Tag Archives: Twitter

Mike Arrington and I disagree on the future

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Last Saturday on the Gillmor Gang Mike Arrington wondered aloud whether Twitter had won a “winners take all” game and whether that meant that friendfeed was toast. He then wrote a blog post titled “FriendFeed is in danger of becoming the coolest app no one uses.”

If Arrington is right, then Friendster would have kept MySpace from happening. MySpace would have kept Facebook from happening. Facebook would have kept Twitter from happening.

The thing is that Arrington and I disagree about the future.

He is right about one thing. Twitter has won. It is now the favorite way for people to do microblogging. It LOOKS like a “winner take all” thing, right? After all, who will use a different service than all those celebrities now? To be serious we already know that Twitterers won’t switch, because last year Twitter was down all the time and no one switched, even when they were being abused by the technology.

So that game IS over and Arrington is right about that.

But, is the microblogging game where the cash is? No, I don’t think so.

Well, then, where is the cash?

Search.

“Huh?” I can hear you asking. “Twitter has real-time web search already.”

Yes, but it isn’t all that good.

Here, let’s demonstrate. Remember the plane that crashed in the Hudson?

I want you to find the original picture that someone sent in from their iPhone over Twitter.

Here, I’ll do the searches for you. Go to Twitter Search and type in Hudson Plane Crash. See all the noise? Yeah, the picture is there somewhere but it’s hard to find.

Now, here’s another search, this time using some of the filtering systems over on friendfeed. The picture stands right out.

See, what is going on here is that for search to work you MUST have metadata. Google built a multi-billion-dollar business on the metadata of linking. The next big business will build on top of the metadata of these three things:

1. Who shared or commented on an item. The search above I knew I had liked the picture, so I constrained the search to only things I’ve liked.
2. How many comments or likes are on an item. The search above I knew had tons of comments and likes, so I looked only for items that had more than five likes. That got rid of 95% of the noise.
3. What was said in the item. See on Twitter there’s only 140 characters and other people can’t add tags or info onto that item. On friendfeed I can leave a comment underneath a tweet and make it even more searchable. These comments get indexed in seconds now, which makes them very useful. I can add “cool tweet” to a Tweet and then search for that tweet later. Here’s an example.

NONE of these pieces of metadata are available in Twitter.

This is not just about friendfeed, either. Over on Facebook Mark Zuckerberg has a TON of extra metadata to study as well. He knows who has commented on each other’s walls or who has sent a message, so he knows who your “real” friends are.

Now, to be fair, Twitter does have some metadata to study as well. Retweets are metadata. Already Retweetfeed and TweetMeme are watching that metadata and there are other sites as well.

Twitter can also study hashtags, but I have been talking to people about why I think they are dead. Certainly hashtags are less relevant in the future.

But, notice what Twitter’s metadata is: it has to be included INSIDE a Tweet, where Facebook and friendfeed’s metadata is OUTSIDE the Tweet. Which gives you more characters to communicate with your friends.

So, why are the dollars in search and not just in microblogging?

Well, let’s look how people buy something.

Someone or something creates the need in their head to buy something. I have a baby on the way so I’m starting to look at strollers again since our old one isn’t good enough for a two-baby family.

That’s the “need.”

Then I start talking to my friends. That’s where Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed come in. I also start researching. That’s where Google comes in and parenting sites and all that.

Then we make a decision. NOW that is the only place where monetization is possible.

Let’s say I decided on a Bugaboo stroller. I search Google for such. Notice all the ads along the right side!

Why are all those ads there? Because businesses know that’s where the money is. Not in blasting ads on the Superbowl. Not in bothering you with ads in my videos or on my blog, where there aren’t many people buying strollers.

No, they want to hit you AT THE MOMENT YOU ARE BUYING.

So, why would Bugaboo want to put ads inside your Tweets? Hint, they won’t. They won’t get many sales that way. But, what if you are searching for information on strollers? Absolutely! That means you’re looking to buy.

OK, here’s where we differ on the future.

We found our new doctor on Yelp. You’ll find all sorts of things this way in the future.

How about a restaurant? A plumber? A TV repair shop? A lawyer?

Consider that you’re walking down the street with a future version of Facebook or Twitter or friendfeed in your hand. You’re looking for a restaurant.

Which is going to be able to bring back the best restaurants that your friends care about?

