The boxes on the chart have changed, but since the appointment of Bob Iger as CEO, Disney has seemingly doubled down on Walt's old strategy with their increased focus on franchises.
Disney's dominance can be boiled down very simply to one word: franchises. Or rather, an "incessant focus on franchises" in the words of former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.
"Everything we do is about brands and franchises," Rasulo told a group of financial analysts last September. "Ten years ago we were more like other media companies, more broad-based, big movie slate, 20 something pictures, some franchise, some not franchise. If you look at our slate strategy now, our television strategy, almost every aspect of the company, we are oriented around brands and franchises."
Franchises are well suited to extend across multiple parts of a big business like Disney, particularly because it's a repeating virtuous cycle: movies drive merchandise sales and theme park visits, which in turn drives interest for sequels and spin-offs, rinse, repeat, reboot.
I wonder if more tech companies could be using this strategy more effectively. Apple does pretty well; their various hardware (iPhone, iPad, Mac), software (iOS, OS X), and services (iCloud, App Store, iTunes Store) work together effectively. Microsoft rode Office & Windows for quite awhile. Google seems a bit more all over the place -- for instance, it's unclear how their self-driving car helps their search business and Google+ largely failed to connect various offerings. Facebook seems to be headed in the right direction. Twitter? Not so much, but we'll see how they do with new leadership. Or old leadership...I discovered Walt's chart via interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
From artist Cory Arcangel, Working On My Novel is a book comprised of tweets from people who posted they were working on their novels.
What does it feel like to try and create something new? How is it possible to find a space for the demands of writing a novel in a world of instant communication? Working on My Novel is about the act of creation and the gap between the different ways we express ourselves today. Exploring the extremes of making art, from satisfaction and even euphoria to those days or nights when nothing will come, it's the story of what it means to be a creative person, and why we keep on trying.
Arcangel also ran a blog that reposted "I'm sorry I haven't posted" posts from other blogs.
Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.
There are fewer third-party Twitter applications in active development than there used to be, since Twitter built its own clients, clamped down on apps that "replicate Twitter's core user experience," limited the number of new user tokens third parties could get, and otherwise kinda spiked the well.
Followerwonk includes a number of useful searching and sorting tools, some free, some paid. I was especially impressed that it can give an inferred gender breakdown of your follows and followers that includes "undetermined" as a category. (A lot of other tools break everything down into male and female, which isn't a good binary for human bodies, let alone the zoography of Twitter.) Being able to search Twitter bios is useful too.
TweetBe.at is a list manager. Twitter's been neglecting lists -- on the website "Lists" is even hidden behind an otherwise superfluous "More" button, inside your own profile -- but they're really useful. It's just that even in the best third-party apps, it's not easy to add or edit them. This fills that gap.
My favorite Twitter tool right now is BioIsChanged, which (you might guess) tracks bio and avatar changes for the folks you follow on Twitter. You can see when someone changed jobs, took a new headshot, or otherwise tweaked what they're about online. What I like best is its customization: you can get new bio notifications in real-time (too much for me!), in daily or weekly digest emails (perfect!), or just whenever you check into the website. I'm getting better at pretending to be superhumanly attentive already.
Two other Twitter tools worth trying that aren't part of Geary's list but are worth a look:
I just started with Nuzzel, but it comes highly recommended by Christopher Mims and Lauren Goode, two reporters whose judgment I trust. Like Flipboard and Newsle and a handful of others, it pulls web links from your Twitter and Facebook feeds, sorting them by the most-shared. A good way to see what everybody's talking about at a glance.
And Happy Friends is a mailbox/outline reader for Twitter that's hard to explain but fun to use once you get into it. It's not like anything else out there, which might be the best compliment I can give it.
Update: I missed an app that I've been using for so long and so often that I forgot to mention it. ThinkUp, which offers "analytics for humans." The best thing about ThinkUp are its email "insights" digests, which tell me things like which users I'm talking to most often, whether I'm retweeting too many of my own replies (hint: when I asked you what you name your computers yesterday, I retweeted probably a few too many of your answers), and other little mini-analyses.
I also have to put in a plug for YoruFukurou, my favorite client for Mac. (I hope your tokens don't run out, YF.) It's a customizable, high-powered app that handles lists and spam reporting and link and image expansion well, but it doesn't have that oh-my-god, Ozymandias-watching-30-TV-screens-at-once thing that TweetDeck has. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.
Words aren't just things that we write and use in our speech. They are also things we think about individually. Like sex, weed, swag - when they're not in a sentence, we can also think about them individually. Everyword raises that question of thinking about a word just from that perspective, as a social object.
On the other hand, because @everyword is inside an individual person's Twitter stream, the words take on the context of whatever else is in the stream at the time. There's the possibility of weird serendipitous interactions between a word in your stream and some other tweets. The word "super" might be tweeted, and then you read a tweet about a school superintendent or Superman movie.
Any Twitter account that gets you thinking about both the Platonist and the Dadaist dimensions of language at the same time is my kind of fun. And that's a sort of fun that I associate with the Golden Age of Twitter, given its commingling of high and low, news and musings, humans and bots. That too is coming to a close:
In its early days, because of ven-cap funding, Twitter wasn't thinking about monetization. They were just really encouraging developers to work with it and do interesting things. There was no concept of ads or promoted tweets. Now things are different. They've changed the API and some of the things that were easy to do are now difficult.
The flipside is, more people use it. As an artist, it's disappointing that the medium has been converted into this very commercial, focused platform, but on the other hand I get to have a huge audience for an experimental writing project. It's a huge privilege and I definitely have Twitter to thank for that.
It's all cause for low-grade melancholy and a touch of anxiety. As Suzanne Fischer wryly tweets: "If the dictionary is finite, what else might be ending?"
And here's the graph for general search terms. (I excluded Snapchat from the Google graphs because Google wouldn't allow 6 search terms at a time...it barely showed up in either case.) Twitter rules the rap roost, but Facebook demolishes everyone in general and news search traffic.
Jack Dorsey, the tech entrepreneur, takes the No. 1 bus to work, and he likes to catch the 7:06. It carries him nearly from one side of San Francisco to the other-down California Street almost to Market. A ride costs two dollars, but Dorsey has a monthly pass, so the actual price, he told me on a recent commute, is closer to a dollar seventy-five. "If you buy it in bulk, it saves you a little bit of money," he explained. As we got on, he added, "I love the bus. It's consistent, and it runs every few minutes. But it's also express. If I took another bus, it'd be stopping." The offices of Square, his mobile payment-processing service, just moved. He used to follow his bus ride with a pleasant twenty-minute walk down Mission to the San Francisco Chronicle Building, where Square rented office space; now his commute ends with a short ride on a Muni train to Square's new headquarters, which have a panoramic view of the city. When we got to the Muni stop, Dorsey, who is thirty-six, pointed it out with the excitement of a six-year-old.
No idea if this was intentional, but Max has managed to write a piece that mirrors Twitter itself: it is both substantial and full of ridiculous things.
On my computer's monitor, the average tweet is about 2.4 centimeters high. This suggests that Jeph Jacques' tweet tower is 900 meters tall-taller than the tallest building-and still growing.
However, Jeph has nothing on @YOUGAKUDAN_00, who tweets many times per minute -- usually binary, but sometimes actual words. @YOUGAKUDAN_00 has accumulated 37 million tweets, enough to reach into low Earth orbit.
But then a more interesting question is explored...how long will Twitter last?
Suppose you're transported to an alternate universe. You open IMDb and load a random page, and the movie that comes up is The Land Before Time XXVII.
