UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Predicting The Twitter Backlash

Posted by Brian Kelly 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?

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6 Responses to “Predicting The Twitter Backlash”

  1. Bloody “managed services”. Honestly.

  2. Tim Beadle said

    No Twitter backlash here, although I neglected it when Facebook took off for me (i.e. I reached a critical mass of ‘friends’). I now use Facebook more for “what I’m doing” and Twitter has become a glorified chatroom…

    Anyway, my social network in each app is different, with some overlap. My non-techy friends wouldn’t “get” Twitter, but most of them are on Facebook, which seems to have hit a sweet-spot for non-nerds.

  3. blabto said

    The possibilities, as discussed above, really illustrate how micro blogging can help businesses and individuals. In the same way people like to text instead of talking, blogging allows individuals to quickly update friends, families and colleagues about what they are up to.

    The micro blog has a large opportunity to develop and I believe it will do so in 2008.

    Again, excellent article, well done

  4. Clint said

    You forgot a closing parenthesis :) )))))))

  5. Clint said

    You guys, there’s little reason not to run the Facebook application “TwitterSync”, which will update your twitters to Facebook within seconds. Thus, you set in 1 place, and everybody — be they twitter, or facebook — can find out what you’re doing.

    Of course some people might get this twice, but Yahoo Pipes provides filter operators to allow you to strip things out of feeds, if you care that much.

  6. Clint said

    And yes, I experienced backlash almost instantly, when I wrote my own twittering application. It makes a LiveJournal post with my twitter. And despite LiveJournal being a community full of people who often write short blogs multiple times a day — At least 3 of the most active people on there got pissy, and felt a need to filter it out.

    Of course these are all people who have cellphones, blackberries, iphones, instant message, google talk, and blogs.

    One person who told me she had filtered them out for taking too much space on her friends’ page had just posted a post yesterday that actually took up MORE space.

    So I guess: 1 2-screen post good, 7 posts that take up 2 screens (7 twitters on my LJ take up that much) are bad.

    Personally, I find it hard to see how 7 1-liners is any different than 1 7-liner, but apparently these bite-sized pieces piss off some people.

    People who write online ALL DAY!

    It totally baffles me.

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