That requires having metadata to study. That’s why Facebook copied friendfeed’s likes so that it can come back and say “there are four restaurants that have more than 20 likes from your friends within walking distance.”

Translation: the future hasn’t been built yet. That’s why Twitter has not won the entire game yet. That’s why this is a fun industry to watch.

Oh, and Mike, you only have 62 comments and 72 likes, which demonstrates you haven’t done enough with these systems to see the real value. I have 18,300 comments and 17,284 likes and now I have a database that ANYONE can search and find a LOT of value. Plus, I have now been to the future and you haven’t. Yet. You’ll get there. :-)

I gave my Twitter and friendfeed followers a look at the video I did, discussing our disagreement and here’s the comment area that erupted. Keep in mind that this is a live chat room and you can add comments and I’ll see and be able to answer them live on screen there. Oh, that’s something else that Twitter and Facebook can’t yet do. Like I said, I’ve been to the future. You should come and join me.

What I hate about real-time web (your productivity goes to hell)

For the past 12 hours I’ve had friendfeed running, along with another secret tool that’s coming in May that shows me news updating in real time, and another screen is running Tweetdeck here.

This is powerful stuff, I can talk with the world and see reactions coming in live. We’ve turned the Web from something that took weeks to discover new sites to a big chat room that pushes items at you in crazy fast manner and moves them down the screen.

More and more geeks are complaining to me that they can no longer keep up with Facebook, Twitter, friendfeed, and all the other things.

Linda Stone defined this problem as continuous partial attention.

I think it’s worse than that. Continuous partial inattention. I dare you to open up the new friendfeed in a window next to your work, point it at the aggregation of all the people I’m following, and try to get any work done.

Now, some of you are saying “well, unfollow.” But there’s something interesting for me in seeing all sorts of little conversations that hundreds or thousands of people are having.

The thing is I +can’t+ unfollow. Why not? You might say I’m addicted. Better people than me already have.

But there’s no going back for me. I will not give up this new world.

That means that we need new skills to deal with this new world.

One new skill? We now will share filters. I shared one with you in another post. Yesterday there was a big earthquake in Italy. Here’s a filter to help you find all the news about it. You can write me filters that will bring other things to my attention that I might miss in the stream of noise.

Other skills? We’ll need to build new news aggregation sites, like the “trending” feature on Twitter Search or Techmeme that will find the news “needles” in the stack of noise “hay.”

But right now we’re entering a period of transition. One where some of us will not be able to cope. Or we’ll be sucked in so deeply that we suffer career or family consequences. I’m struggling with the balance here myself.

I don’t know the answers here, other than to know that this new world does have its problems.

Twitter 2012

Tomorrow friendfeed is coming out with a new version that’s quite different from what it did before (I have a video of the meeting where friendfeed’s co-founders demonstrate the new version to a bunch of bloggers including from VentureBeat, TechCrunch, and a variety of others. That set of videos will be up Monday morning at about 9 a.m. Pacific Time).

I’ll be honest. I’m finding that new version of friendfeed unsatisfying on one level. Why? Because it isn’t Twitter.

“Huh?” I can hear you asking me. I’m sure you’re confused because I’m friendfeed’s number one fan.

Well, hear me out. Twitter’s success is its simplicity. It has no comments. No likes. No location metadata. No attachments. No enclosures. No headlines. No body text.

It is just a “river of noise” coming at you in reverse-chronological goodness 140 characters at a time.

That simplicity along with its publicness is why it is continuing to get hype, even as Facebook passed 200 million users (which, in more common times, would guarantee it 10x the hype of Twitter).

See, celebrities are who Twitter is aiming at now and celebrities don’t get all the geeky metadata that Facebook (tagging? too hard) and friendfeed (likes? too hard) have. See, if you are hiring ghost writers to keep your public image clean, as many of the celebrity accounts have done, you can’t teach “proper liking behavior.” I’m only halfway kidding.

But there is a world I want. I call it the world of Twitter 2012. Here, let me explain.

When that plane crashed into the Hudson I was watching most of the early Tweets. Most of the tweets that came in the first hour were total noise. People saying stuff like “I hope everyone survived” or “OMG, plane crash in NY.” But there were a few tweets that I remembered. The one with the picture of the plane in the water. The ones where people in New York said “I just saw a plane crash in the Hudson.”

Those were the high value Tweets. But how do we get them to stick around?

