It’s the users, not the technology

I totally agree with Dave Winer’s post about Twitter being about the users, not the technology. I didn’t join Twitter because it was cool technology. Second Life +might+ be able to make that claim, but not Twitter. I joined Twitter because my friends were on it and were joining it at a very quick rate. B. Mann seems to think that someone could build a Twitter clone in Jabber.

He’s talking like a lot of engineers at Microsoft (and other companies, truth be told) would talk “my team could build that in 10 days.” That all might be true but you’ll never get the users to come and try your thing out. Also, correct me if I’m wrong but Jabber is an IM system. Twitter is closer to a blog service, where the posting length has been limited to 140 characters and the home page is an RSS aggregation of your friends posts. Yeah, there’s an SMS component (it’s not why I joined Twitter — I don’t use Twitter from my cell phone and really don’t care that you can). Yeah, there’s an IM component (it’s not why I joined Twitter — I don’t use Twitter from an IM client and really don’t care that you can).

It’s interesting that B. Mann wants to build a new Twitter. One that’s better engineered, ostensibly. Hey, I’m all for that too. But he forgets that it’s not the engineering that got me to join Twitter in the first place: it’s my friends.

Maybe we need to engineer better friends before we talk about engineering a better Twitter. Heheh.

Oh, and if you haven’t yet joined Twitter, my account is Twitter.com/Scobleizer.

Om Malik has a list of Twitter Tools. That’s another thing you’d need to recreate — all the little things that have been already created on top of Twitter.

There’s also a belief that I keep reading that Twitter is only a Silicon Valley “fan boy” kind of thing. That’s TOTALLY NOT TRUE. Watch TwitterVision for a few minutes and you’ll see an evenly-dispersed group of people all over the world.

Comments

  1. The techies always think that the technology is the hard part – and that if they can do that, they can duplicate some startup’s interesting new thing. They usually go further and dismiss it as being too simple to devote energy and time to doing.

    They said the same thing with respect to Blogger, all those years ago. But talk is cheap. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  2. The techies always think that the technology is the hard part – and that if they can do that, they can duplicate some startup’s interesting new thing. They usually go further and dismiss it as being too simple to devote energy and time to doing.

    They said the same thing with respect to Blogger, all those years ago. But talk is cheap. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Did I say I was building a new Twitter? Nope, I said that you COULD using the open standard of Jabber/XMPP as the foundation.

    Specifically, I also updated the post with:
    —-
    Dave links back and explains that the number of users that have adopted Twitter is important. So…yes, I agree, I mean, I help build community sites for a living. So why are we talking about building an ecosystem around a company? Jabber would allow everyone who wants to build a real coral reef…one that doesn’t rely on body of a company in the middle.
    —-

    I’d love to see a Jabber-to-Twitter API that means all the rest of us outside the walls of Twitter could interoperate, peer, and all that good stuff.

    Building it around one company, no matter how many users it has, doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea.

    Facebook implemented SMS notifications (“just like Twitter”) and has a TON of users. If we had a standard like Jabber in the middle, people could have joe@facebook.com accounts and jane@twitter.com accounts. And it would all just work :P

    A note on Jabber/XMPP: XMPP is an open, IETF standard that has been used to implement a lot of IM-like functionality in the past. It also happens to be a protocol that’s great for passing around any sort of data where real time or publish and subscribe models make sense.

    It’s all about the users: so make it so that ALL the users can talk to each other in a real federation model (which works today with Jabber), rather than being locked in Twitter’s trunk.

  4. Did I say I was building a new Twitter? Nope, I said that you COULD using the open standard of Jabber/XMPP as the foundation.

    Specifically, I also updated the post with:
    —-
    Dave links back and explains that the number of users that have adopted Twitter is important. So…yes, I agree, I mean, I help build community sites for a living. So why are we talking about building an ecosystem around a company? Jabber would allow everyone who wants to build a real coral reef…one that doesn’t rely on body of a company in the middle.
    —-

    I’d love to see a Jabber-to-Twitter API that means all the rest of us outside the walls of Twitter could interoperate, peer, and all that good stuff.

    Building it around one company, no matter how many users it has, doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea.

    Facebook implemented SMS notifications (“just like Twitter”) and has a TON of users. If we had a standard like Jabber in the middle, people could have joe@facebook.com accounts and jane@twitter.com accounts. And it would all just work :P

    A note on Jabber/XMPP: XMPP is an open, IETF standard that has been used to implement a lot of IM-like functionality in the past. It also happens to be a protocol that’s great for passing around any sort of data where real time or publish and subscribe models make sense.

