Twitter MAR 20 2007
As I mentioned the other day, I recently joined Twitter. I've been poking around its nooks and crannies ever since. Here are some observations, presented in Twitter-sized chunks:
Playing with Twitter reminds me of blogging circa 2000. Back then, all weblogs were personal in nature and most people used them to communicate with their friends and family. If I wanted to know what my friends were up to back then, I read their blogs. Now I follow Twitter (and Flickr and Vox).
The reaction to Twitter mirrors the initial reaction to weblogs...the same tired "this is going to ruin the web" and "who cares what you ate for dinner" arguments.
Also like blogs, everyone has their own unique definition of what Twitter is (stripped down blogs, public IM, Dodgeball++, etc.), and to some extent, everyone is correct. Maybe that's when you know how you've got a winner: when people use it like mad but can't fully explain the appeal of it to others. See also: weblogs, Flickr.
For people with little time, Twitter functions like an extremely stripped-down version of MySpace. Instead of customized pages, animated badges, custom music, top 8 friends, and all that crap, Twitter is just-the-facts-ma'am: where are my friends and what are they up to?
Twitter's like Flickr without the images.
When one thing (i.e. Twitter) is easier than something else (i.e. blogging) and offers almost the same benefits, people will use it.
Twitter brings back the "type words in one box and press submit" thing that made Blogger so popular back in the day. Compare with current blogging systems. To publish a post in MT, I've got to fiddle with 7-9 different text boxes and options. See immediately above.
Let's not forget Dodgeball here, which was used extensively at SXSW in 2006. (In other words, all the Twittering at SXSW 2007 was not unprecedented. Chill.) It's more focused on location and SMS though...by allowing updates in more ways and being more flexible about the type of message allowed, Twitter is attractive to a wider group of people.
If your friends are not on Twitter, I can't imagine it would be that interesting.
Twitterholic tracks the top 100 Twitter users in terms of followers. I know, let's not turn absolutely everything on the web into a popularity contest!! We already know Scoble is a big blowhard and has weak ties to lots of people...let's move on, shall we?
I wonder what the average number of followers per person is? The folks with 5 zillion followers get all the attention, but as with blogging, those posting updates for their 20 friends form the bulk of the activity.
I can see why Obvious dropped Odeo for Twitter. With podcasts, you've got all that data locked up in binary format (no easy cut-and-paste) and it takes you 20 listening minutes before you can react to it (by commenting, by linking, etc.). With blogs, the reaction time to a post is 1-2 minutes, with Flickr it's 5 seconds, and Twitter is 2-3 seconds. The barrier to entry for reacting to and remixing podcasts is just so much higher.
Twitter is the first thing on the web that I've been excited about in ages. Like years. The last thing was probably Flickr. (Talk about burying the lede.) It's just so damn simple but useful. Again, reminds me of weblogs in that way.
If you're on a Mac and using Twitter, download Twitterific, a little app that sits on your desktop and displays updates from your friends. My only complaint: it doesn't completely show updates, forcing you to the web to read the last 2-3 words of a longish message. Come on...it's only 140 characters, show them all!
Even more mesmerizing is Twittervision...a world tour of recent Twitter messages. Just sit back and watch the updates come in one at a time, displayed on a world map. (This is in beta and Twitter's having some downtime issues right now, so the data may be less than fresh when you go.)
Twitter seems to work equally well for busy people and not-busy people. It allows folks with little time to keep up with what their friends are up to without having to email and IM with them all day. Those with a lot of time on their hands can spend a lot of time finding new people to follow, having back-and-forths with friends all day, and updating their status 40 times a day. Too many web apps fail because they only appeal to those with abundant free time.
I'm fascinated to see where Obvious takes this app once they get their scaling issues under control.
The default display of recent messages plus your own messages is genius. Makes it feel more like a conversation. The "with friends" display is great too...perfect for discovering other people to follow.
"Friends" still isn't the right word.