Well, you can retweet them. That’s metadata. You can put a hashtag on them. That’s metadata.

Or you could pull them into friendfeed and “like” them and “comment” on them. That’s hard, but that’s metadata too that’s more useful than Twitter’s metadata because it doesn’t need to be included inside the Tweet (which takes away characters from Twitter’s 140).

The real problem is we need more metadata to make this new world more useful. Here’s what I want to do in Twitter 2012.

If something like the Hudson plane crash happens in Twitter 2012, I want to draw a box around New York and tell Twitter “only show me Tweets from inside this box.” To do that Twitter will need more metadata. In this case, location of where Tweets are being sent from (Twitter could easily get that from my iPhone’s GPS or use my Internet provider’s data to get detail on where my location is).

Yes, I can set that in Twitter’s profile, but really that is pretty useless (I might be in New York on vacation and if my profile says Half Moon Bay it will think I’m Tweeting from Half Moon Bay).

What else might I like in Twitter 2012?

I bet that by then not having these features will look pretty lame:

1. Grouping. I’m following too many people so tweets go by too fast to read them. I’d like to group the people I’m following so that I can see their tweets separated into folders. But that would mean making Twitter more complex. More complexity isn’t working well for friendfeed, is it? It is for geeks like me, but what about normal people? No, not as well.
2. More data types. Why do I need to come to wordpress.com to write a long blog post like this one (which you probably discovered on my Tweet stream as a URL, right?) Why can’t I do that from inside Twitter 2012? How about photos? Why do I need to use a service like TwitPic to post a photo? Why do I need to use YouTube, 12seconds.tv, or Seesmic to post a video? Why can’t I do that right from Twitter’s UI? But adding those data types to Twitter will mean making Twitter more complex and will mean that Twitter will have to copy Facebook and friendfeed.
3. Real DM’s. Twitter’s Direct Messages suck right now. I have to follow you for you to even be able to send direct messages. And when you do send them to me I can’t search through them. I can’t forward them. I can’t copy other people on them. They are really lame. Yet even though they are really lame tons of people use them (which is the biggest reason I automatically follow back everyone on Twitter who follows me now — I want all my followers to be able to DM me. If Twitter 2012 got rid of that limitation I’d stop auto following everyone).
4. Filtering. In Twitter 2012 there will be many people with millions of followers and the flow will be eight times higher than it is today. Plus, many accounts will be machine generated. The Washington State Department of Transportation shows one such account. You send a tweet to it to find out how long times to cross the border are and it Tweets you back with the time automatically. By 2012 there will be thousands of such applications you can use Twitter for.
5. Location based information. In addition to the ability to search Tweets written from New York about plane crashes, I want to see all the Tweets written from, say, University Ave. in Palo Alto about restaurant experiences there. So, if someone says “Pluto’s rocks” there should be an aggregator that lets you see how many people talked about Plutos. Obviously only people writing on their iPhones FROM Plutos on University Ave. should be listened to. After all, if they are posting from Australia it’s probably not going to be very relevant. I can see a bunch of such ideas.
6. Like with my recent video of Apture I can see a bunch of different ways to present more information. Why have just a text URL? Why not bring up a whole control pad of information about your Tweet. After all, if I link to Dave Winer’s blog, why not include links to his videos, his photos, his podcasts, etc?

Well, it’s 2:42 a.m. and I could keep going if a nice warm bed weren’t calling my name, but this is just a start of a conversation. 2012 is three years away. What would you like Twitter to become by then?

Kara says "no Google deal" for Twitter

It’s funny, last night I had dinner with Matt Cutts, Google’s best known blogger. He said Google wasn’t buying Twitter as far as he knew, but I figured that Matt might not know whether discussions were happening or not so I didn’t report that to see what else fell out on the blogs after Arrington reported a rumor that Twitter was in discussions. After all, if you don’t want the world to know something you shouldn’t tell your #1 blogger. But now Kara Swisher is reporting that there is no Google deal under discussion to buy Twitter. Kara knows Google very well. Her partner is an executive at Google. So, I’ll go with Kara.

So, why would a rumor get started in first place? Well, Twitter might want to shake buyers out of the tree. Or, someone at Google might want to buy Twitter and is trying to get internal support built up for such an idea. Who knows?

For now, I’m going with Kara. I didn’t believe this deal from the beginning and said so over on friendfeed when I first heard about it.

