On Twitter drift, hype and the infancy of the real-time web

My gripe of the month concerns Twitter.  The one with the bird on it.

Why Twitter at all ?

First of all, I love Twitter. It has killed my limited Facebook usage and slowly replaces Skype IM.  I find it is a filtered, interesting view of the world, contrary to most public gripes about the tool.  I get fantastic insights from the likes of @parkparadigm, @azeem, @robinklein, @aainslie, @venturehacks (some of the more careful and select twitterers in the list of 200 or so that I follow).  The key benefit is simple: I choose who I want to see, it's RSS on acid.  People I follow mostly drive me towards interesting long-form content.   If you still ignore this tool (or concept) as a fad (and I know many people who do), I think you should be Scobleized.  I follow about 200 and have about 1,500 followers, spend zero time configuring and get great value and entertainment out of it.

I also think it's just a first iteration of what the whole real time web should be about, and only a part of the puzzle.  

I read twitter as follows:

  • As elegant as SMS
  • A great filtering mechanism (it's the 10,000 channels you choose to watch)
  • Makes you feel close to the people you follow even though you do not know them
  • Possibly a distribution / broadcasting protocol

Twitter is not a lifestreaming tool

I got really annoyed over the last few days by:

  • a great creative thinker trying to run an entire conversation on what "value" means and as a result  "twitter spamming" his followers and their followers
  • a friend of mine using a tool to autotwitter concerts he "might like to see" using SongKick, leading to a regular stream of "I might like to see bon Iver in concert" or whatever.
  • another friend using a similar tool to share his movie ratings on Lovefilm

If they do that for 3 days, I am unfollowing.  If the whole world starts linking twitter to various update tools to let me know what they would like for Xmas, I am turning it off.   I am not sure about facebook updates yet,feels like it's thw wrong way around.  But I certainly don't want Twitter to become friendfeed.

For twitter to become a carrier protocol for the real time web, it's going to need much smarter tools or intefaces than the simple act of "follow", and this may threaten its simple elegance.

IMO there is much more to be invented here, this is clearly not the endgame in real time web experience.  I think early use of Twitter as a lifestreamer was besides the point in terms of its true value and potential.

If you think of Twitter is an asymmetric, social short messaging protocol, it probably encompasses a number of uses such as microblogging and lifestreaming, news/links broadcasting and re-broadcasting, messaging, etc all with followers wanting different elements from the folks they follow.  

As ever on the web, the glorious mess derived from the simplest (most elegant) product paradigm produces the greatest richness of use.


  • Twitter is not a microblogging platform, this is a misnomer, microblogging is a usage subset
  • Twitter can only be grasped by looking at its uses and it's ecosystem (Tweetdeck for me) as it keeps evolving
  • Facebook is a more complete interface that owns your social profile (ultimately everyone ends up on Facebook / Linked In) and may "own" or aggregate your various streams including twitter
  • Facebook will always have more (human) users than twitter and who cares

It's not complicated but it is complex

Since I am whining today, what annoys me in general with the web and the whole 2.0 "industry" is this misguided notion that every new wave kills the previous one.  Content Meme of 2009: "Oh, blogging is dead, it's now all about the real time web".  Hum.  Maybe blogging is a relatively small self-publishing industry that is getting subsumed into publishing in general, but it's certainly not dead.  Just as twitter does not "replace" blogging, print media will shrink but not disappear and content farming will not kill handcrafted editorial.  They all do different things.

People seem to continuously lament the fact that industrialists take over their innovations and appropriate them (e.g. so called A-list bloggers were replaced with professional publishers, celebrities are now the biggest twitterers, and so on…) even though the very process is what helps them build large companies.  By default if we decide all content is republishable, shareable, should hardly be attributed, we are inviting the automation of content production and migration of value to the ones who control the (supposedly hapless) audiences.

Guess what, we all hoped the web would lead to enlightenment, but it may not really be changing that much in the end… I would almost want to extend that debate into attacking the entire notion that technology per se is good or that it represents by default positive progress, but that will take more time than I have now and I need to think about this a bit more.  One for the new year I think :-) 

In the meantime I am with Doc Searls here: whatever else happens, great content is there to be crafted and read, enjoyed and shared.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to On Twitter drift, hype and the infancy of the real-time web