June 7, 2009

How will Twitter be governed?

twitter-birdStowe BoydA recent post by Marshall Kirkpatrick, How Twitter’s Staff Uses Twitter (And Why It Could Cause Problems), makes some interesting observations and raises questions about the direction of Twitter based on the way Twitter staff use it:

We’ve examined the posting and following habits of people on the company’s staff and found that Twitter team members don’t follow very many other people, they aren’t following many of the top developers in their own community and they don’t even Tweet very much.

Marshall suggests — to perhaps over-simplify his thoughtful post — that these behaviors may not lead to decisions about Twitter functionality or the company’s business model that serve the interests of the greater Twitter community, or at least the community of dedicated Twitter users. He cites the recent blackeye over unilateral and unannounced changes to replies functionality (generally referred to as #fixreplies on Twitter) as one example of how different patterns of use might lead to design decisions that run counter to the wishes of the Twittosphere.

He also posted a response by Ev Williams, Twitter CEO, to an earlier draft of his post. Ev says, among other things, the following:

As you know, there are lots of different ways to use Twitter. Many people fall into the trap that you should follow all or most people back out of a sense of politeness or so-called engagement with the community. But the fact is, having more followers does not give you more time in the day (as much as I’d like to sell that). At a certain point, you’re not actually reading any more tweets by following more people — you’re just dipping into the stream somewhat randomly and missing a whole lot of what people say.That’s fine, but I believe people will generally get more value out of Twitter by dropping the symmetrical relationship expectation and simply curating their following list based on the information and people they want to tune in to.

I follow almost 1,000 accounts. Among these, yes, there are celebrities (because I’m interested in how they’re using Twitter as well as what some of them have to say). There are Twitter developers. (You mentioned a few I don’t follow — there are several that I do.) I try to follow all Twitter employees, some potential employees, industry leaders, friends, family, and other people I care about, people (or organizations) who make me smarter, or people who make me laugh. It’s hard to know if this is the *right* set of accounts to follow. And I’m constantly curating my list. (In fact, I’m now following @atebits since you pointed it out. Account discovery is something we need to work a lot on.)

1,000 feels to me currently to be about the right number — but I still miss a lot. And other people (like Biz and other folks in the company) are comfortable with a much smaller number because they don’t want to miss as much.

Also, keep in mind that a following list does not reveal, necessarily, what one is paying attention to. Hundreds of people give me feedback by mentioning @ev — which I check many times a day. I also have saved searches for “twitter” and other related terms.

I agree with Ev that the asymmetric follow model has benefits, and the kneejerk ‘follow everyone back’ etiquette is unworkable and unscalable, especially for those with more than a few hundred followers. However, nearly everything else he says doesn’t add up for me.

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June 1, 2009

Twitter’s hype is different than Second Life’s

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Chris AbrahamOne of my favorite clients, Fabrice Grinda, believes that Twitter is all hype. Call it Twitter Skepticism — the kind of unwarranted hype associated with Second Life. I consider this a fine challenge, so I left a comment — well, I left an entire rant, and didn’t even get into talking about organic SEO, PageRank, and the like. Tell me what you think:

Long story short, Twitter is light, cheap, open and permanent where Second Life is heavy, expensive, closed and ephemeral.

Twitter does everything right where Second Life failed.

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May 28, 2009

Celebrities: Use Twitter to do good

Britney Spears on Twitter

JD LasicaRecently the TV critic of the St. Petersburg Times asked for my thoughts about the migration of celebrities to Twitter over the past few months. Will it inevitably dumb down the service? Bring it into the mainstream? Make us want to move on to the Next Big Thing?

oprah-first-twitter-message1Ashton Kutcher is closing in on 2 million followers, Britney Spears is at 1.6 million, Oprah at 1.2 million, Shaq and Demi Moore at 1 million and Perez Hilton at 860 followers for some reason.

The columnist, Eric Deggans, did a solid writeup (I’m quoted): Celebrities who Tweet: Tips to keep them from ruining Twitter for us all.

Here’s the friendly advice I’m offering to celebrities joining the Twitterverse:

First, understand that you’re not leading this parade. But we’re happy to have you in it. You have the advantage of having tens or hundreds of thousands of fans follow you on Twitter, even if you don’t know the difference between a tweet and a twit. But listen, observe, follow back, participate. It’s the golden rule of social media.

Second, how should you use your special powers? To do good.

Ignore the newbie approach of chronicling the mundane aspects of your daily life. The Twitter question isn’t really: What are you doing right now? It’s: What are you doing that’s interesting? Or: what’s cool that you’ve happened across?

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May 27, 2009

Tweetie threads the DMs nicely

Stowe BoydFound out there is a Mac version of Tweetie, so I decided to take a look to see what the buzz is about.

Although I have become accustomed (addicted?) to the Tweetdeck model of multiple panels for various sorts of streams, I really like the way that Tweetie handles DMs. First, there is something that looks like a buddy list, showing friends that have been DMing you, or vice versa, recently. After you click on one of those contacts, you see something like this:

Tweetie DM Chat display, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

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May 26, 2009

Google vs Facebook – the search is on!

Ayelet NoffOnce upon a Myspace time, I tried searching for a few band profiles inside the Myspace network. I didn’t get the exact spelling and spacing right, and ended up on a total search maze. What a disaster! From there on out, I would actually leave Myspace, go back to Google and search there for a Myspace profile. Strange and sad thing is, Myspace search is actually “powered by Google.” Perhaps Myspace has made improvements in this area by now, but I wouldn’t know because I will probably never try again. A year or so later when Facebook features started trumping Myspace, so did its profile search. Facebook currently maintains a dominant position when it comes to people search. However, when the search involves anything outside of people, Facebook search is known to be one of the most frustrating experiences ever. Now after the fairly recent arrival of Google profiles, the fight for the most effective profile aggregator begins.

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May 19, 2009

Nudging, poking and insanity, oh my!

pokeJoanna LordOK, folks, the next one of you who pokes or nudges me is going to get smacked. Alright, maybe not smacked, but I will certainly wave my fist in the air in your honor.

What is it about these features that irk me so much? Ever since signing up for Facebook and Twitter I have been aware of their importance ridiculousness. However, my frustration culminated the other day when I signed into Facebook to see that … my father poked me. Yup, it’s true, and worst yet, now I felt obligated to poke back (after that whole “he gave me life and raised me” thing) and consequently we have exchanged at least four rounds of pointless poking.

Now I get the general idea of nudging and poking. For those of you who are a little unclear as to what I’m ranting about, here is the gist of each: A “nudge” is a Twitter feature that enables one user to remind another user to update their status and a “poke” is a little finger icon on Facebook that enables you to virtually “poke” another user. I’m not sure of the actual point behind poking, unlike the Twitter nudge it’s a bit more elusive. It’s kind of the virtual equivalent of smiling at someone without saying hello, or in most instances it’s a somewhat creepy, passive-aggressive way to get a stranger to add you as a friend.

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