Based only on the title, how many Land Before Time movies do you think there are in this universe? Clearly there are at least 27, and probably more.
Allied troops faced a version of this problem in World War II. German tank parts had serial numbers, many of which were sequential (1, 2 ... N). Suppose they captured a random tank. If they determined it was Tank #27, then they can be sure that the Germans had made at least 27 tanks. It also told them there probably weren't millions of tanks; if there were, they would have been unlikely to get a two-digit serial number.
Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and current Executive Chairman of Google, recently visited North Korea and took his daughter Sophie along. Upon her return, she wrote up a very interesting account of her trip. Her report contained a surprising number of Twitter-length nuggets of goodness1; here are some of them:
Our trip was a mixture of highly staged encounters, tightly-orchestrated viewings and what seemed like genuine human moments.
The longer I think about what we saw and heard, the less sure I am about what any of it actually meant.
Nothing I'd read or heard beforehand really prepared me for what we saw.
Most of the buildings they visited -- offices, libraries, etc. -- were not heated:
They're proudly showing you their latest technology or best library, and you can see your breath
They weren't allowed to have mobile phones, there were no alarm clocks, and they were told their rooms were probably bugged:
One person suggested announcing "I'm awake" to the room, and then waiting until someone came to fetch you.
It's like The Truman Show, at country scale.
Very little in North Korea, it seemed to us, was built to be inviting.
You could almost forget you were in North Korea in this city, until you noticed little things, like the lack of commercial storefronts.
There is only revolutionary art. There is only revolutionary music.
I was delighted to learn that [Kim Jong Il] and I shared a taste in laptops: 15" Macbook Pro.
No one was actually doing anything.
They're building products for a market that doesn't exist.
It's a fascinating piece and worth putting up with the weird 2-column layout to read the whole thing.
 In fact, almost every sentence is tweet-length. Do young people naturally write in SMS/tweet-length sentences these days? ↩
When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram's meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can't search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.
The open web is an amazing thing, way way way better than Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the apps on my phone put together. The thing that really irritates me and deeply disappoints me about Twitter specifically is that the people who started that company and those who now run it know this. They know exactly what Anil is talking about. They railed against big companies trying to control the web back in the day. And they don't care anymore? Are they just out for themselves and the money? Has the Valley really shifted so significantly from Brand to Rand?
There's no memory at Twitter: everything is fleeting. Though that concept may seem daunting to some (archivists, I feel your pain), it also means the content in my feed is an endless stream of new information, either comments on what is happening right now or thoughts about the future. One of the reasons I loved the Internet when I first discovered it in the mid-1990s was that it was a clean slate, a place that welcomed all regardless of your past as you wrote your new life story; where you'd only be judged on your words and your art and your photos going forward.
Schuman asked the woman how she was able to create such a dramatic change:
Actually the line that I think was the most telling but that she said like a throw-away qualifier was "I didn't know anyone in New York when I moved here..."
I think that is such a huge factor. To move to a city where you are not afraid to try something new because all the people that labeled who THEY think you are (parents, childhood friends) are not their to say "that's not you" or "you've changed". Well, maybe that person didn't change but finally became who they really are. I totally relate to this as a fellow Midwesterner even though my changes were not as quick or as dramatic.
I bet if you ask most people what keeps them from being who they really want to be (at least stylistically or maybe even more), the answer would not be money but the fear of peer pressure -- fear of embarrassing themselves in front of a group of people that they might not actually even like anyway.
For a certain type of person, changing oneself might be one of the best ways of feeling free and in control of one's own destiny. And in the social media world, Twitter feels like continually moving to NYC without knowing anyone whereas Facebook feels like you're living in your hometown and hanging with everyone you went to high school with. Twitter's we're-all-here-in-the-moment thing that Matt talks about is what makes it possible for people to continually reinvent themselves on Twitter. You don't have any of that Facebook baggage, the peer pressure from a lifetime of friends, holding you back. You are who your last dozen tweets say you are. And what a feeling of freedom that is.
I wondered how long it would be before someone connected Facebook and especially Twitter with the idea of extractive and inclusive economic systems forwarded by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in Why Nations Fail. The winner, in a delightfully over-the-top fashion, is David Heinemeier Hansson from 37signals.
Twitter started out life as a wonderfully inclusive society. There were very few rules and the ones there were the people loved. Thou shall be brief, retweet to respect. Under this constrained freedom, Twitter prospered and grew rapidly for the joy of all.
Budding entrepreneurs built apps that made life better for everyone. Better, in fact, than many of Twitter's own attempts. They competed for attention on a level playing field and the very best rose to the top. Users saw that this was good and rewarded Twitter with their attention. Twitter grew.
Unfortunately this inclusive world was not meant to last. From the beginning, an extractive time bomb was ticking. One billion dollars worth of eagerness for return. Hundreds and hundreds of hungry mouths to feed in a San Francisco lair.
And thus began Twitter's descent into the extractive.
Chrystia Freeland provided the gist of the book in a NY Times essay earlier in the fall:
Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.
Newsweek announced yesterday that the print magazine will cease publication and the entire thing will move to an all-digital format.
Newsweek Global, as the all-digital publication will be named, will be a single, worldwide edition targeted for a highly mobile, opinion-leading audience who want to learn about world events in a sophisticated context. Newsweek Global will be supported by paid subscription and will be available through e-readers for both tablet and the Web, with select content available on The Daily Beast.
Which is why, when asked my opinion at Newsweek about print and digital, I urged taking the plunge as quickly as possible. Look: I chose digital over print 12 years ago, when I shifted my writing gradually online, with this blog and now blogazine. Of course a weekly newsmagazine on paper seems nuts to me. But it takes guts to actually make the change. An individual can, overnight. An institution is far more cumbersome. Which is why, I believe, institutional brands will still be at a disadvantage online compared with personal ones. There's a reason why Drudge Report and the Huffington Post are named after human beings. It's because when we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions. Social media has only accelerated this development, as everyone with a Facebook page now has a mini-blog, and articles or posts or memes are sent by email or through social networks or Twitter.
People do tend to read people and not institutions online but a shift away from that has already started happening. A shift back to institutions, actually. Pre-1990s, people read the Times or Newsweek or Time or whatever. In 2008, people read Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish or Paul Krugman's column in the Times or Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP. Today, people read feeds of their friends/followees activities, interests, thoughts, and links on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, i.e. the new media institutions.
Now, you may follow Daily Dish or Krugman on Twitter but that's not quite the same as reading the sites; you're not getting the whole post/article on Twitter, Krugman items are intermingled & fighting for attention with tweets from @horse_ebooks & Lady Gaga, and if you unfollowed Krugman altogether, you'll find when he writes something especially good, someone else in your Twitter stream will point you to it pretty quickly. That is, Twitter or Facebook will provide you with the essential Krugman without you having to pay any attention to Krugman at all.
What that means is what blogs and the web are doing to newspapers and magazines, so might Facebook & Twitter do to blogs. Blogs might not even get the chance to be called old media before they're handed their hats. It'll be interesting to see how smartphone/tablet apps affect this dynamic...will apps push users/readers back toward old media institutions, individuals, or the friend-packaging institutions like Twitter?
Edd Dumbill writes that Twitter, as it strives to become a profitable company, is turning into an old media company.
Twitter's bait-and-switch, now they've built their reach on the back of eager early adopters, is disappointing. It marks them as part of old, unenlightened, business, and consigns them to a far less remarkable place in the future economy than they otherwise might have had.
Michael Heilemann has a somewhat harsher take in his post on Amazon, Twitter, and Star Wars:
Some part of me can't help but admire the purity of the clusterfuck that is Twitter's continued downward trajectory from startup wunderkind to some sort of bland, wannabe ad-driven media company.
