ARTICLE DATE: 04.28.09
TWEET: I’m writing a column.
I’ve actually never seen anything (since CB radio) become so popular so fast after a start that was fairly normal. Somewhere along the way, the Twitter system got picked up by incredibly influential celebrities—and the public-at-large followed suit. The total number of Twitter users is now in the tens of millions.
The service is essentially a micro-blogging platform that allows you to post short messages and delivers them to various audiences instantly. Twitter is burdened by celebrity users who cost money to support and often overwhelm the system, making it useless to what I would call real users.
Let me try and explain what a real user is compared to the celebrity user.
TWEET: There are BO users and AO users: Before Opera/After Oprah.
Ironically (and here is where I’m going to get myself into trouble) celebrities might be using the system in ways it was originally intended, and what I call the real users are interacting with Twitter in unique and mostly productive ways. The service’s owners seem to be promoting their original vision, which will drive Twitter into a CB radio death spiral.
TWEET: Many BO users actually have BO.
The service was originally designed as a non-productive micro-blogging system done for the “I’m having a cheese sandwich” crowd, people convinced that their casual thoughts are of some actual interest to bored souls out there who want to know what you are thinking while in the bathroom, on the toilet. And yes, people do tweet (a verb, meaning to post a note on Twitter) such mundane trivia.
TWEET: Do people actually eat while going to the toilet?
Indeed, celebrities such as Oprah or Britney Spears or President Obama have millions of fans who want to know everything these people do every minute of the day. Perhaps they find it fascinating, possibly entertaining, and probably satisfying in some way or other. Many of these people are lost souls, some are just bored in general, and a minority are obsessive, sometimes dangerously so. Whatever the case this is not a productive use of their time. The celebrity, if he or she actually does the Twittering, has a way of communicating to this obsessive fan base directly and can direct them for various marketing ploys.
TWEET: All time must be used productively, or else!
And while it may be considered “productive” to sell tickets to a concert or memorabilia to a fan using Twitter as a communications tool, it degrades the usefulness of the system for what I consider productive uses. Someone can stop me here, I suppose, arguing “No, John, it degrades nothing since you can still use Twitter any way YOU want and just ignore the eating-a-cheese-sandwich-on-the-crapper people who are using it unproductively.”
Well, yes, and no. Today I can ignore them. Twitter lets me choose who I follow and whose posts I can read. And I try not to follow people who post mundane details of their minute to minute activity unless it is somehow hilarious. But if the entire service becomes so inundated as a marketing arm of celebrity-worship that the systems fails and dies like CB radio did, then no, I can’t ignore them, can I?
TWEET: Sorry Twitter was down and I did not get your message in time.
Few of today’s Twitter users went through the CB radio phenomenon. It was almost identical to Twitter in that it was discussed to excess on TV and used for both productive and non-productive uses. It still exists but nobody uses it anymore: CB radio got clogged up with chatterboxes who bought illegal amplifiers and ended up hogging all the bandwidth with useless transmissions that stepped all over the system. This is the equivalent of Twitter going “over capacity” and not working just when you wanted to use it. When this happens too often you lose interest or begin to look for an alternative.
With Twitter, a productive use might be something like a fire brigade chief messaging volunteer firemen to meet at a location. One tweet can go out as a simultaneous IM to hundreds of people and appear on cell phones as a message instantly. This obviously wasn’t the original intent of the service, but it’s among hundreds of good ideas that evolved around the Twitter platform. If the fire chief finds the service has crapped out because Oprah has decided to discuss her favorite brand of cream cheese and millions of people want to affirm that indeed, George Washington-brand Vermont cream cheese is better than anything in the world, then the service becomes pretty useless.
I suppose that some architecture could be deployed to prevent outages, but at some point this costs real money. Right now Twitter is a public service and operates for free. I suppose nothing good and useful AND free lasts forever.
Maybe Google will buy the service and add a few ad pages or who knows what will happen. All I’m saying with this lament is that this is smelling more and more like CB radio than just about anything outside of MySpace that I’ve seen on the Net. I can’t imagine how it can continue in this direction much longer.
Then again perhaps the public really wants a new way to be told about new products and what to buy. Maybe they really want to know what I’m thinking when waiting in line at the store.
TWEET: Waiting in line sucks!
And perhaps I’m the type of user who should find some other system. Meanwhile follow me at THErealDVORAK on Twitter and I’ll sell you something.
TWEET: Order today!