Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

A fitter Twitter or is it just a feature?

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If you have young children (and if you let them watch Disney), then you may be familiar with the scene in High School Musical 2 where the kids start whispering “Summer, Summer” in class over and over again before bursting into song
TechCrunch started something similar yesterday with an empty post titled simplyTwitter! that prompted almost 400 comments including short videos where people just repeat the name of this messaging service over and over again, intended as a show of support in the face of people like Robert Scoble who are migrating to FriendFeed in response to Twitter’s well-known stability and uptime issues. Although they are quite different services, some people are starting to see FriendFeed as a major competitive threat to Twitter, or perhaps to RSS readers in general
In typically circular fashion, Twitter and FriendFeed are full of debate among the social networking glitterati about … well, Twitter, FriendFeed and themselves in general
Is Robert Scoble bringing Twitter down with his profligate “friending” and 25,000+ followers, or perhaps FriendFeed is the real culprit by pulling in vast amounts of Twitter data? Should super users like Robert and Leo Laporte pay to keep the service from collapsing under its own weight (Robert says not)? Should we go for a gift economy approach of voluntary contribution? Or should millions of dollars of venture capital funding be able to solve the scalability problems, and is the real issue an underlying technology issue
It is quite bizarre that so much energy is being invested by so many smart people in the question of which chat room they should use to talk to each other. The vociferous but still comparatively small community of early adopters have so many ways to converse with each other that it boggles the mind: blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, video comments, etc, etc. But they flock from service to service and mode to mode faster than people outside these networks are able to join in and keep up. Perhaps a bigger question is what we ultimately use these services for, beyond the ‘hello world’ moment of talking about how we are using them. If we stop blogging about blogging and twittering abut twitter, we might start considering the many small ways in which these services could deliver value to ordinary people and non-geek-led companies
I believe that ultimately Twitter and Friendfeed will prove to be features, rather than products or media companies in their own right, but to unlock their value as features we need to give them purpose that goes beyond the self-referential. I have not yet seen many (any?) successful Twitters inside the enterprise or within specific professional networks, for example, such as mid-wife teams, security companies, lawyers or government departments. Maybe some are already using the public Twitter service for such purposes – I certainly hope so – but I suspect we might also need to start baking these features into the tools and systems they already use and are familiar with
I like Twitter and FriendFeed, and I am incredibly grateful for the rapid innovation that has spawned them, but I hope what comes next is not just another trendy service that we all flock to, but a less dramatic but possibly more valuable dissemination of these ideas and features into the real world.

3 Responses to A fitter Twitter or is it just a feature?

  1. By Scott on May 28, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    “so much energy is being invested by so many smart people in the question of which chat room they should use to talk to each other.” Brilliant. This made me laugh out loud Lee. You are right, all they are is glorified chatrooms. Not that this is a bad thing, but it is something that people should remember when talking about them. The wheel re-invented?
    I also agree that it how we harness services such as these and how we deliver services that crossover into the lives of real average jo(anne)users not just the geek elite. Can Twitter, Jaiku, Pownse (it is interesting that J and P are arguably better than T, but T still prevails); Friendfeed et al deliver real value that can not just be gained by a plain IM account and a chatroom?

  2. By dan mcquillan on September 18, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    just to note that Egyptian human rights defenders are a real-world example of purposeful twittering (see for example http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2007/05/18/never-thought-of-using-it-that-way/)
    agree with you that embedding twitter-like features in work tools would be an interesting way out of the tweet ghetto

  3. By Tilly - Wallpaper on January 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    A lot of people are addicted to Twitter (microblogging), and a lot of people are addicted to FriendFeed (friends’ activity streams). many longtime Twitter users are noticing that the number of followers they have on Friendfeed is growing far more rapidly than on Twitter. And the conversations at Friendfeed are better, too.