UPDATE: I didn’t mean to imply that Kara got this info from her partner, see her disclosure. I included that info to demonstrate she knows Google very well and has tons of sources.

The worst thing for Twitter

Yes, Twitter is in talks to be bought by Google, but is that the worst thing that would happen to Twitter?

No, even though it’s funny to note that designer Douglas Bowman just left Google a week ago to go to work for Twitter (and did so with a public “I’m pissed and I’m leaving” letter — I guess he’ll be asked to clean toilets for a few weeks if he gets bought back into Google).

Remember, Google is the company that bought Jaiku and then did nothing with it. It’s the company that bought Dodgeball (a company that had a service very similar to Twitter that was out before Twitter). And did nothing with it (the founders of that company also wrote a “we’re leaving” letter to Google.)

Are you noticing a trend here yet? Google sucks at microblogging/social networking and I don’t believe that Google has actually changed at all. The best predictor of future results is past behavior.

So, if Twitter goes to Google there’s a great chance that it’ll be screwed up.

But, there’s something even worse awaiting it: if Twitter gets purchased by Microsoft. Or worse, Adobe or Oracle or IBM.

Why? These companies understand even less of what’s going on in the social networking space than Google does. At least Google is trying and failing. But Google makes great mobile apps and Google understands how to scale things that need scale. I can also see how Google would integrate Twitter search into its search pages.

Microsoft, on the other hand, doesn’t deserve to get Twitter. Microsoft has totally screwed up its online branding and search. It’s pretty incompetent in those areas and has been for years. Yeah, I know that Microsoft has thousands of employees who’ll call me names on their blogs and yeah I know that Microsoft has thousands of fans, er, MVPs, who’ll tell you at length why I’m wrong.

But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares. Microsoft has lost the Internet generation because they simply have not done anything interesting. Spending another $100 million on advertising is not going to change that.

Heck, they should stop the advertising, use the $100 million to get Twitter’s attention and buy it. But that’s what Microsoft would do if it had real Internet leadership that understood just how important Twitter’s search feature will be to getting Microsoft noticed in the search game.

Here: what will work better to get more people to feel good about Microsoft? Spending $100 million on TV ads? Or using that money to buy Twitter?

No brainer for me.

But here’s the problem: I don’t believe Microsoft wants to get the Internet. So, if Microsoft DID wake up and buy Twitter it would be a horrid place for Twitter to be. It would stagnate even worse there than it would at Google.

Which is why, even though I don’t like Twitter’s management team that much, I’m hoping that they sell to Google instead of Microsoft. At least then it has a chance of success, Google’s poor track record in this area notwithstanding.

Big shifts in microblog/social networking world

What a week in the microblog world.

First Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had a ton of really nasty articles written about him after his CFO left and was replaced. My take? Zuck got the service to 200 million and he’s one of the smartest businesspeople I’ve met. He’s also young and has definite ideas of where he’d like to take Facebook. He also has investors that he has to listen to at least a little bit. Add all that up and it’s a spot I’m glad I’m not in. That said Zuckerberg and crew are so close to the gold that their metal detectors must be going nuts. Now they have to execute and get show us how they are going to add businesses to the social graph and also how they are going to build public entities so that they can take the hype away from Twitter. If they get those two done, they’ll cash in big time. But those are two big ifs, especially if there are major management troubles like what some of the bloggers are sensing.

The second big shift this week was Mike Arrington’s reporting that Twitter is in talks with Google to be sold for a quarter billion dollars. First, disclosure: I really don’t like Twitter’s management team. I think they have more problems than Zuckerberg. They treat their community even worse than Facebook does. Their technology has been horrid (and still has major problems, when I refresh Twitter 100 times I see a Fail Whale at least five times, if not more). But, no one can argue the fact that Twitter has gotten more PR in the past 30 days than any other company I can remember getting in the past year. Everytime I turn on TV or Radio lately I hear “we just Tweeted.” That alone is worth a ton and they deserve to be compensated for yet again building a great brand. Why does Google want Twitter? Easy, search features. How did I learn about the Chinese earthquake? Well, that was by accident (I was the first American to tell someone else about the earthquake) because I follow so many people. But what did I do after that? I went to http://search.twitter.com and started watching what everyone was saying about the earthquake. Today tons of people do that or use tools like Twhirl and Tweetdeck to do those searches.

