According to the authors of Battlestar Galactica, Bob Dylan was tuning into a cosmic song that drives the universe when he wrote All Along The Watchtower. There are so many great scenes in the BSG series that revolve around the song. In the last episode Starbuck has seconds to jump Galactica away from the exploding Cylon death star, she's fumbling at the controls and says "There must be some kind of way out of here" and then proceeds to transport us to a magic place (no spoilers). In the background The Song is playing.
I'm getting that feeling about Twitter.
BookOfJames: "Maybe it's good for Twitter to burn bright and fast. Once the fad is over, things may settle down for the better. Who knows?"
Maybe Twitter is just a crude child's drawing of the promised land of online communication.
Another step on the Yellow-brick Road? If so, I think we have, for sure, taken a detour into the land of the poppy flowers or the Wicked Witch of the West. For me, the real eye-opener was this tweet from TheEllenShow, promising a treat to all her munchkins if they drove her follower number over 500K. Think about it -- that's asking for people to spam on her behalf. I follow a lot of people (more than Ellen, for example) and that meant I got a lot of people retweeting her pitch. And while it's true I can choose not to follow Ellen, there's no way to not-follow all the spam. And with a half-million followers, that's a lot of spam.
All this predicts what we have to expect when Oprah joins the mess. And when the Congressional elections are fought in Twitterspace. All of a sudden the lovely patch of green, the bright optimistic future we had for it has turned into the key phrase in The Watchtower.
"There must be some way out of here..."
Said the joker to the thief.
Increasingly, I don't think it's Laconica. I think they have the wrong idea about who their potential users are and what they want, and what to expect from them. Their plan came out a few days ago, and if I want to operate a twitter-like service, I'm stuck with limited customization options and I have to pay to bring customers to them. I don't think this works.
No one has figured out how in this space to enable an honest non-spammer type such as myself to build a nice little business off this technology. Even worse, no one has figured out how to sell a service to a mainstream publication that wants to establish a news network without all the crap that's showing up on twitter.com.
I mentioned this briefly in a post a few of days ago. Let me elaborate.
I'm pretty sure the FriendFeed guys have missed the mark, and also pretty sure they know it.
Here's how I'd look at it if I were on their team.
1. Our key strength: We know how to scale systems. (Based on experience at Google with Maps and Mail.)
2. Our big opportunity: People want to start their own twitters. (This is my assumption. Unproven. Risky. Who? A-list bloggers, struggling news organizations, visionary networks of bloggers wanting to form new kinds of groups. AOL. Yahoo. MSN.)
3. Another strength: We know how to design APIs. (They do, the FF API is very nice. Could be better, and from what I've seen they know how to make it better.)
So, in case it isn't obvious by now, I'd counsel them to get into the platform business. Enable guys who have mastered AppEngine and EC2 to build front-ends for their back-end, provide a toolkit for building your own twitter and then let a thousand flowers bloom. I'd also raise more money so I could acquire the winners, suck their features into the platform, and then do it again. I think this is the winning strategy. If Twitter had FF's strengths (don't think they do) I'd counsel them to do the same. And for gods' sakes, stay in the background, don't compete with your users. More on this in the next paragraph.
One of the reasons Twitter is so demoralizing (at least for this Twitter user, ymmv) is something Jean-Louis Gassee once taught me by asking a question.
"David, are you a pimp or are you a whore?"
It was a good question. And one the Twitter owners would do well to answer.
The better business for them is to be pimps not whores. Fade into the background. Let Twitter become infrastructure, a platform for impressarios. Biz and Ev just can't compete with the dazzling personalities they've attracted. Yet geez Luigi, Biz is going on Colbert tonight! That's a bad idea. It's going to make Ellen and Oprah jealous, Leno and Letterman, Barbara, George Will, etc. Wait until there's competiton, and networks own twitters. The stars (whores) are going to get paid big bucks, like Howard Stern, to draw in users. And they're not going to want to compete with you on a personal level. And Ev and Biz just aren't that interesting as celebrities. But as pimps, maybe...
BTW, to answer JLG's question, 25 years later -- I'm a whore and I know it.
Not a big-time one. Just an average one. Nothing special.
Of course that's going to get quoted.
TechCrunch has a story announcing that Digg's expected URL-shortener is now open for business.
I asked on Twitter if there was an API, and heard back that there is. I quickly write a driver for it for the OPML Editor, and hooked it into my TwitterRiver app, and now the Friends-of-Dave feed and the NY Times River all are running on the Digg shortener. They have, over the last few months been running on a variety of shorteners.
See also: My work at bit.ly is done.
I began with an observation...
I was listening to the podcast of This Week, and listening to George Stephanopoulos mangle the interview with Geithner, who was doing the usual thing that politicos do when interviewed by politicos, he mouthed platitudes and ignored the questions, which GS just repeated. They were stupid Russert-like questions, basically amounting to: Did you change your mind?
Then Krugman comes on, as part of the panel, more nonsense, Krugman is actually trying to say real things, but the conversation keeps coming back to impressions and gotchas and lies.
Then it hit me -- Krugman should have interviewed Geithner.
Absolutely, but I suspect Geithner would never agree to it. Major political figures learn pretty quickly that they can bamboozle the supposed professional interviewers. So there's very little downside to going on the Sunday shows, 60 Minutes or whatever. Experts and, even more, complete amateurs, are far more dangerous.
You see this occasionally during campaigns. I remember in one of Tony Blair's campaigns he was asked some absolutely direct, specific question by a woman on the street which completely stumped him. He was absolutely at sea. That never happened with the professional journalists, even though Britain has far tougher inquisitors than the US. (See Jeremy Paxman famously torture then Home Secretary Michael Howard.)
The ease with which politicians evade questions is what led to the idiocy of Russert. Instead it should have/could have led to questioners who bothered to learn a subject in depth and would probe through follow-ups and persistence. What I love about the Paxman interview is that he never allowed himself to be brushed off. Stephanopoulos and the others may repeat a question a second time, but then they'll move on.
Great idea. Only reason it doesn't happen is the limited imagination of the show's producers. They are masters of a form. They do not want to change that form for all the obvious reasons.
Also, Krugman screws with their "sphere of consensus" mindset. They don't know what he's going to do, or say. That is seriously scarifying to them.
See: Audience Atomization.
Incidentally, one reason why Rachel Maddow is so good is because she's both very bright and incredibly well-informed on the details of so many issues. Having a doctorate in political science can be an advantage. She hasn't yet sunk into the standard form that Jay identifies.
One more thought from Jay...
You'll notice, as well, that an arched eyebrow and a "flip flop, Mr. Secretary?" question can be asked without running up any bills in knowledge acquisition costs for the particular issues the Secretary knows about. Whereas Krugman is up to speed and does not need to rely on one-size-fits-all questions.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California. "The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web. "Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.Dave Winer
My most recent trivia on Twitter.
© Copyright 1997-2009 Dave Winer.
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