    It’s all about the users: so make it so that ALL the users can talk to each other in a real federation model (which works today with Jabber), rather than being locked in Twitter’s trunk.

  5. Boris: now joining Facebook and Twitter sounds like a great opportunity! Building a bridge between two islands adds value. Trying to replace the islands doesn’t interest me at all. Building a third island that connects the other two? Good too! I guess it’s all in the semantics.

  6. Boris: now joining Facebook and Twitter sounds like a great opportunity! Building a bridge between two islands adds value. Trying to replace the islands doesn’t interest me at all. Building a third island that connects the other two? Good too! I guess it’s all in the semantics.

  7. One thing again, though. To me Twitter is NOT IM or SMS. Seems like there’s a bug in your belief there. I don’t even use Twitter from my cell phone or an IM client. I totally treat it like a blog service from a browser. The browser, to me, is client #1. If your service doesn’t work well there it won’t matter that it has SMS or IM.

  8. One thing again, though. To me Twitter is NOT IM or SMS. Seems like there’s a bug in your belief there. I don’t even use Twitter from my cell phone or an IM client. I totally treat it like a blog service from a browser. The browser, to me, is client #1. If your service doesn’t work well there it won’t matter that it has SMS or IM.

  9. He’s talking like a lot of engineers at Microsoft (and other companies, truth be told) would talk “my team could build that in 10 days.” That all might be true but you’ll never get the users to come and try your thing out.

    I don’t think this is actually the problem. MySpace arose after Friendster and we see how that turned out.

    The real problem is, I believe, that engineers will say “we could build that in 10 days.” That being an exact replica of the original. The key is to fix the deficiencies in the original that matter to it’s users. That’s what MySpace did. They made a more social version of Friendster, and that attracted a lot of people. That chick Tila Tequila frequently credits the fact that Friendster would cancel her account when she got too many friends as the reason why she jumped to MySpace, taking people with her.

    I think you absolutely can build the same technology as someone else, or better technology, and wipe them out, if you actually know what it is that users are doing with that system. That means actually using it. That’s where I think all the ball dropping is.

    If there’s a deficiency in Twitter’s system — something users want that they’re just not getting — then there’s an opportunity for someone to build a Twitter-killer in 10 days.

  10. He’s talking like a lot of engineers at Microsoft (and other companies, truth be told) would talk “my team could build that in 10 days.” That all might be true but you’ll never get the users to come and try your thing out.

    I don’t think this is actually the problem. MySpace arose after Friendster and we see how that turned out.

    The real problem is, I believe, that engineers will say “we could build that in 10 days.” That being an exact replica of the original. The key is to fix the deficiencies in the original that matter to it’s users. That’s what MySpace did. They made a more social version of Friendster, and that attracted a lot of people. That chick Tila Tequila frequently credits the fact that Friendster would cancel her account when she got too many friends as the reason why she jumped to MySpace, taking people with her.

    I think you absolutely can build the same technology as someone else, or better technology, and wipe them out, if you actually know what it is that users are doing with that system. That means actually using it. That’s where I think all the ball dropping is.

    If there’s a deficiency in Twitter’s system — something users want that they’re just not getting — then there’s an opportunity for someone to build a Twitter-killer in 10 days.

  11. Too bad when the impulse is to kill something once it gets started. Better to build on it, add to it, compensate for its weaknesses and build on strengths. Good coral reefs don’t come along every day.

    There were people who had the same attitude about RSS when it started to take off, they wanted to replace it because they thought it was about the technology, but it was (like Twitter and everything else) about the users.

    The first time I saw this phenomenon was in the 80s when I came out with my first outliner ThinkTank. The software gurus of the day said they could implement it in a matter of days if not hours. They confused making something simple with it *being* simple.

    No one could make a “Twitter-killer” in 10 days because you can’t kill Twitter.

    The only time I really saw a product kill another was when 1-2-3 displaced Visicalc, because they were slow to get to the PC. But then it was more Visicalc self-destructing than being killed.

    About Jabber, sure, let’s build a gateway from Jabber to Twitter. But for me, I’m going to keep using the web interface, because it works for me, I don’t even need the mythological “premium” version that Jason was asking for — I don’t mind if it goes down from time to time. It’s not so mission-critical for me, at least not yet.

  12. Too bad when the impulse is to kill something once it gets started. Better to build on it, add to it, compensate for its weaknesses and build on strengths. Good coral reefs don’t come along every day.

    There were people who had the same attitude about RSS when it started to take off, they wanted to replace it because they thought it was about the technology, but it was (like Twitter and everything else) about the users.

