Before we go any further…let me warn you.
This is another post about Twitter. Well, mostly. I think that Twitter is the primary example of this, but it’s something on my mind.
Nate’s post was a his thoughts on another post about how boring Twitter was.
Nate’s point was not that twitter lacked value, but that from his vantage point, the HISTORY of twitter as a utility was boring.
I’m not here to argue Nate’s point or opinion…though I do disagree… it did get me thinking about twitter as a “bigger picture” app. That’s not to say I won’t go through the post and refute his points one by one :-). After all, <cue music>I am a man who will fight for your honor</cue music>. Nate knows I always appreciate his perspective on things, and thank him for this opportunity to spill.
As someone who sits on the developer email list, things are more active than most think. I see use, build, and user demographics having changed dramatically since I started using this application in fall of 2006, and even more since it went “mainstream” in March of 2007 at SXSW.
As far as use, I think new use cases are explored all the time. Think about front-line reporting? How about those fires in California, and all of the status that came directly from the twitter-verse? Think about all of the news that breaks on twitter before anywhere else? I think that’s pretty huge. People use twitter to share experiences as well. I can think of times when a large group of people was distributed but sharing an experience…for example, tonight’s SOTU, or a season finale of their favorite show?
I’ve become a big fan of using twitter as a lazyweb. If I google something and turn up nothing on the first page or two, or quickly need a verifiable resource, I tend to ask twitter. I may simply ask the question, or use the Hoosgot bot. Either way…the value of this use case is directly proportional to the size, and quality of the people you follow (and who follow you). If you follow a bunch of people who say nothing except for what they had for lunch…of course it’s going to be uninteresting. If you follow people who typically have almost no followers but follow thousands and thousands of people…of course, it’s going to be boring. If you follow people whose feeds are nothing but @username responses and contribute nothing to initiate new ideas or conversations, of course, it’s going to be an echo-chamber of “me too!”s. But that’s not Twitter’s fault. That’s yours for not having any discretion in who you follow.
The Twitter API is in active development. Very, very active development. Alex and his crew work hard not only to make it better day by day, but to deal with a LOT of idiots on the list…and still answer almost every realistic request with a yes, a no (and a why), and/or a timeline on the request. Service, and 9x out of 10, with a smile.
And as for that demographic…when twitter was born it was geeks only. Now, I’ve seen it adopted by everyone from educators to reporters to PR people to…cancer patients??? I think the demographic is growing, and faster than you realize.
Whats been magical about the growth of twitter is that it’s been organic. So much has happened, in fact, the MAJORITY has happened, outside of “twitter proper”. It’s happened because the users rallied, or some motivated individual got down and did some work themselves.
I think what my point is, is that you need to remember that twitter isn’t your everyday webapp. I see it as two very distinct and unique things: first, it’s a truly mobile application, and one of very few in that class. Second, it’s almost a social experiment. Give the masses a very, very simple tool and see what they do with it. Be prepared to morph along the way, but ultimately, let the users do what they want. I hope that someday I will be privileged enough to have the resources to run an application as an experiment like this. That’s not to say I hope Twitter doesn’t find a business model that will allow them to sustain…in fact, I think that would be the A+ on this science fair project, to make this into a business and have this much fun along the way.
If you consider all of these things…I think twitter’s one of the neatest things we’ve all experienced, we’re just too busy complaining about it’s downtime to notice :-).
Finally…and most importantly. Twitter is free. By the good graces of Evan Williams, Obvious, and their investors, we have this amazing utility at our fingertips. For free. Relax a bit. Enjoy it. Enjoy life. Go for a walk. Send me a direct message when you get back. Perspective in 140 characters or less is really quite refreshing.
[tags]twitter, social experiments[/tags]