It's incomplete, but I can't help but draw comparisons between Twitter's alienation of their original users and ecosystem to, because I am me, Star Wars.
Despite what George Lucas says, the continuing alterations to Star Wars have been driven by business reasoning, not some artistic auteur need to see the vision completed. And in both cases, the original fan base is the one getting run over, while the unwashed masses get to enjoy Jar Jar and Justin Bieber, respectively.
Earlier today I shared a quick way to read a links-only version of your Twitter stream using Twitter's new "people you follow" search filter. More than three years ago, Twitter removed @replies to people you don't follow from people's streams... e.g. if I follow Jack Dorsey on Twitter and you don't, you won't see my "@jack That's great, congrats!" tweet in your stream. With the "people you follow" search filter, you now have the option of seeing all those @replies again: just do a search for some gibberish with the not operator in front of it. (But obviously not that gibberish because then you'll miss tweets with that link in it. Get yer own gibberish!)
Two things that I wished worked that don't: -@ and -# for searches that exclude @replies and #hastags.
Update:Andy Baio reminds me that you can filter out @replies and #hashtags with "-filter:replies" and "-filter:hashtags". Which makes things a bit more interesting. Using the "people you follow" filter in combination with other filters, you can see your Twitter stream in all sorts of different ways:
A few weeks ago, Twitter added an option to search the tweets of only the people you follow. This is useful for several different reasons (try searching for [recent pop culture key phrase] to see what I mean) but for those who use Twitter primarily to find cool links to read/watch, it's an unexpected gift. To view your Twitter stream filtered to include only tweets containing links, just do a search for "http". Simple but powerful.
ps. Who knows if they're interested in this or not, but by a) making their entire archive available to search and b) allowing people to limit their search to their friends + 1-2 degrees of separation, Twitter could significantly better the search experience offered by Google et al in maybe 25-30% of all search cases. This is what Google is attempting to do with Google+ but Twitter could beat them to the punch.
Update: The search above, while quick, is also dirty in that it will include non-link tweets like "My favorite protocol is HTTP". The official Twitter way to is to use "filter:links", which will avoid that problem.
The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees' inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What's more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.
This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry. Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee's work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon.
Loren Brichter invented the "pull to refresh" interface mechanism for Tweetie, a Twitter app he eventually sold to Twitter. Apparently he patented the idea sometime before the sale, so Twitter now owns the patent.
Update: A reader pointed out that this is not a patent...it's a patent application that hasn't even been reviewed yet. But it's clearly a novel invention and most likely will be accepted when reviewed. (thx, mike)
Chirp Clock finds tweets containing the current time and displays them on the site.
Nearly every second, a user on Twitter tweets about what time it is. It could be groaning about waking up, to telling a friend when to meet, to an automated train scheduler altering when the next one is coming. By searching Twitter for the current time we get a tiny glimpse of how active and far reaching the social network is.
This is the beginning of Jack Dorsey's real vision for Twitter combined with Dick Costolo's vision for a real-time social advertising product. The main components: writing and Tweets, obviously; having conversations with other people; discovering what's happening in the world through Twitter; and seeing a promoted message from brands here and there.
Ha! Evan Roth is selling a series of "multi-touch finger paintings" called Open Twitter, Check Twitter, Close Twitter. The paintings are made by placing tracing paper over an iPhone screen while he checks Twitter with a painted finger.
At least two popular quotations circulating on Twitter and Facebook in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden are misattributed. By what I guess is chance, they happen to express opposing (but nuanced and appealing) sentiments:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King, Jr
"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." - Mark Twain
All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.
(Note: That's from Darrow's autobiography, The Story of My Life. Wired's story above linked to Wikiquote, so I thought I'd pull it from Google Books at least.)
Darrow is still pretty famous, but not Mark Twain famous. And especially in the truncated version, the quip sounds like the sort of thing that Mark Twain might say.
Easy mistake - and when the line fits how we might feel at a given moment, and the author fits our moral/intellectual identity, it becomes a natural quote to pass around.
The story behind the Fake Martin Luther King quote is a little bit more complicated. Megan McCardle was the first to flag it as suspect. Then people began to notice that while the version above was making the rounds on Twitter, a longer version on Facebook paired it with an extended quote that was genuine MLK:
"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~Martin Luther King Jr
And the context really is about why you have to love your enemy. In the same book, too, is an essay called "The death of evil upon the seashore," which has this not totally unrelated quote about the escape of the Israelites from Egypt by crossing the Red Sea:
The meaning of this story is not found in the drowning of the Egyptian soldiers, for no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being. Rather, this story symbolizes the death of evil and of inhuman oppression and unjust exploitation.
So, again, it's the kind of thing that sounds like something Martin Luther King, Jr might say -- even though he didn't say it.
At some point, someone deduced what must have happened. The real King quote (about returning hate for hate) must have gotten paired with the King-esque quote/paraphrase (about not rejoicing in the death of an enemy). Somewhere in circulating on Facebook, the whole thing got attributed to King, then jumped to Twitter, where the first line got separated from the genuine quote, re-attributed to King, then passed around from there.
One of the many things that fascinated Freud about jokes was that they passed around from person to person without an author. This is why they were interesting - they showed the unconscious uncensored, in public. (This is a big part of what Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious is about.)
When we (mis)attribute a joke or quote, we're doing something different: we're giving our unconscious an author, and leaning on the author's authority. Just like with jokes, it's an acceptable way to let our nervous feelings out, without having to completely own them ourselves. We just co-sign.
In the spirit of Freud, here are some of the best MLK-misquote jokes currently going around on Twitter (with anonymity of the jokesters preserved):
"You dummies will retweet anything with my name." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a Martin Luther King Jr. cookie recipe making its way around the web! It does not taste good. DO NOT MAKE IT.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will have some good ideas." - Theodore Roosevelt
"War is a giant dishwasher full of tiny elephants but the soap is motor oil and the dishes are pee" -Martin Luther King, Jr
"Scrambled eggs, side of home fries, and a light and sweet coffee, thanks." --Martin Luther King Jr. (in a diner)
"Luke. I am your father." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Actually, Penn Jillette wrote all of these jokes. That guy's amazing.)
I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. Mark Twain
I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
Ivan adds that "that link was until yesterday the #1 Google result for the phrase 'I have read some obituaries with great pleasure'."
So odds are pretty good that someone half-remembered the Darrow quote, did a quick Google search for attribution, saw the result with Twain's name at the end, and went for it (maybe without even clicking through).
Glass insists that he is not Twitter's sole founder or anything like it. But he feels betrayed that his role has basically been expunged from Twitter history. He says Florian Webber doesn't get enough credit, either.
"Some people have gotten credit, some people haven't. The reality is it was a group effort. I didn't create Twitter on my own. It came out of conversations."
"I do know that without me, Twitter wouldn't exist. In a huge way."
The second is an interview with Noah Glass, who many people who were there at the beginning of the service consider one of the true cofounders of Twitter.
Jack [Dorsey] was someone who was one of the stars of the company and I got the impression he was unhappy with what he was working on. He was doing a lot of cleanup work on Odeo. He and I had become pretty close friends and were spending time together.
He started talking to me about this idea of status and how he was really interested in status. He developed this bicycle messenger status system in the past. I was trying to figure out what it was he found compelling about it. At the same time, we were looking at 'groups' models and how groups were formed and put a couple things together to look at this idea of status and to look at this idea of grouping and it sort of hit me - the idea for this product. This thing that would be called Twitter, what it would look like. This ad hoc grouping mechanism with non-realtime status updates all based on mobile phones.