    The first time I saw this phenomenon was in the 80s when I came out with my first outliner ThinkTank. The software gurus of the day said they could implement it in a matter of days if not hours. They confused making something simple with it *being* simple.

    No one could make a “Twitter-killer” in 10 days because you can’t kill Twitter.

    The only time I really saw a product kill another was when 1-2-3 displaced Visicalc, because they were slow to get to the PC. But then it was more Visicalc self-destructing than being killed.

    About Jabber, sure, let’s build a gateway from Jabber to Twitter. But for me, I’m going to keep using the web interface, because it works for me, I don’t even need the mythological “premium” version that Jason was asking for — I don’t mind if it goes down from time to time. It’s not so mission-critical for me, at least not yet.

  13. WRT twitter being a “silicon valley fan boy” thing … According to Google trends, it’s hardly a blip on the radar screen.

    There may be worldwide usage, sure, but it’s got a long way to go before it becomes a true trendsetter. Compare it to the real thought leaders: blogs, MySpace, and Wikipedia:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=twitter%2C+myspace%2C+blog%2C+wikipedia&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

    Or for the true “fan boy” comparison, try twitter vs manga:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=twitter%2C+manga&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

    From this perspective, it doesn’t look like twitter’s even made “fan boy” status quite yet.

  14. WRT twitter being a “silicon valley fan boy” thing … According to Google trends, it’s hardly a blip on the radar screen.

    There may be worldwide usage, sure, but it’s got a long way to go before it becomes a true trendsetter. Compare it to the real thought leaders: blogs, MySpace, and Wikipedia:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=twitter%2C+myspace%2C+blog%2C+wikipedia&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

    Or for the true “fan boy” comparison, try twitter vs manga:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=twitter%2C+manga&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

    From this perspective, it doesn’t look like twitter’s even made “fan boy” status quite yet.

  15. Twitter isnt the big thing here. Facebook is. It has a near identical featureset and tens of millions of users.

  16. Twitter isnt the big thing here. Facebook is. It has a near identical featureset and tens of millions of users.

  17. Project: you’re absolutely right that Facebook is big (a million people joined it last week alone). But I don’t use it cause my friends are mostly on Twitter (that’s changing pretty quickly, though). Everytime I look at Facebook I see something different than Twitter, though. Much bigger, heavier, and not as simple as Twitter.

  18. Project: you’re absolutely right that Facebook is big (a million people joined it last week alone). But I don’t use it cause my friends are mostly on Twitter (that’s changing pretty quickly, though). Everytime I look at Facebook I see something different than Twitter, though. Much bigger, heavier, and not as simple as Twitter.

  19. Dave: I never ever said “Twitter killer”. Twitter *shouldn’t* be killed…it would be GREAT to see them taking the lead (as they already have….) innovating on top of an open standard.

    To me, XMPP is a real time version of RSS. That’s the very shortest description I can make that also highlights the power and potential I think the protocol/standard itself has.

  20. Dave: I never ever said “Twitter killer”. Twitter *shouldn’t* be killed…it would be GREAT to see them taking the lead (as they already have….) innovating on top of an open standard.

    To me, XMPP is a real time version of RSS. That’s the very shortest description I can make that also highlights the power and potential I think the protocol/standard itself has.

  21. Of course it is all about the users, but is also all about the technology. All your friends using Twitter is great, but if their technology sucks and can’t keep up with the growth in user base people will start looking elsewhere for something that does something similar/the same. Trying to drag everything into ‘forget the tech concentrate on the users’ seems to be a bit narrow minded – how about ‘concentrate of making sure the tech keeps your users happy’ instead?

    I’ve seen XMPP mentioned several times in the comments, but not once have I seen anyone post what is it – which might give you a better idea of why Boris is suggesting that it will scale (and keep users happy) ..

    define:XMPP
    Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, or XMPP, is an open, XML-based protocol for near real-time extensible messaging and presence events

  22. Of course it is all about the users, but is also all about the technology. All your friends using Twitter is great, but if their technology sucks and can’t keep up with the growth in user base people will start looking elsewhere for something that does something similar/the same. Trying to drag everything into ‘forget the tech concentrate on the users’ seems to be a bit narrow minded – how about ‘concentrate of making sure the tech keeps your users happy’ instead?

