After investing a solid year into Twitter, I have found some serious flaws in how Twitter currently operates. Other recent articles covering the Pew Research Survey are more focused on who uses Twitter but I think they all are missing the larger context of the flawed dynamics in Twitter. I think Henry Blodget at Business Insider has wrote a great article on the Truth of Twitter. But, being in the world of Twitter can provide some even more clues as to the serious problems of the Twitter system. Here is a list rundown.
1. Unlike most technology, the more you work and craft Twitter the more you follow others, the more they follow you and the more you the interact the messier the whole user experience gets for the individual. The more people you follow, which is what the platform intends for you to do, the more convoluted the whole dump of twitter updates gets for you. The more difficult it is to find that which might be of value to you in the muck of the fluff. For me, following about 100 people or so is close to the tipping point to where you start to get so many posts, you really cannot read or absorb all that you might want to take in.
2.Because of the follow ‘tipping-point’ above, there is a point Twitter users really need to decide what direction and strategy they will take on Twitter. After about 100-200 follows attempting to work with the existing set of Twitter tools, one has to decide to just ignore everyone else and just start posting because organized interaction with that many people becomes extremely difficult or scale back your use of Twitter to have it be manageable and worth your time. Many just migrate to ignore others and just blindly post their own beliefs without dialogue with others even if they didn’t go into Twitter initially under that understanding or mindset. So, Twitter just becomes a broadcast one-way tool. If Twitter is just that, then there is little value in that for many of us non-celebrities or spammers.
3. The fact that Twitter is user-centric, you follow individuals. But, you might only want specific content from those individuals. Because you can only follow individuals rather than topics or categories, you get all of the tweets from the person you have chosen to follow without the ability to filter. This inability to filter or restrict makes the experience of those possibly insightful individuals you might want to follow flawed because of you have to get ‘all’ of them rather then the subject matter you might care about. Heck, even Facebook allows you to be friends with someone, yet disable their daily affirmation from always being in your views to have to bypass. Again, this is only an issue if you really wanted to build a platform where those that have knowledge can share it with others collectively. This is a real problem and it goes against the rationale and potential of what Twitter and micro-blogging supporters argue is so revolutionary yet the tools themselves minimize this goal. Of course, if you follow a celebrity and find what soup they are eating important, then this is not a major concern for you.
4. Because of the problems above; the messy user experience, the learned or inherit blind ignorance of the population coupled with lack of tools to help chop the fluff for the engaged user, Twitter will continue to become a platform for already externally known celebrities, executives or pop-culture figures that treat it as an accessory to their PR rather than a communication tool with its our inherit value. The concept of being ‘mainstream’ can be debated, but I do feel Twitter is mainstream but for all the wrong reasons. Just because millions of people follow a celebrity in a one-way passive ‘follow’ method, does not mean there is something of value beyond ‘groupthink’ really going on there.
I have seen celebrities and executives say some very stupid things on Twitter and others just re-tweet those possibly controversial, probably incorrect assetionss just to have a sense of connection with that cultural figure or corporate leader even though there is no genuine connection there. There cannot be the connection there because of the million-to-one dynamic, heck even the thousand-to-one dynamic. Also, when someone calls someone on a foolish or clearly problematic statement, nothing usually happens which only further generates more noise in an arena with little and hard-to-find ‘signal’ to begin with due of the above problems I have summarized.
Essentially, there are many great uses I have seen with the Twitter architecture, but these main fundamental issues are ones that will continue to limit Twitter from reaching its potential as a revolutionary communication platform. There are ways to fix this and I have some ideas in a future posting.