There was a moment when I was sitting with Jack and I said, "Oh, I do see how this could really come together to make something really compelling." We were sitting on Mission St. in the car in the rain. We were going out and I was dropping him off and having this conversation. There was a moment where it all fit together for me.
We went back to Odeo and put together a team. A very separate working team, mostly it was myself, Jack, and Florian [Webber], a contractor. [Florian] was working from Germany at the time.
Here's how you do it well, courtesy of Zappos (of course). Yesterday I tweeted:
I think my wife is having an affair with someone named "Zappos". He sends her a package at least every third day. I am on to you, Mr Zappos!
Almost immediately, Zappos' customer service Twitter account replied:
@jkottke I'm sorry sir, but our relationship with your wife is strictly professional.
Great, right? A company that gets the joke and participates meaningfully in an actual conversation with a full awareness of the context.
Here's how not to do it, courtesy of United Airlines. Mena Trott, a co-founder of Six Apart, had her flight to NYC randomly cancelled on Monday night by "a robot". (They actually blamed it on a robot!) In a series of threetweets, Mena voiced her displeasure:
Thanks @unitedairlines for randomly canceling my miles booked ticket for tonight, taking the miles & not letting me rebook for lack of miles
And then hanging up on me after I waited for an hour! I hate you @unitedairlines
Apparently the automated voice recognition system can't tell what I'm saying through my tears @unitedairlines #IhateYouSoMuch
@dollarshort "...I hear the blues a-callin', Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.."
That is some serious customer service tone deafness right there. It would be easy to blame whatever social media jockey they've got manning the Twitter account for the faux pas, but obviously United customer communication problems run deeper (and originate higher up the pay scale) than that.
If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought Twitter was built specifically for the purpose of cracking wise about the lack of everything on the everything bagel. In recent months, several tweetists have taken to site to complain in often amusing fashion:
Come on, Everything Bagels, who you tryin' to fool? You got like 6 seasonings on there. That's a lot, but it ain't everything.
Hey everything bagel, you don't have everything on you, so shut the fuck up.
This "everything bagel" is great. Has onions, poppy seeds, garlic, cheese, q-tips, Greenland, fear, sandals, wolves, teapots, crunking...
You call this an everything bagel?! Where are the french fries & the pizza & the pot brownie & the Taco Bell fire sauce?!
Flossing after an everything bagel is important b/c as the name implies, you don't just have *something* in your teeth, you have every thing.
Last time I had an everything bagel I got poppy seeds, Mira Sorvino, and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit all over my shirt.
The title "everything bagel" is a gross exaggeration.
The "everything bagel" really only has like three things. Just what I want for breakfast. Lies.
You might want to scale back on calling yourself an "everything bagel." I mean, right away I can see there are no M&M's on here.
Aaand that's about all there is to say about the everything bagel.
The share price for stock in H&H Imports, Inc. went up 290% between the close of market on Friday to the end of the day today. The reason for the move? Entertainer/investor 50 Cent, who owns a portion of the tiny company, tweeted all weekend about how enthusiastic he was about the company's success. (He also appeared on CNBC.) By one calculation, 50 made $10 million with those tweets.
There are an increasing number of Twitter accounts written as if The Incredible Hulk were passionate about topics other than anger and smashing. Here's a sampling of the Twitter Hulks and their tweets.
FEMINIST HULK: "TRICK TO SMASHING GENDER BINARY: MAKE SURE IT NOT SIMPLY BREAK INTO TWO NORMATIVE PIECES. HULK CREATE GENDERQUEER DEBRIS!"
DRUNK HULK: "CAREFUL HOW NAME YOU CHILD! MONTANA LAST NAME GET HER DISNEY SHOW! MONTANA FIRST NAME GET HER PORN CAREER! MORE YOU KNOW!"
BUDDHIST HULK: "HULK SPEND DAY SMASHING BARRIERS TO AWAKENING. HULK HEART OVERFLOW WITH JOY."
Cross-dressing Hulk: "HULK WEIGH OVER 1 TONNE. HULK KISS ANYONE HULK WANTS TO. HULK WORRIES ABOUT EDITORIAL OVERSIGHT AT MARIE CLAIRE."
Film Crit HULK: "HULK WATCH LAURA(1944) FOR UMPTEENTH TIME THIS WEEKEND. HULK REALIZE HULK SEE LOTS OF OTTO PERMINGER IN SCORSESE."
BARTENDER HULK: "WHY YOU THINK HULK TAKING YOUR ORDER?? IS IT CUZ HULK NOT FACING YOU? OR CUZ HULK TALKING TO SOMEONE ELSE? OR CUZ HULK MAKING OTHER DRINK??"
Lit-Crit Hulk: "HULK SMASH TREND OF HIP NOVELISTS WRITE 'LINKED' SHORT STORIES AND CALL IT NOVEL. YOU WANT WRITE SHORT STORIES, FINE. IT NOT A FUCKING NOVEL"
Editor Hulk: "HULK LIKE OXFORD COMMA VERY MUCH. HULK WANT TO DATE, BUT OXFORD COMMA ONLY GO OUT IN GROUPS OF THREE OR MORE."
GRAMMAR HULK: "HULK GET INVITATION THAT SAY 'PLEASE RSVP BY RESPONDING.' HULK'S RAGE MITIGATED BY OPPORTUNITY TO WEAR TINY PURPLE TUXEDO PANTS!"
The idea was mine, and all the long form writing, talks, and speeches were me. But a lot of tweets -- a lot of my favorite tweets -- weren't mine. I edited and maybe tweaked some of them, but there's no way I would have been able to come up with the quality or volume of jokes without a good team. We had about 15 people, and those writers deserve a lot of the credit. Some contributed every day. My dad did one, even. I sent him a message and told him about it, and I was like, "fuck, I'm not sure what he'll think." But he responded immediately with a joke.
Last week Grisafi started receiving tweets from European farmers saying the weather was hotter and drier than weather reports indicated. He'd been short the wheat market on the assumption that prices would fall. After reading the tweets, however, he realized the commodity might be in shorter supply than the market expected and got out of his position, avoiding a loss as prices rose.
whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com is certainly a veritable and powerful social media strategy generator for any business. If you need a social media strategy, you should start here before interviewing folks. You know, to make yourself conversant in the lingo. That said:
For grammarians, it's a dependent clause + colon + just about anything, incorporating any and all elements of the other four colons, yet differing crucially in that its pre-colon segment is always a dependent clause.
For everyone else: its usefulness lies in that it lifts you up and into a sentence you never thought you'd be reading by giving you a compact little nugget of information prior to the colon and leaving you on the hook for whatever comes thereafter, often rambling on until the reader has exhausted his/her theoretical lung capacity and can continue to read no longer.
Bottom line: the 140 character limit of Twitter and general move towards concision in online writing is credited for the rise of the jumper colon.
When this is rolled out more broadly to users this summer, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL.
All links? Does that include bit.ly, tinyurl.com, flic.kr, 4sq.com, amzn.to, etc.? I'm obviously happy that they're taking steps to get these largely unnecessary link middlemen out of the picture but some people are going to be pissed if they're unshortening all links automatically.
I've recently noticed Twitter's search is finding keyword matches in shortened URLs. So if http://kottke.org/tag/Pixar is hidden behind something like http://bit.ly/r3H8Aq in a tweet, a search for "pixar" will pick it up. Which means that Twitter is unpacking shortened URLs. Which means that they could be displaying original URLs in their interface and pushing them out via the API for use in third-party Twitter apps. URL shorteners still suck, so how about it guys? Or are you not really interested in the long-term health and value of your service? (This will probably never happen, BTW. Twitter and bit.ly are partners and share investors. Plus, people are using shorteners for click tracking and whatnot so we're likely stuck with them. But I still believe that outsourcing the long-term viability of your URLs in exchange for a little bit of information is a devilish deal.)