    I’ve seen XMPP mentioned several times in the comments, but not once have I seen anyone post what is it – which might give you a better idea of why Boris is suggesting that it will scale (and keep users happy) ..

    define:XMPP
    Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, or XMPP, is an open, XML-based protocol for near real-time extensible messaging and presence events

  23. “I don’t use Twitter from my cell phone”

    Some of us do though. And I personally think that having such a feature is useful. I also don’t fully agree about everything being about the users. Yes it is about the needs, wants and feedback of those users. This is something time and time again developers ignore. Because they have that GOD complex that most developers do. The concept of stupid end users just don’t get how to use the product. Instead of actually taking the time to listen and improve the technology. Key reason many people don’t want to adapt any type of technology. Also a very valid reason we still have the end user experience being aggravating and pure crap. It’s not about one or the other. It should be about both. Technology should be designed with users in mind. To solve problems and help them enjoy life. Not giving users the feeling of wanting throw something out the window.

  24. “I don’t use Twitter from my cell phone”

    Some of us do though. And I personally think that having such a feature is useful. I also don’t fully agree about everything being about the users. Yes it is about the needs, wants and feedback of those users. This is something time and time again developers ignore. Because they have that GOD complex that most developers do. The concept of stupid end users just don’t get how to use the product. Instead of actually taking the time to listen and improve the technology. Key reason many people don’t want to adapt any type of technology. Also a very valid reason we still have the end user experience being aggravating and pure crap. It’s not about one or the other. It should be about both. Technology should be designed with users in mind. To solve problems and help them enjoy life. Not giving users the feeling of wanting throw something out the window.

  25. Dave, if not enough people are using twitter, its still possible to kill. But if people outside a certain group aren’t interested in twitter, they won’t be interested in a twitter clone either, so twitter would win either way. Its still possible to displace it.

  26. Dave, if not enough people are using twitter, its still possible to kill. But if people outside a certain group aren’t interested in twitter, they won’t be interested in a twitter clone either, so twitter would win either way. Its still possible to displace it.

  27. Twitter already has a Jabber interface; that’s the Google Talk IM interface to it.

    If you have a Jabber client on your mobile phone, you can use Twitter from there and not pay per-message SMS charges.

    As for the cost of replicating Twitter, there are a number of existence proofs for the ease of doing it; e.g. wamadu.de (a German language version). That one doesn’t have every last feature mimicked, but it’s close enough to be easily recognizable.

  28. Twitter already has a Jabber interface; that’s the Google Talk IM interface to it.

    If you have a Jabber client on your mobile phone, you can use Twitter from there and not pay per-message SMS charges.

    As for the cost of replicating Twitter, there are a number of existence proofs for the ease of doing it; e.g. wamadu.de (a German language version). That one doesn’t have every last feature mimicked, but it’s close enough to be easily recognizable.

  29. The cellular capabilities of Twitter offer a really compelling possibility: disaster notification. If people are following my Twitters, or my Twitters are being posted to a community page and I witness some sort of disaster, all I need to do is ping Twitter with an update to alert the whole community. I am part of a blog community, nomadlife doing exactly that. We had bloggers in London during the bombing there and it took much longer than necessary for everyone to check in. Using Twitter, we could have instant knowledge of a disaster and ensuring everyone’s well-being would be much easier. If you check out the nomadlife.org main page, you’ll see a line at the top for Twitter notifications. As a non-technical person, this is a pretty cool use of the technology.

  30. The cellular capabilities of Twitter offer a really compelling possibility: disaster notification. If people are following my Twitters, or my Twitters are being posted to a community page and I witness some sort of disaster, all I need to do is ping Twitter with an update to alert the whole community. I am part of a blog community, nomadlife doing exactly that. We had bloggers in London during the bombing there and it took much longer than necessary for everyone to check in. Using Twitter, we could have instant knowledge of a disaster and ensuring everyone’s well-being would be much easier. If you check out the nomadlife.org main page, you’ll see a line at the top for Twitter notifications. As a non-technical person, this is a pretty cool use of the technology.

  31. One of the biggest uses for twitter is in a conference setting. It’s great for 1 person to talk to the whole conference at once. We have a tab for it at our site on http://360flex.com and it works well. The nice thing about twitter at conferences is that you can get real time feedback on sessions/speakers and know where the good one and the bad ones are.

    Plus, the other great feature of twitter is the quick: “Hey, I’m in San Francisco for the day. Anyone wanna grab dinner/drinks?” type posts.

    That sorta stuff if quick and simple to do in Twitter.

  32. One of the biggest uses for twitter is in a conference setting. It’s great for 1 person to talk to the whole conference at once. We have a tab for it at our site on http://360flex.com and it works well. The nice thing about twitter at conferences is that you can get real time feedback on sessions/speakers and know where the good one and the bad ones are.

    Plus, the other great feature of twitter is the quick: “Hey, I’m in San Francisco for the day. Anyone wanna grab dinner/drinks?” type posts.

    That sorta stuff if quick and simple to do in Twitter.