New Australian start-up Bleeply, currently in private beta, intends to reduce business and government fear of using social media, such as Twitter, by providing a service for intercepting inappropriate messages before they're posted.
Bleeply co-founders Matthew Landauer and Henare Degan
(Credit: Stilgherrian/ZDNet Australia)
Social media's immediacy is both its strength and its weakness. Twitter's spontaneity, for example, leads to people tweeting things that a few seconds later, with the benefit of hindsight, they wish they hadn't.
Messages intended to remain private can easily become public, as current NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell discovered as opposition leader in July 2010. He posted a "deeply off the record" message to journalist Latika Bourke as a public tweet. Or as Westpac discovered in February 2010, when their official Twitter account suddenly complained, "Oh so very over it today."
Bleeply co-founder Matthew Landauer says that observing how government handled social media while working on the parliament-watching website OpenAustralia gave him the idea for Bleeply late last year, although development began in earnest around three months ago after a long gestation.
"They just had absolutely no way to deal with the risk, and, as a result, put in all sorts of heavy-handed processes to approve tweets, or usually just stayed away from social media altogether," he told ZDNet Australia.
ZDNet Australia understands that in at least one key government department, every tweet must be pre-approved by a committee. Spontaneity and natural real-time interaction are impossible.
Bleeply turns that model around.
Tweets are first posted to Bleeply, which adds a delay between the message being created and being published online. Incoming tweets are held in a queue, and team members are notified. If nobody vetoes the tweet, or places it on hold to start a discussion about it, then it's posted automatically.
In principle, it's much like the seven-second delay used in talkback radio.
"We have a five-minute delay, which is basically long enough that everybody on the team who's connected to your Bleeply account [can] take out their mobile phone, they can look at the message. They go, 'Yeah, that's fine,' put their phone away and not have to worry about it, and a few minutes later it goes out," Landauer said.
"It keeps the real-time thing going, mitigates the risk, allows a group of people to be involved in ensuring that the right thing goes out — but at the same time you can still have a single person with a voice."
Currently, tweets can be posted to Bleeply via email, the website or through the applications TweetDeck, Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for iPad. All notifications are done via email, although SMS is likely to be added soon.
Under the hood, the service is built in Ruby on Rails using WebSocket push calls, and is deployed on the Heroku cloud application platform.
The mobile app through which team members control the flow of tweets is currently written in platform-independent HTML5, although native apps for iOS, Android and any other customer-requested platforms will follow.
"We're building in that agile, lean way where we're staying very focussed on one particular approach to cover as many bases as possible to get the [user interface] right, get the feedback in from people, make sure we're building the right product for people. And then, once that's settled down, we'll look at building those native apps," Landauer said.
Bleeply is seeking participants in the closed beta trial.
Politicians are obvious potential customers, able to post their own tweets to maintain authenticity, yet still allow their staffers to stop them from making fools of themselves.
Public relations (PR) firms are obvious candidates, too. "They've obviously got a lot of clients themselves. Those clients might want to find out what the PR agency is saying on their behalf," said Henare Degan, the other half of Bleeply's core team.
However, Bleeply is also interested in trialling the service with small and medium businesses just dipping their toes into social media.