Lots of my friends think that this search behavior will let Microsoft get back into the search game if Microsoft bought Twitter. Heck, Todd Bishop just wrote that too. Unfortunately Steve Ballmer doesn’t understand Twitter (he isn’t on it and probably thinks that’s yet another stupid thing that Scoble uses) so he probably won’t see the value here. Ballmer has done a horrid job at getting Microsoft into the search game, so I’ll be shocked if he wakes up and buys Twitter. Of course just by saying that I probably made Ev and Biz a few hundred million dollars more — if Microsoft and Google get into a bidding war valuations on Twitter could go up to a billion or more. Pretty rich territory for a service that has only 10 million users in the United States.

The third shift? It actually is coming on Monday as friendfeed brings out a completely new UI. I saw it last night and I’m still stunned (mostly in a good way, but change is always exhausting). I’m not sure I’ll like it all, but you’ll definitely want to watch the video I shot of the press conference and I will have a LOT more to say on this on Monday morning. I’m under embargo until Monday, but the video is long and they go into tons of details about the new UI and their business.

What a week in social networking/microblogging. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Why Rob Diana is right: Twitter gets the hype while Facebook will get the gold

Rob Diana just wrote “Sorry Twitter, Facebook is The Data Gold Mine.”

First, let’s go back to Ronn Owens. He’s a talk show host on KGO Radio. Actually, he’s the #1 rated talk show on the #1 station in San Francisco (if you exclude nationally-syndicated radio guys like Limbaugh). I was listening the day he discovered Twitter. He resisted at first (a guest told him he MUST be on Twitter, because it’s a good way to let his listeners know what’s coming up). The next day he announced that he had joined Twitter to his audience. I was follower #24 (he now has 558). I joined about 20 minutes after his announcement because I was driving. It was amazing to me that he had only gotten 24 followers in that time, which demonstrates the lack of engagement of a talk radio audience, but I’m getting off track.

What got him onto Twitter? (He’s talked about it several times since). Its publicness.

This is what is driving Twitter’s hype. See, for a celebrity like Owens, or a brand like CNN (which has several accounts on Twitter) the publicness of Twitter is like crack. Facebook might have more users, but it’s hard to be “public” on Facebook. Google’s spiders (the software that indexes web pages) can’t get into Facebook easily while those same spiders eat up Twitter.

The “publicness” of Twitter makes a TON of sense for someone like Ronn Owens who wants to reach a world-wide audience with very little work. Facebook makes less sense because it’s not only more work (there’s a lot more to do on Facebook than just write simple text messages from a cell phone) but it isn’t as public so it’s harder to get new followers.

But this is exactly why people tell me they use Facebook instead of Twitter. So, Facebook has the numbers (about 180 million for Facebook vs. about 10 million for Twitter). It is also why Rob Diana is right: people will put more intimate stuff, like having a baby, into Facebook rather than Twitter.

Only weirdos like me like sharing intimate stuff in a public forum and having conversations. Hint: for every weirdo like me, there are 1000 who are like my wife and only want to discuss that stuff with their “true friends.”

Which brings me back to Rob Diana’s point. It’s those intimate details that will bring advertising opportunities. “I’m having a baby shower in San Francisco at the Hyatt” is the type of thing normal people will share in Facebook with their friends but will never think of sharing in Twitter. Yet that’s the kind of information that a brand like the Hyatt needs to engage with you.

When I went to Las Vegas recently and said I was staying in the Luxor, someone got back to me at the Luxor on Twitter and said something like “let me know if I can help you, I can get you show tickets and make reservations for you.”

This kind of customer intimacy will be far more prevalent over on Facebook because WE are far more intimate there.

Rob is right, I wonder how Twitter is going to shift to get us to be more intimate with sharing the intimate details of our lives?

Oh, and I wonder how Facebook is going to keep us sharing the intimate details of our lives as it tries to add businesses to the social graph? The first time some business answers back a Facebooker like the Luxor did to me on Twitter they might get freaked out, so Facebook has to be careful here.

So, why would Facebook get any money from the Luxor? I can see a ton of ways. Can’t you?

Think of the Yellow Pages. Simple listings are free there (or were back when I advertised in the 1980s). But bigger ads that are more impressive cost thousands per month. Use that model on Facebook. Imagine a brand, like Luxor, just wants to say hi. That’s free. But how about post a link? That’ll be $4 please. And on and on.