Top 5 Reasons Why Twitter Is Jumping The Shark

I was an early adopter of Twitter. "How early?", you ask? Early enough to get DanWilson as my Twitter handle. Trust me, that is pretty darned early.

I used Twitter at first to keep up with the swarm at conferences. Many impromptu meetings, dinners, deals were organized over Twitter. When a particular conference ended, I'd turn off twitter notifications. Who needs the mobile going off every time someone posts "I'm waiting at a stop light" or "I like cashmere socks"... I'm sure you'll agree.

Twitter caught on. In a big way. Pretty much all large companies have Twitter accounts and social media strategies. This is just the evolution of the times I suppose. In spite of all of the growth, for me, Twitter is on the verge of jumping the shark.

Conceptually, Twitter is interesting. Hearkening back to the early days of impromptu organization and spontaneous meetings ("Hey @whatever likes cashmere socks also! FTW!!1BBQ), Twitter was a communications mechanism. If you wanted to get the word out, just tweet it and those in the know, would know. These days, as a communications mechanism, Twitter is pretty close to a failure.

There was a point last year where I finally declared Twitter Bankruptcy. I was using a Twitter client while I worked, but the distraction was just too great. These days, I have a Twitter client running on a spare computer and I check it whenever I go downstairs to fill my water glass. This has made Twitter manageable for me, and allowed me to stay highly productive. I wouldn't work with a Twitter client open. I couldn't.

I'm not alone. There is a growing tide of folks who are losing interest in Twitter. Let's look at why.

1 -Noise

Twitter is a noise place. A constant barage of status updates plagues even the casual Twitter user. I only follow 258 people, and those people are generally pretty good, but still the signal to noise ratio is pretty poor.

2- Message Length

One of the strengths of Twitter in the early days was the 140 character message limit. This coincides nicely with the SMS limit and allows Twitter to work in the Mobile space, which is really the reason for all the growth. You never have to be away from Twitter , as long as you can get a Mobile and press 40404. However, these days, people use Twitter to convey information that does not translate over to 140 characters. Worse, many people seek/expect technical help over Twitter. This is flat out stupid. Moreover, the amount of blogging significantly diminished. Writers get their fix by tweeting, but this is a loss for humanity as a whole. I'm much more likely to get interesting information from a blog post, than from a tweet. I'm much more likely to FIND a blog post, than find a tweet.

3- Noise Again

Many people use Twitter to broadcast important information. The act of tweeting can give the tweeter a sense of having communicated effectively. On the receiving end, however, the sheer volume of messages flying by means that many messages never reach intended recipients. If a message falls in Twitter and no one reads it, did it really make a noise? Part of being a responsible communicator is ensuring your message was received. Tweeting requires little energy, little friction, but also is valued very little.

4- Public IM Network

In Twitterese, the @ sign indicates a reply to another person on Twitter. If I see a message @DanWilson, I know someone is replying directly to me. While this helps me find a directed message amongst the noise, it pollutes the informational flow for the other followers of the replier. Twitter is not an IM network. Twitter users who are constantly @replying to others might do well to realize that all of the other followers get the same message and could really care less.

5- Spam

Spam is everywhere. Now it is on Twitter. However, rather than some Nigerian Scammer offering you millions, or some Far East V1agra email blasting campaign, it is your friends who spam you for the chance to win a MacBookPro, an iPhone or to get a new animal in Farmville. I liked spam better when I hated the spammer. By the way, I just ousted the winner of euromillions lottery by winning a Mac Book Pro in a v1agra farmville contest. Please RT.

So, Twitter, I can see you now, ski rope in your hands, flexing your legs and getting ready to launch over a large, toothed marine animal. I can't say I'll be sorry to see you go.

P.S. If anyone out there thinks I'm full of crap, and that Twitter is going to be HUGE, I'll sell you @DanWilson. Contact me off list.

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11/25/09 4:55 AM # Posted By Nick Lansbury

The key part for me is, as you say, "I'm much more likely to get interesting information from a blog post, than from a tweet."
I persevere with Twitter however, because I get the heads-up when a blog is posted and that in itself is useful. I expect there are better ways to be notified of when blog posts are, umm, posted.

11/25/09 6:09 AM # Posted By Ronny Karam

Can't agree more. People still don't realize that Twitter is not an IM service (Even though the creators would love you to Tweet like you chat since this will generate more traffic, etc.).
I don't want to know what they're eating, where they're shopping at or what they'll be doing on the weekend (unless you're a fanatic following Ashton Kushner hehe)

11/25/09 6:30 AM # Posted By Brian Swartzfager

4 of those 5 problems could be mitigated/solved with some sort of intelligent filtering mechanism on the client end. It wouldn't be easy and it would need to give the user the ability to tweak and refine the filters, but it ought to be possible.

11/25/09 6:35 AM # Posted By Matt Williams

I never could get into twitter. I tried receiving tweets from a few folks I follow on my mobile phone. But on the first night my phone was going off at 3am because someone on the west coast just had some good sushi.

@Nick, try an RSS reader for blog posts. In fact, I'm using Google Reader for blog posts and for tweets from the few people I actually want to see what they're up to. This way I get the posts and twitter updates when I want them, not when they happened.

11/25/09 6:53 AM # Posted By Tink

@DanWilson i just ate cheese

11/25/09 8:47 AM # Posted By Sarah Kelly

You make some good points. I wish people would keep separate accounts for personal and professional, but if their tweets tend toward the personal too much, I just stop following. (I'm way too old for the high-school attitude concerning who's following whom. If my signal:noise ratio is too low for someone, unfollow me--I'll still sit with you at lunch.)

