeans will have the same format and we don't get confused over 04/07/2008 being the 4th of July or the 7th of April.

The URL could of course point to a page on your own site, your blog, a listing on Ebay, a listing on Craigslist or Gumtree or for an item wanted, you could give more detail about what is you want by linking to a similar item on Ebay, Amazon, whatever. It could also link to an openID page for people to contact you, mine is https://getopenid.com/siliconglen

If you think this is a great idea, drop me an email - I'm compiling a mailing list of interested parties who think being able to list products and services on the internet and sell them /effectively/ for as much as it costs to list a webpage in Google (ie nothing) is the way to go and I'm keen to build up a userbase to convince prospective investors that this will take off. It has a long way to go past twitter listings, this is just an early toe in the water.

If anyone wants to build a tool to build up the listing in the standard format via a webform, then drop me a line.

Then with these listings, you can search for them simply using http://www.tweetscan.com or use Tweetscan to sign up for email alerts when something matches what you are looking for (just like eBay favourite search notifications). You can also use tweetscan to search up a search and associated RSS feed for it.

I can see this format evolving over time, but that seems enough for a starter. Comments welcome.
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