The power of Twitter arises from spontaneous, ad-hoc, and asynchronous communication. It can be very useful when you have a general question and have no idea to whom you should direct it.
Take, for example, a question I had about the OpenCalais project, which I wrote about last year but which I have struggled to understand. Yesterday I asked for feedback on what OpenCalais actually does, given that Reuters just announced the 4.0 version of the project, but I never really came to grips with OpenCalais 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0.
Throwing out the question - "What is OpenCalais?" - returned a range of answers which helped give a great idea of what OpenCalais is all about.
John Newton, co-founder and CTO of Alfresco (and a colleague of mine), gave the most succinct answer:
Calais is probably the first of many open content services on the web. Service rather than site.
Consider it automatic tagging as a web service. Uses linguistic analysis and probably the relationship to other docs.
But others were also great, including this one from the lead on the Calais Initiative team:
OpenCalais: Send Text. Get back Semantic Metadata. That's linked to the Linked Data cloud. Text > Super Enhanced Text. Then go wild. (Tom Tague, Thomson Reuters and the Calais Initiative)
OpenCalais is for 'semantic web', basically tagging on steroids. (Perry Ismangil, Co-founder of Teluu)
I haven't looked at it very deeply, but I *think* OpenCalais provides an API to make accessing and referencing linked data very easy. (Brian Robinson)
So now I (and, hopefully, you) have a better idea of what OpenCalais is, and it only took me two seconds to ask over Twitter. Lesson? OpenCalais is very cool. But so is Twitter.