Via its blog, Twitter has just announced that it is banning third-party ad networks from using the Twitter API to insert ads into a user's stream.
"Why are we prohibiting these kinds of ads? First, third party ad networks are not necessarily looking to preserve the unique user experience Twitter has created. They may optimize for either market share or short-term revenue at the expense of the long-term health of the Twitter platform. For example, a third party ad network may seek to maximize ad impressions and click through rates even if it leads to a net decrease in Twitter use due to user dissatisfaction.
Think about the following platforms and when the first traditional media activity/participation occurred in that platform's history: Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Chatroulette. It was a shorter and shorter period for each platform.*
Let's call this the adoption half-life. It's a bastardization of Moore's Law, but the level of adoption required for a social platform to be covered as The Next Big Thing in social platforms will continue to decrease until NBT status is bestowed upon a platform used only by those in the media.
I'd been writing a post about this that wasn't coming out the way I wanted, so I shelved it until I saw The Onion's take on last fall's New York Times' take on Foursquare. Then I decided to jam 2 posts together.
The Onion sums this all up way more succinctly:
Aging, scared newspapermen throw themselves at the latest mobile technology trend in a humiliatingly futile attempt to remain relevant.
Twitter announced their long-awaited advertising model last night: Promoted Tweets. Companies and people will be able to purchase tweets that will show up first in certain search results or right in people's tweet streams. Which, if you rewind the clock a few years, is exactly the sort of thing that used to get people all upset with search engine results...and is one of the (many) reasons that Google won the search wars: they kept their sponsored results and organic results separate. It will be interesting to see if the world has changed in that time.
Here's to hoping that Twitter doesn't fuck Tweetie up like Brizzly did to Birdfeed.
That is, Tweetie was developed as a what's-best-for-the-user app. I'm hoping not, but a Twitter-brand app may be designed primarily as a what's-best-for-Twitter-the-company app...which is not necessaily a good thing.
[Researchers] found that using only the rate at which movies are mentioned could successfully predict future revenues. But when the sentiment of the tweet was factored in (how favorable it was toward the new movie), the prediction was even more exact.
But as someone noted in the comments:
Works fine until people realize it works, then they start gaming it, and it stops working.
Oh yes. A long time ago, back in June of 2009, when we were planning the launch of The Year of the Flood and I was building a Web site for it. Why was I doing this building, rather than the publishers? Well, they had their own sites, and I wanted to do some non-publishing things on mine, such as raise awareness of rare-bird vulnerability and heighten Virtuous Coffee Consumption (Arabica, shade-grown, doesn't kill birds) and blog the seven-country dramatic-and-musical book tour we were about to do. Anyway, the publishers were at that time hiding under rocks, as it was still the Great Financial Meltdown, not to mention the Horrid Tsunami of Electronic Book Transmission. "That sounds wonderful, Margaret," they said, with the queasy encouragement shown by those on the shore waving goodbye to someone who's about to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel.
Oops! I shouldn't have said that. Which is typical of "social media": you're always saying things you shouldn't have said.
This is probably the first article someone has written about Twitter that references Wordsworth, Hammurabi, and Greek mythology. (via mr)
I started a bit of stupid fun on Twitter: #webappcelebs. Some of my favorites so far:
Eddie Van Hahlo
Paul Reubens on Rails
Google Lou Reader
Sid Del.ico.us (also: Benicio Del.ico.us)
AIM Judy Dench
And I can't find it, but I swear I saw someone do Lucy Hululiu, which seems so much funnier that just Lucy HuLiu for some reason.
The old account, @kottkedotorg, will continue to post updates for a few more days and then will go silent. HUGE 72 pt. thanks to John Resig (@jeresig), who scooped up @kottke some time ago to protect it from a spammer takeover and generously handed the keys over to me this morning. So many people have wrongly referenced @kottke in the past few months that it's a relief to have it.
Two other things.
1. I have also been posting little extra links to Twitter -- like this and this -- stuff that doesn't really fit on the site for whatever reason. I'll eventually pull those links back into the flow here, but the only way to get them for now is to follow @kottke.
2. You may have noticed that at the end of each kottke.org post, there is now a "Post to Twitter" link. I have long resisted adding Digg This or Tumblr That or Stumble What or Jam This In Your Facebook links to posts, but increasingly people are sharing links and information on Twitter instead of on their blogs so I'm going where the action is. At least as an experiment. So, if you like something, click the link and tell your followers about it.
The 140-character limit of Twitter posts was guided by the 160-character limit established by the developers of SMS. However, there is nothing new about new technology imposing restrictions on articulation. During the late 19th-century telegraphy boom, some carriers charged extra for words longer than 15 characters and for messages longer than 10 words. Thus, the cheapest telegram was often limited to 150 characters.
Schott also shares about 100 words from The Anglo-American Telegraphic Code, a code book that reduced long phrases into single words in order to cut down on telegraphic transmission costs. The full book is available for reading on Google and it includes over 27,000 code words on 460 pages!
Make the list entirely random consisting of selections from the entire Twitter userbase. After signing up, each new user sees 100 recommended accounts randomly chosen out of a HUGE pool of non-spam accounts (where HUGE = hundreds of thousands) that have been active for more than 3 months, tweet more than 5 times a week & fewer than 10 times a day, and have 2 times as many followers as followees (or something like that). Twitter has to be doing similar calculations to find spam accounts...just reverse it and whitelist accounts for the recommended list. That way, Twitter gets what they want (new users following people) and the super-user & conflict of interest problems are eliminated.
The problem with all of the "we're tracking the most popular links on Twitter" sites is that link sharing on Twitter depends on (in order of decreasing relevance):
1. the time it takes to read/view the link (shorter is way better)
2. if the subject of the link is Twitter or Facebook
3. the sense of outrage aroused in the reader (the more the better)
4. if the link was published by fucking Mashable
5. retweets by popular Twitter users who have many parrot followers (i.e. disciples)
6. how interesting the link is
So unless you're into brief but outrageous Twitter news from Mashable that you heard about from Robert Scoble -- and it is incredible the number of people who are -- these services just aren't that useful. (As this post itself meets several of the above criteria, feel free to retweet.)
Does this mean that nearly all of Twitter's content is in the public domain? Or can you copyright a collection of tweets...the entire output of one person, for instance?
Brock sent along a short reply to my question, reprinted here with his kind permission:
This is information and not advice: It's possible (and likely) that the majority of individual Tweets are in the public domain. But copyright protection may extend to a compilation of otherwise non-protectable Tweets. The question of whether 'you' can do that as opposed to the author of those Tweets is tricky and would depend on how it's done. If the compilation is authored in such a way as to suggest a false designation of origin (i.e., that the person compiling the Tweets actually authored them), you might run into false designation claims. Also, as a practical matter, you may still get sued and forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend a lawsuit you might otherwise win - if you can afford to get to trial. In the end, if you are a Tweet author and want to protect your Tweets, then you should probably compile them and seek protection with the US Copyright Office. If that works out for you, you're set. If the Copyright Office denies your application for registration, you have your answer.
