Twitterfountain: a cautionary tale
The expert Twitterati amongst you may have come across the Twitterfountain service, which enabled you to create an animated stream of tweets featuring a specific hashtag, against a backdrop of images found with a particular tag on Flickr, with the tweets updated in realtime. This was great for conference sessions, or even for teaching, as a way of encouraging interaction from your audience. It only took a few minutes to learn how to use the website, and a few minutes more to create your animation.
I was in a session with a couple of colleagues yesterday and thought I’d mention Twitterfountain in the context of a discussion around ways of encouraging engagement in lectures to large groups. It occurred to me that it would be easier to display it on the projector rather than attempting to explain it, so I typed in the URL – resulting in a 404 ‘Page not found’ error.
Eventually, a bit of Google searching brought up a company blog with the heading: “Twitterfountain has gone belly up”.
A real shame, as it did what it did very well. Of course, there are alternatives out there, but that’s not the point I want to make.
What the story shows is that if you’re using one of the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of free Web 2.0 services out there to support your teaching (or research, or conference presentations, or whatever), you should be cautious – from one day to the next you can find that the site has disappeared, taking all your content with it if you didn’t have it backed up on your own computer.
PS – of the alternatives I’ve looked at, Twitterfontana seems to come closest to offering the same combination of functionality and ease of use.