[Warning: this is even more stream of conscious writing than I’m used to putting even on rizzn.com. Feel free to respond, but please keep the Steve Gillmor comparisons to a minimum. –mrh]
If I had the time, I’d re-write the 3000 word post that my computer ate last weekend about the stupid crap that Twitter is doing right now.
As it stands, I have to express irritation about something (yeah, big surprise – Rizzn is irritated about something).
Twitter’s communication abilities really suck, to the point where people are always trying to figure out the hidden meaning of founder, investor and employee’s offhand comments.
I’ve talked about this at great length before, and I’m not talking about the communication platform itself sucking – I’m talking about the corporate communications of the company. For a company built around a communications platform (and founded by people who’ve been building communications platforms their whole lives), this is surprising to those who haven’t read between the lines.
As I’ve said before, though, everyone involved with the ground floor idea of Twitter accidentally fell into success at every turn.
At some point, though, as a pundit who writes about this space, you must stop giving this company that you love a pass on everything and call them to the carpet. Twitter is a happy accident by the same folks that brought you Blogger and Odeo. Yes, Odeo. Remember them? Very few people do. It was an early entrant in the very small (and some say still nascent) field of podcasting. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what it was supposed to do, but most people you ask say it was supposed to be some sort of directory service cataloging podcasts. Do I honestly believe that Jack, Biz and Ev actually understood what Twitter was when the first started seeing adoption take off? Not at all. I’m not really sure that they have any real understanding of technology, sociology or business in general, after having seen them flounder consistently since 2006 in all areas.
Very simply put, everything that “hippie-coder” Dave Winer has ever said about Twitter was proven right this weekend when Twitter made their announcements about third party clients. They’re making the transition from platform to service, and giving a giant middle finger to all Twitter platform developers.
Simply put, they’ve proven that they’re not responsible enough to handle the duties of being the Internet’s “central nervous system.”
Here’s What I Want
I want it to be open and free (as in speech, not beer).
That’s why I’m installing a StatusNet server (join me in that endeavor). That’s why I continue to use BuddyPress + WPMU for the SiliconANGLE community (despite various problems). That’s why I’m an advocate of Buzz. What do they have in common? A commitment to ActivityStrea.ms, an open standard that promises to free up the real time web, and wrest control away from Twitter and Facebook.
It’s important. And if you develop anything in the Twitter / Facebook ecosystem, you’re a fool if you don’t find a way to use these tools and standards to take ownership of your ecosystem.
Back to that Communications Problem
(or is it a lack of intelligence and planning?)
This whole blow up could have been avoided (the blow up of the development community, not me) if Twitter had figured out a way to communicate better. Instead, the development community is trying to read the tea leaves in Alex Payne’s tweets and Fred Davis’s blog posts.
That’s no way to run a company.
The real question, for those of us following this sordid saga closely: are the folks in charge of Twitter really bad at communication, or do they really have no freakin’ clue as to what they’re doing?
Here’s a follow up question that I know would have been posted to the comments section anyway: Why can’t it be both?
Rob Diana and Louis Gray have been running interference for Twitter since this weekend, for some reason. Louis seems to have been running interference even longer (come to think of it), with his beginning-of-the-year prediction that Twitter wouldn’t see a fail whale this year. Every time a device I have fails to connect to Twitter (or there’s an Apple keynote), I have a good chuckle at that one.
I’m almost inclined to say that this whole debacle is due to the fact that they have no freakin’ clue, because they let us play biz model bingo since 2006 in the supposed interest of “keeping the community pure,” and when they finally announce the (least possible imaginative) biz model, they sandwich it between announcements and a PR cycle that’s the most negative in their company’s history.
That’s a failure to understand communication as the culmination of a figurative forty years wandering in the desert.
I guess I answered my own question.
[Update: Speaking of communication that doesn’t line up with the realities of their actions, check out the notes from @ev’s keynote at Chirp, writeup by Liz Gannes. –mrh]