I admit, I think a protectable Tweet exists in theory. I have read hundreds if not thousands of Tweets and have yet to read one I believe would be protectable, but the possibility exists. The question is not: Are Tweets Copyrightable. The question is: Is This Tweet Copyrightable. The copyrightability of Tweets is not dependent on the fact that they are Tweets. Rather, it's dependent on the analysis of the Tweet in question. The all-encompassing response that all Tweets are either protected or not protected is misguided. The real response is that it depends. However, when you analyze most Tweets, they would never individually pass copyright muster.
Does this mean that nearly all of Twitter's content is in the public domain? Or can you copyright a collection of tweets...the entire output of one person, for instance? Let's say I want to publish Tweatise: The Wit and Wisdom of Merlin Mann, an unabridged book of Merlin's Twitter stream...can I do that?
By Meg Pickard, a graph of the lifespan of Twitter trending topics compares "people talking about #topic" and "people talking about talking about #topic". Outside of Twitter, this applies to pretty much any popular newsworthy topic...the news quickly moves from "we're telling you about Topic X" to media coverage of the media coverage of Topic X. See: Twitter's own coverage in the media currently. (thx, @ davidfg )
We've updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow -- it's a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don't follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today's update removes this undesirable and confusing option.
The semi-private/semi-public thing that Twitter has going on is one of the most significant features of the service, IMO. It's the magic. There's serendipitous social discovery factor but more to the point: when I follow someone, I want to see *everything* they post. Those @replies to my friends' friends are part of their narrative, part of what I want to hear from them. Arbitrarily cutting out some tweets sucks. Besides, isn't the "problem" solved by this "feature" mostly addressed by locked accounts and private messaging?
It's also odd that Twitter would release this feature, which makes it easier for people to communicate in self-contained groups, when it seems like the company is moving in the opposite direction towards a broadcast model, where the emphasis is on tweeting at large groups of people that you don't know. Two big examples:
1. They inserted a "suggested users" step in the sign-up process which made a small number of people on Twitter into superusers and implied to new users that Twitter is a service for following celebrities instead of chatting with your friends.
2. And then there's all the press they've been doing. You don't go on Oprah to talk about how Twitter is for small groups.
First, we're making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account.
This sentence is also interesting:
The problem with the setting was that it didn't scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency.
I'm not sure that makes any sense to anyone who doesn't work at Twitter. Maybe Twitter will wow us with simple and intuitive per-user controls but it seems to me that the service works best when it's simple. Having to think about to what degree you're following someone multiplied the number of people you're following starts to feel like the friendship maintenance crap that everyone loves to hate about other social networking sites.
Living in a big city, you get to hear other people's conversations all the time. These are private conversations meant for the benefit of the participants but it's no big deal if they're overheard on the subway. And you know what people talk about most of the time? In no particular order:
1. What they had or are going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
2. Last night's TV or sports.
3. How things are going at work.
4. The weather.
5. Personal gossip.
6. Celebrity gossip.
Of course you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together.
Ever since the web hit the mainstream sometime in the 90s, people have asked of each new conversational publishing technology -- newsgroups, message boards, online journals, weblogs, social networking sites, and now Twitter -- the same question: "but why would anyone want to hear about what some random person is eating for breakfast?" The answer applies equally well for both offline conversation and online "social media": almost no one...except for their family and friends.
So when you run across a Twitter message like "we had chicken sandwitches & pepsi for breakfast" from someone who has around 30 followers, what's really so odd about it? It's just someone telling a few friends on Twitter what she might normally tell them on the phone, via email, in person, or in a telegram. If you aren't one of the 30 followers, you never see the message...and if you do, you're like the guy standing next to a conversing couple on the subway platform.
P.S. And anyway, the whole breakfast question is a huge straw man periodically pushed across the tracks in front of speeding internet technology. There is much that happens on Twitter or on blogs or on Facebook that has nothing to do with small groups of people communicating about seemingly nothing. Can we just retire this stupid line of questioning once and for all?
Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone's boring Twitter feed - considered only semi-literate and very much bad -- and someone else's equally boring, paper-based diary -- considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good. Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It's a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.
Living with friends and colleagues would be a cheap alternative to living alone. People generally don't do it because it's not a good thing for humans to do. We are genetically predisposed to need time in solitude occasionally. So instead of living with your friends and colleagues, try living with their disembodied thoughts floating around on your computer and popping up on your desktop every fifteen, thirty, sixty, (manual refresh), minutes. Fellowship exists to provide us with relief from solitude and our individual pursuits. Living in a state of constant fellowship with hundreds, if not thousands of people who have known you (or not) across various stages of your life becomes an insurmountable problem the longer you try to do it.
Keith Starky's blog examines tweets as "part of his ongoing research in humor propagation and fluid reputation dynamics".
The central conceit of the "tweet" in this case is the idea that Ninjas, which are black-clad martial artists who employ tactics of stealth to both defeat their opponents and avoid waking people up at night when they go to the bathroom, could partake in some of the worldy pleasures of the non-Ninja world (e.g., crunchy snacks) if that non-Ninja world consisted entirely of people wearing noise-canceling headphones. Henceforth we refer to this world as Headphone-World.
Sorry for the two "explains Twitter" posts in a row. I'll make the next two extra special (i.e. "explains Facebook"). (via jim ray)
Twitter seems to be, first and foremost, an online haven where teenagers making drugs can telegraph secret code words to arrange gang fights and orgies. It also functions as a vehicle for teasing peers until they commit suicide.
After threatening as much for many months, Joshua Schachter has published a piece about how URL shorteners (TinyURL, bit.ly, is.gd, etc.) suck for everyone except the companies which build URL shorteners.
There are three other parties in the ecosystem of a link: the publisher (the site the link points to), the transit (places where that shortened link is used, such as Twitter or Typepad), and the clicker (the person who ultimately follows the shortened links). Each is harmed to some extent by URL shortening.
I agree with Schachter all around here. With respect to Twitter, I would like to see two things happen:
1) That they automatically unshorten all URLs except when the 140 character limit is necessary in SMS messages.
2) In cases where shortening is necessary, Twitter should automatically use a shortener of their own.
That way, users know what they're getting and as long as Twitter is around, those links stay alive.
people who are just back from a really awesome run people who are involved in "social networking" and optimizing the power of re-Tweeting and "computers" people who can't figure out what their kids want to eat Shaquille O'Neal people who have never seen snow people who like Battlestar Galactica
"Somebody out there was trying to use my language and trying to speak for me," O'Neal, sounding more amused than offended, said Wednesday night in a telephone interview. "Rather than have that happen, I thought I'd do it myself." O'Neal added: "It's a fun thing. It's a way for fans to connect."
Sittin next to steve nash, tryna get hi to join twitter
When Shaq said "it's a way for fans to connect", he wasn't just blowing smoke. After a friend of mine followed THE_REAL_SHAQ early on, Shaq followed him back. My friend then sent him a direct message about something Shaq had said in an interview once and an hour later, a reply from Shaq: "gimme a numba 2 call". And then Shaq called him for a brief chat an hour or two later!
Several folks on Twitter are talking about post-election sex and Obama babies (children conceived on election night...mark your calendars for late July 2009). The consensus seems to be that Barack got laid in a big way last night.
This page on kottke.org is the #1 result when you Google "obama wins". Servers may get a little melty around here in the next couple of days. That's ok...this is what Twitter's servers are going to look like tomorrow night:
Twitter is fast becoming the real-time zeitgeist of the web hive mind. (Sorry, I don't know what that means either.) Anyway, I've been playing around with Twist, which tracks trends on Twitter and graphs the results. Two of the most interesting trends I've found are:
drunk, hangover - The drunk talk spikes on Friday and Saturday nights, followed by hangover talk on the following mornings. There's a similar correlation on Facebook.
monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday - This one is really interesting. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday get many more mentions than the three other days of the week, which shows the importance of the weekend in contemporary society. Wednesday is the low point, which turns the graph into a representation of hump day, only inverted.
