Earlier today on Twitter I commented about the “insanity” that is Robert Scoble following 21,000+ people on the group messaging and microblogging service. Since his bot (software robot) monitors everything on Twitter for mentions of his name, he saw my comment and challenged me.
Scobleizer @fuzheado thinks he knows the point of Twitter and says I don’t. This might be interesting. Might.
Twitter limits you to 140 characters per post, so I had to be succinct:
Twitter is a modern digital commons – nonhierarchical, transparent, open, human-speed. Once bots inhabit it, tragedy perhaps.
Earlier that day I was thinking about what Twitter “was” before the Scoble tweet.
Twitter’s model is simple but powerful — complete transparency. Anyone in the Twitterverse can see what you’re receiving, who you are following and who’s following you. It creates a continually changing set of readers and writers, allowing peer discovery faster than any other SNS. Some other features help.
“Retweeting” an interesting post to your followers effectively bridges two disconnected cliques. The directed “@user” messages send an exploratory “Tweet” to make contact with new peers. It’s great in its simplicity, and the Twitter API furthers extendibility and usability.
The Internet had a lot of naysayers in the 1990s — people complained it was a peer-to-peer system that created ghettos. Terms like narrowcasting, personalized media, customized front pages and the Daily Me all implied compartmentalized lonely existences. Twitter does the opposite, by embracing radical transparency to support serendipitous discovery and social mixing. Perhaps it’s why a number of Twitterers have been noticing they spend a lot less time on Facebook. They’ve hit a wall with their “trusted” network of friends. They’ve tagged photos, thrown sheep, played 100 games of Scrabulous and reunited with old classmates. But they didn’t really broaden their horizons.
For English-language China-oriented bloggers, Twitter has fostered a nimble community whether it’s about Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, business, arts, pop culture, academic, Olympics, you name it. Suddenly a disparate set of folks are discovering each other, trading 140-character info nuggets faster than ever before. And with recent Olympic torch dramas and Carrefour boycotts, it’s been the only info stream that can keep up with breaking events.
Elliott Ng at CNReviews.com has a metric-heavy analysis of who’s who in this sphere, based on the list created by Christine Lu (the ultimate “connector” in Tipping Point parlance). It’s like a celebrity who’s in and who’s out list.
But as Twitter grows, there is the risk the signal may not keep up with the noise. Spam, bots and scalability are always a problem to new digital commons spaces. There is a very good chance Twitter, a “faddish web app“, could be the CB radio of Web 2.0 if it can’t find a way to scale with its new-found fame.
Let’s hope we don’t refer to it as the PointCast of 2008 and wake up with a bad hangover.