Predicting The Twitter Backlash
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 August 2007
I recently described Twitter and my initial experiments with it. I then, via a Technorati Twitter tag, I came across a post about Twitku, which integrates the Twitter and Jaiku micro-blogging tools. And I also discovered a mobile version of Twitter which can run on smartphones.
All very interesting, and an example of the benefits of providing data in open formats which can be reused and providing open APIs, many would point out.
But why do I feel that there will be a backlash against Twitter and other micro-blogging applications? We seem to find that after the early adopters and enthusiasts of a technology start to spread the word across a wider community that doubts are expressed. Some will be perfectly legitimate, but others may be based on personal preferences and concerns (“I don’t have time to learn something new”, “Why should I describe every detail of what I’m doing?”, etc.) , beliefs (“It’s not open source”) or perhaps organisational concerns (“But this undermines the software we’ve been developing”) . And other doubts may reflect one’s cultural background – we Brits, after all, tend to be sceptical of over-enthusiasm, perhaps restricting ourselves to grudging praise if something is demonstrably successful, but secretly preferring to grumble about our failures (in the sporting arena, many people, who have no memories of England’s World Cup success in 1966, expect a regular 4-yearly cycle of over-hyped expectations followed by the despondency).
So what attacks might we expect to see on Twitter? We may have stories in the tabloid press about homes being burgled after the owner had twittered about going on holiday or how a house was wrecked when children organised a party when their parents were away (and this later example did hit the national press after an announcement was made on MySpace).
And in response, if the take-up of micro-blogging has demonstrated that there is a significant demand for such services, we might see the development of managed micro-blogging environments (the KidsTwit or JISC-Twit services, perhaps).
But isn’t this what the Facebook status field has sought to provide (although, as Paul Walk described recently, access to an RSS feed for the status field is freely available, so perhaps Facebook isn’t quite as closed as people have suggested). We do need, I feel, to be very careful and precise when we talk about open and closed services.
And, returning to the specifics of Twitter, there’s a need to make it clear that just because some may find benefits (both professional and personal) in its use, this doesn’t imply an expectation that everybody should be using it – there may be need to inform others about its potential but this should not imply that it must be used.
Now has anybody spotted any Twitter backlash?