Fun evening activity: type whatever crazy shit is happening on TV into Twitter Search and watch the wittisicms and not-so-witticisms roll by. Example: in game one of the World Series tonight, someone stole a base and every single person in the United States won a free taco from Taco Bell. Instant tweetalanche.
I don't know what the best part of Twinkle is: being up at 8am on Saturday & Sunday mornings and reading messages from drunken Manhattanites heading home for the evening at 5am or watching guys attempting to flirt with ladies in their area via 140 character messages. Very entertaining.
BTW, Twinkle is a Twitter app that lets your= read what's being Twittered near you (more or less).
If you'd like to follow kottke.org on Twitter, you may do so here. Tweets will consist of a post title and the permalink URL, updated every time I publish a new post (more or less). Thanks to arc90 for their PHP Twitter API library. Note: this is a separate Twitter account from my personal one. Never will kottke.org updates be pushed automatically to my personal Twitter account. I am not a dick, I would never do that to you.
Dan was twittering something about Alabama, but wrote "Alambama". He joked that when Barack Obama wins the election, certain states will probably be renamed - Alobama, Califobama, Nevama, Massabama, New Yobama. Of course, I thought that was hilarious and started thinking about other things that would change once Obama wins. So, a few of us started twittering silly little things, thinking of it as an inside joke.
Overnight, a few people caught on giving it a life of its own.
The stodgy old New Yorker has a Twitter account and its friends are NPR, Harper's, Gothamist, Huffington Post, the NY Times, and the WSJ, among others. Magazines should have friends, no? (Sniff, the WSJ has no friends.)
Jeff Jarvis rightly recommends following Time.com's Ana Marie Cox's Twitter feed as she follows the Republican Presidential candidates around the country. A recent, uh, tweet: "Myrtle Beach: McCain staffers very excited and pleased about the prospect of 'Team McCain: California' jackets." These are the sort of details I wish made it to publication, but Twitter is, I suppose, a publication of its own, right?
"People say, You must have been the class clown. And I say, No, I wasn't. But I sat next to the class clown, and I studied him."
- Dr. Allan Pearl
This is why I love my Twitter: it fulfills in me a primal urge to act out in class, in little bursts. Since having moved past school and into the working world, the class clowning urge was one I'd kept dormant. As it turns out, however, blurting out ridiculous things to a roomful of people offers every bit the dopamine jolt as an adult as it did as a kid, which turns out to be very therapeutic.
In Twitter, there is a sense of ordered play. There is no judgement. You can talk to your neighbors, stand up and give a report on what you're doing, pass notes, make fart noises if that's your schtick (the highest form of comedy), or sit in the back, observing. But if you do a real banger mouthfart, like where your arm gets all wet and people actually think they smell something, there's the joy of peer approval, in the form of a "favorite."
Oh, and an added benefit of Twitter: it helps you to develop an economy of words and conciseness of ideas. Because the longest mouthfart isn't always the funniest one.
Regarding the Twitter vs. Blogger thing from earlier in the week, I took another stab at the faulty Twitter data. Using some educated guesses and fitting some curves, I'm 80-90% sure that this is what the Twitter message growth looks like:
These graphs cover the following time periods: 8/23/1999 - 3/7/2002 for Blogger and 3/21/2006 - 5/7/2007 for Twitter. It's important to note that the Twitter trend is not comprised of actual data points but is rather a best-guess line, an estimate based on the data. Take it as fact at your own risk. (More specifically, I'm more sure of the general shape of the curve than with the steepness. My gut tells me that the curve is probably a little flatter than depicted rather than steeper.)
That said, most of what I wrote in the original post still holds, as do the comments in subsequent thread. Twitter did not grow as fast as the faulty data indicated, but it did get to ~6,000,000 messages in about half the time of Blogger. Here are the reasons I offered for the difference in growth:
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was and had a lower barrier to entry.
2. Twitter has more ways to update (web, phone, IM, Twitterific) than did Blogger.
3. Blogger's growth was limited by a lack of funding.
4. Twitter had a larger pool of potential users to draw on.
5. Twitter has a built-in social aspect that Blogger did not.
And commenters in the thread noted that:
6. Twitter's 140-character limit encourages more messages.
7. More people are using Twitter for conversations than was the case with Blogger.
What's interesting is that these seeming advantages (in terms of message growth potential) for Twitter didn't result in higher message growth than Blogger over the first 9-10 months. But then the social and network effects (#5 and #7 above) kicked in and Twitter took off.
Anil suggested via email that could be an artifact of database sharding and lo and behold, if you take off the last digit of the post ID, they seem to become sequential again, more or less. He's going to ask the Twitter gang about it.
For right now though, the parts of this morning's post that rely on Twitter data from the above dates is incorrect. Basically, all of it. Here it is in all caps: WRONG WRONG WRONG ERROR ERROR, F-----, WOULD NOT BUY DATA ANALYSIS FROM AGAIN. In hindsight, it seems obvious that the data was incorrect...that sort of growth seems impossible, especially when Twitter was having all sorts of scaling problems. Anyway, good thing this is just a blog and not a refereed journal, eh? Big thanks to the commenters in the other post for pointing me toward the error. More as I have it.
Update: Email from Biz Stone, who works for Twitter. He says:
There's truth in the essence of what you're talking about here -- Twitter updates *are* coming in faster and furiouser than Blogger updates. However, the way we number Twitter updates has switched back and forth a few times which pretty much screws up the exactness of your analysis.
We have been doubling the number of active users about every three weeks for a sustained period of months now which is definitely contributing significantly to more and more updates. Also, active users of Twitter a measured by how many times they update per day (at Blogger it was per month). So activity in general at Twitter is crazy by comparison.
We're going to start digging in to more data visualization, user patterns, etc in the coming weeks so if there's anything you think we should be looking at specifically please let us know!
So we'll have to wait a few weeks for an accurate look at this stuff. (thx, biz)
Further update: The Twitter data is bad, bad, bad, rendering Andy's post and most of this here post useless. Both jumps in Twitter activity in Nov 2006 and March 2007 are artificial in nature. See here for an update.
Update: A commenter noted that sometime in mid-March, Twitter stopped using sequential IDs. So that big upswing that the below graphs currently show is partially artificial. I'm attempting to correct now. This is the danger of doing this type of analysis with "data" instead of data.
In mid-March, Andy Baio noted that Twitter uses publicly available sequential message IDs and employed Twitter co-founder Evan Williams' messages to graph the growth of the service over the first year of its existence. Williams co-founded Blogger back in 1999, a service that, as it happens, also exposed its sequential post IDs to the public. Itching to compare the growth of the two services from their inception, I emailed Matt Webb about a script he'd written a few years ago that tracked the daily growth of Blogger. His stats didn't go back far enough so I borrowed Andy's idea and used Williams' own blog to get his Blogger post IDs and corresponding dates. Here are the resulting graphs of that data.1
The first one covers the first 253 days of each service. The second graph shows the Twitter data through May 7, 2007 and the Blogger data through March 7, 2002. [Some notes about the data are contained in this footnote.]
