Thursday, September 02, 2010

Twitter is dead. Long live Twitter? Or not?

I never really got into Twitter.  From the beginning, I didn't like it.  I had an account, of course, even before its big SXSW coming out party.  But I never used it.  You can see it at  Of course, everyone kept saying something like, "What, really?  I would have figured you of all people would be really into it!"

Don't get me wrong.  I get Twitter.  I really do.  It's maybe because I get it that I don't like it?  And I'm not the only one who's decided it's not worth it.

I've always questioned whether something like Twitter can have lasting value.  There are a few facts about this world when it comes to value:

  1. Time is scarce.
  2. Quality is hard.
  3. Lasting value stands the test of time.
OK, it's a bit more complicated than that, but I'd say this is pretty core, no?  From the first time I heard about Twitter, it seemed like the perfect way to waste time.  Here's the thing.  Time is scarce, so you want to choose carefully how you spend your time.  Eventually, if you're rational, you'll choose to spend your time creating or consuming quality things.  But creating quality is hard work, and it's difficult to fit it into 140 characters, let alone 140 characters in real-time.  As such, it seemed from the beginning that Twitter was destined to just create a lot of noise in my life if I ever got into it, unnecessary noise at that.

I never had any doubt that Twitter had potential for democratizing communication, enabling rapid widespread communication channels, and creating viral campaigns.  That's all cool.  But I could never shake the thought that it would be 10% signal and 90% noise.  Maybe some people like that idea.  I hated it.

But Twitter got a lot of hype, a lot of it deserved.  They had (and still have) lofty goals.  Of course, they've been since surpassed by that other crazy company, which took back the dotcom darling crown quite forcefully.  Who knows, maybe Twitter can take it back (Foursquare is another really hyped up candidate).  Twitter does have some crazy ambitions up its sleeve.

But back on topic.  Time is scarce.  Quality is hard.  Given that, why would I care to use Twitter, given what I cared for?  Why spend time on essentially consuming and creating trash, just for the sake of finding that one nugget each day in the real-time stream?  It's too much work and not worth the pain.  I want to do something where I feel satisfied after I'm done.  I like to feel like I've just drunk a fancy expensive wine while knowing how to appreciate it like a connoisseur instead of a cheap can of beer and still searching for the next hit like an alcoholic.  (And no, I'm not a wine connoisseur, it's just an analogy)

Of course, people may scream that I don't get it.  It's not meant to be consumed day-in, day-out, consume your life.  It's simply meant to be serendipitous, and give that joy that comes with democratizing communication, etc, etc.  Here's the thing.  If we're not on the thing 24/7, there will be no content.  It's 140 characters per tweet.  You'd consume that in seconds if there's tiny volume.  And if that were the case, Twitter would have nothing to show, nothing to give.  Even less reason for people to use it.

Furthermore, if people scaled back their usage to not die from a Twitter overdose (or perish the thought, to create more quality and value), then Twitter would fail to be a sticky product.  And the fact is, it's sticky products that grab the timeshare of people's lives.  The question a company has to ask itself is simply, "Is my timeshare due to having a sticky product that adds value or due to having a sticky product that simply wastes time?"  Guess which one creates lasting value and which one gets considered a fad by history?  And for that matter, I'd say Facebook is creating some interesting lasting value, much more than Twitter has so far.  Just saying, you know.

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