Your idea of reading the tweets during your breaks is an excellent one. I have all the notifications in TweetDeck turned off and shrink it except when I want to read it. I wish I could do the same w/ my office mates:-)

I *hope* you're wrong because Twitter has been an invaluable tool for me to get to know the CF community. I'm not sure I would have made it to CFinNC if I hadn't found a roommate on Twitter. Also, I was much more comfortable introducing myself to people there because I had been communicating with them online.

11/25/09 11:25 AM # Posted By Andy Sandefer

I have to agree with you on this. I'm a facebook user but twitter never really did anything good for me so I don't use it. I think that Google Wave will eventually kill twitter.

11/25/09 12:44 PM # Posted By Jake Munson

Awesome, I've finally found someone that thinks many of the same things I do about Twitter. One of my biggest beefs with Twitter that I can't figure out how it's really an innovation. Can't we do everything that Twitter does with technology that's been around for decades? Email? IM? Mailing lists? Chat rooms? And most of those mediums do it BETTER than Twitter.

As a side note, I heard recently that Twitter usage has dropped by 20%. I think there was a huge rush to Twitter from the general public when Oprah and the other demigods started talking about it. But then people realized they were bored with it, and only some of those have stuck with it.

11/25/09 3:34 PM # Posted By Mark Mandel

We've talked about this before ;o)

I personally think Twitter is an invaluable tool for allowing you to communicate on a mass level with ease.

But it is what you make of it. If people are high in the 'noise' ratio, stop following them. If they aren't talking about what you care about, stop following them.

If all you end up with is 15 people on your twitter list, but it's 15 people who say/share stuff you *really* care about then you are getting value add.

If you are following 300 people, and only 15 of them say stuff you rarely care about, then whose fault is that? Twitter? Or you for following a stack of people who aren't saying interesting things? (That's not a personal dig btw). With the tools we have no (twhirl, tweetdeck etc), it's quite possible to follow a small number of people, but also keep live searches running of interesting hashtags - thus also reducing your noise-signal ratio.

I totally agree about the division of personal / professional. I've ended up really splitting my personal information to facebook, and professional to twitter (as much as I can), because of that very issue, but that is just one of the things I think comes with the territory. There are so many ways to use twitter (announcements, chat room, help forum, networking etc) that it can vary greatly from person to person. But that is also one of its profound strengths.

11/25/09 8:02 PM # Posted By johans

I have not caught onto Twitter - as you point out I too found it distracting and noisy. However Mark makes a good point - guess its about investing effort into finding people worth following.

An interesting comment from Japanese friends is that they like it - the short messages are easier for them to understand given English is not their first language.

11/25/09 11:49 PM # Posted By Jose Galdamez

I would reiterate what Sarah said. If it wasn't for Twitter I would be much more out of the loop than I already am. Let's face it. I am the black sheep where I work and nobody wants CF around anymore. I need all the help I can get.

Although, after going through the last three days' worth of tweets for the last half hour (I only work two days a week) I can see where you're coming from with the complaints. What usually happens in my case is I open a ton of links to blog posts, tutorials, etc. and never end up finishing any of them due to the sheer quantity. At work I've got a Chrome window loaded with over 15 tabs which I've had minimized for quite some time. Yeah. Nuts.

Regarding the Twitter spam, that Macbook Pro was the first time I saw anyone within the CF community join in. I did it for the lulz. Eh, it was funny to me. For the most part, I think the noise is a much bigger problem than actual spam. Too much banter sometimes. That's why I keep Facebook and Twitter apart.

Twitter does suck to some degree, but I need to stay in the loop so, like you, when I am at the office I check it via the web site about twice a day, tops. I'm down with RSS too, but even that's very prone to information overload if you're not careful. As has been said on this blog post so far, it's all about how good you are at filtering. But you already knew that.

11/28/09 2:20 AM # Posted By Brandon Harper

If Twitter jumped the shark in such a short amount of time, where does that leave ColdFusion? :)

12/2/09 9:54 PM # Posted By ike

I will admit that since I got my twitter account, I have done a little bit of "chatting" on twitter. And at least initially was a bit surprised at just how "personal" and "immediate" the medium was. The problem though is that you can't have "small talk" with 200 people. At that point (or before) chatting becomes unmanageable. But imo twitter still has a place. Personally I think the medium of twitter is a great way to do announcements -- and not much else.

If the etiquette of twitter evolves, and people stop posting what they're eating, what bar they're at, etc. and cut way back to just posting group announcements, occasional questions (after a Google search has failed) and @replies to announcements, then I think the streams would become manageable again. And not just manageable, but actually practical and useful. If we're looking at a stream and we see a series of genuinely actionable announcements from the couple hundred people we follow (for example, I announce notable progress updates on my OS projects), then a couple of @replies about that announcement are at least not such a problem, but also potentially useful in a kind of "uservoice" sense.

But to get there from here the etiquette on twitter has to evolve to the point that people stop posting inane nonsense like what they're eating, and the rest of us have to start aggressively reporting people for spamming and socially penalizing each-other for spamming the system in less overt ways.

12/2/09 9:59 PM # Posted By ike

Incidentally I use Trillian for my instant messaging and the latest version which thankfully now supports 64-bit vista has added support for facebook, myspace and twitter. So I actually have just a single appliance for all this stuff and am reasonably happy with it. In the Trillian interface Twitter actually is almost indistinguishable from the feeds coming in from other sources. The interface is still imperfect, but hopefully it will continue to improve.

12/6/09 6:53 AM # Posted By pardeep

Well... i just like the fonzie clip, so cool. I used to have a fonzie jacket as a kid, sounds lame but the man was the bees knees back in the day.

5/19/10 10:05 AM # Posted By Jose Galdamez

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