Natter it would seem is dying. As a last, maybe penultimate change they propose to remove messages from the system after 24 hours. This is too much for me and many others as well. I first took up with Natter because I was attracted to the discipline of the ultra short message; it was three words at the time. I thought I might experiment with anonymity, but choose not to since I had another goal. I sought to use Natter as an ultra-micro blog, and for this I need permanence. I was hoping for RSS or ATOM so I could integrate it into my web spore using Sam Ruby’s planet venus, but it wasn’t to be.
I was sort of interested in what the length limitations did to the messages I wrote, I expected them to be less nuanced, cruder and more opinionated; at least I have discovered that I don’t really want to be like that, as the rudest messages have been about wheeled luggage on London Transport and the silliness of Google assuming I have parked a car at Monument Station. I had considered using Yoi but my time with Natter shows that it was too much in the other direction i.e. towards anonymity; it wouldn’t need permanence; a Yoi feed would be a list of dates.
The problem is that the social network and its graph are not growing. They increased the word limit to five and then placed a character limit on the message. This was done as a result of users, who were concatenating words with the underbar character. I personally tried not to do this, although I used the tag feature to perform this role with in one case the great but distinctive tags of #noparkinginzoneone. Natter also used their karma system to encourage the posting of pictures. The change to a character limit and the original ability to attach pictures has taken this towards twitter and the jury is out as to whether even they will make it. Much of twitter’s picture usage is to overcome the message length constraint and twitter is positioning itself today as a messaging platform.
Since I planned to drive traffic to my feed via my web site using an XML integration technology, although I didn’t because I was waiting for RSS which didn’t happen, I didn’t recruit to the network. I am sort of sorry about that, but to me the key to chat is recognising that your correspondents have a choice. You have to be where they are and Natter is not big enough or sufficiently global I suspect to build a followship that matters to me. Even if it were, it’s hard to build interest with five word messages.
What can they do? I have suggested that one route is towards anonymity, which might suggest the development of a direct/private messaging feature but there’s a number of dark cupboards that one doesn’t want to go down. The conversations on twitter and facebook can be pretty shit and these sites ask/demand that you are not anonymous; I suspect that anonymity would make it worse.
A second route might be to open the APIs or the full feed and get people to crowdsource application clients. How about a natterdeck, or a semantic inference widget? Make tags compulsory and do a trending feature. The right one of these might give natter a purpose it doesn’t have today which might then attract the community it needs. A commitment to being an open platform might be sufficient. Maybe building Open Authentication functions would be good, although my view is that if another of these is to be built then it needs a unique co-operative ownership model, and probably to be incorporated in a jurisdiction that has weaker law enforcement powers than the USA, who are not unique, nor it would seem the most egregious in empowering their police. If I had the confidence in these ideas I’d do it myself.