As you can see, the two services grew at a similar pace until around 240 days in, with Blogger posts increasing faster than Twitter messages. Then around November 21, 2006, Twitter took off and never looked back. At last count, Twitter has amassed five times the number of messages than Blogger did in just under half the time period. But Blogger was not the slouch that the graph makes it out to be. Plotting the service by itself reveals a healthy growth curve:
From late 2001 to early 2002, Blogger doubled the number of messages in its database from 5M to 10M in under 200 days. Of course, it took Twitter just over 40 days to do the same and under 20 days to double again to 20M. The curious thing about Blogger's message growth is that large events like 9/11, SXSW 2000 & 2001, new versions of Blogger, and the launch of blog*spot didn't affect the growth at all. I expected to see a huge message spike on 9/11/01 but there was barely a blip.
The second graph also shows that Twitter's post-SXSW 2007 growth is real and not just a temporary bump...a bunch of people came to check it out, stayed on, and everyone messaged like crazy. However, it does look like growth is slowing just a bit if you look at the data on a logarithmic scale:
Actually, as the graph shows, the biggest rate of growth for Twitter didn't occur following SXSW 2007 but after November 21.
As for why Twitter took off so much faster than Blogger, I came up with five possible reasons (there are likely more):
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was. All you need is a web browser or mobile phone. Before blog*spot came along in August 2000, you needed web space with FTP access to set up a Blogger blog, not something that everyone had.
2. Twitter has more ways to create a new message than Blogger did at that point. With Blogger, you needed to use the form on the web site to create a post. To post to Twitter, you can use the web, your phone, an IM client, Twitterrific, etc. It's also far easier to send data to Twitter programatically...the NY Times account alone sends a couple dozen new messages into the Twitter database every day without anyone having to sit there and type them in.
3. Blogger was more strapped for cash and resources than Twitter is. The company that built Blogger ran out of money in early 2001 and nearly out of employees shortly after that. Hard to say how Blogger might have grown if the dot com crash and other factors hadn't led to the severe limitation of its resources for several key months.
4. Twitter has a much larger pool of available users than Blogger did. Blogger launched in August 1999 and Twitter almost 7 years later in March 2006. In the intervening time, hundreds of millions of people, the media, and technology & media companies have become familiar and comfortable with services like YouTube, Friendster, MySpace, Typepad, Blogger, Facebook, and GMail. Hundreds of millions more now have internet access and mobile phones. The potential user base for the two probably differed by an order of magnitude or two, if not more.
5. But the biggest factor is that the social aspect of Twitter is built in and that's where the super-fast growth comes from. With Blogger, reading, writing, and creating social ties were decoupled from each other but they're all integrated into Twitter. Essentially, the top graph shows the difference between a site with social networking and one largely without. Those steep parts of the Twitter trend on Nov 21 and mid-March? That's crazy insane viral growth2, very contagious, users attracting more users, messages resulting in more messages, multiplying rapidly. With the way Blogger worked, it just didn't have the capability for that kind of growth.
A few miscellaneous thoughts:
It's important to keep in mind that these graphs depict the growth in messages, not users or web traffic. It would be great to have user growth data, but that's not publicly available in either case (I don't think). It's tempting to look at the growth and think of it in terms of new users because the two are obviously related. More users = more messages. But that's not a static relationship...perhaps Twitter's userbase is not increasing all that much and the message growth is due to the existing users increasing their messaging output. So, grain of salt and all that.
What impact does Twitter's API have on its message growth? As I said above, the NY Times is pumping dozens of messages into Twitter daily and hundreds of other sites do the same. This is where it would be nice to have data for the number of active users and/or readers. The usual caveats apply, but if you look at the Alexa trends for Twitter, pageviews and traffic seem to leveling out. Compete, which only offers data as recently as March 2007, still shows traffic growing quickly for Twitter.
[Thanks to Andy, Matt, Anil, Meg, and Jonah for their data and thoughts.]
 Some notes and caveats about the data. The Blogger post IDs were taken from archived versions of Evhead and Anil Dash's site stored at the Internet Archive and from a short-lived early collaborative blog called Mezzazine. For posts prior to the introduction of the permalink in March 2000, most pages output by Blogger didn't publish the post IDs. Luckily, both Ev and Anil republished their old archives with permalinks at a later time, which allowed me to record the IDs.
The earliest Blogger post ID I could find was 9871 on November 23, 1999. Posts from before that date had higher post IDs because they were re-imported into the database at a later time so an accurate trend from before 11/23/99 is impossible. According to an archived version of the Blogger site, Blogger was released to the public on August 23, 1999, so for the purposes of the graph, I assumed that post #1 happened on that day. (As you can see, Anil was one of the first 2-3 users of Blogger who didn't work at Pyra. That's some old school flavor right there.)
Regarding the re-importing of the early posts, that happened right around mid-December 1999...the post ID numbers jumped from ~13,000 to ~25,000 in one day. In addition to the early posts, I imagine some other posts were imported from various Pyra weblogs that weren't published with Blogger at the time. I adjusted the numbers subsequent to this discontinuity and the resulting numbers are not precise but are within 100-200 of the actual values, an error of less than 1% at that point and becoming significantly smaller as the number of posts grows large. The last usable Blogger post ID is from March 7, 2002. After that, the database numbering scheme changed and I was unable to correct for it. A few months later, Blogger switched to a post numbering system that wasn't strictly sequential.
The data for Twitter from March 21, 2006 to March 15, 2007 is from Andy Baio. Twitter data subsequent to 3/15/07 was collected by me. ↩
 "Crazy insane viral growth" is a very technical epidemiological term. I don't expect you to understand its precise meaning. ↩
are those twitter updates on your blog updated automatically when you update your twitter? if so, how did you do it?
A couple of weeks ago, I added my Twitter updates and recent music (via last.fm) into the front page flow (they're not in the RSS feed, for now). Check out the front page and scroll down a bit if you want to check them out. The Twitter post is updated three times a week (MWF) and includes my previous four Twitter posts. I use cron to grab the RSS file from Twitter, some PHP to get the recent posts, and some more PHP to stick it into the flow. The last.fm post works much the same way, although it's only updated once a week and needs a splash of something to liven it up a bit.
I'm ashamed to say I'm still hooked on DesktopTD. The problem is that the creator of the game keeps updating the damn thing, adding new challenges just as you've finally convinced yourself that you've wrung all of the stimulation out of the game. As Robin notes, it's a brilliant strategy, the continual incremental sequel. Version 1.21 introduced a 10K gold fun mode...you get 10,000 gold pieces at the beginning to build a maze. Try building one where you can send all 50 levels at the same time and not lose any lives. Fun, indeed.
Regarding the low wattage color palette, reader Jonathan notes that you should use that palette in conjunction with a print stylesheet that optimizes the colors for printing so that you're not wasting a lot of ink on those dark background colors. He also sent along an OS X trick I'd never seen before: to invert the colors on your monitor, press ctrl-option-cmd-8. (thx, jonathan)
Adam and David recently reminded me of pocket, an episode of 0sil8 I did back in 2001 (the second-to-last episode actually):
pocket was a broadcast mailing list for mobile phones. People signed up and then I sent them SMS messages on their phones periodically. As I recall it only lasted a few weeks before I shut it down; there just didn't seem to be anything interesting about broadcasting short messages to a group of friends and strangers.
One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn't yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn't get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.
A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.) Examples:
Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."
Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."
YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.
Not that this approach leads naturally to success. Several companies are exploring music sharing (and musical opinion sharing), but no one's gotten it just right yet, due in no small measure to the rights issues around much recorded music.
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.
Lists of friends and followers are presented alphabetically. Does Anil attract more friends, on average, than Veen because he always shows up near the top of the listings?
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!
Twittermap displays recent Twitter messages on Google Maps. All you do is send Twitter a message with your location -- like so...the "L:10003" is the important part -- and Twittermap will pick it up.
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.