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March 05, 2009

Comments

Braden Kelley

Twitter is a product feature and will struggle against Facebook, Plaxo, Windows Live and others unless they can turn this product feature into a platform.

Windows Live, Yahoo!, Facebook and others are locked in a death match to become the place that people start their day.

I'm not sure that Twitter has the table stakes to compete.

It will be very interesting to see whether they can establish themselves as a platform or are forced to sell out.

Drew Boyd

Jim, I agree with Branden's comment that Twitter must turn itself into a platform. Time is running out, and many other companies are out-innovating them. I took a whack at creating some possible platform ideas for Twitter (see http://www.innovationinpractice.com/innovation_in_practice/2009/02/the-lab-monetizing-twitter-with-attribute-dependency-february-2009.html). They seem to be waiting for "the big idea" to come along, but my sense is that it's going to take some good, ol' fashion innovating to figure this one out.

Jim Belfiore

Oh the irony of ironies.

Your (well thought-out) musings on 140 characters is akin to Shakespeare writing a sonnet about a garment's washing-instructions tag. You and others are looking to find the hidden value in this medium that has gripped the world, and some might say was instrumental in putting a junior marketing executive into the Oval Office.

I hate to say it, but the only disruptive value of Twitter is one of hyper-leveraging basic human flaws - laziness, banality, and narcissism.

I also hate to say it, but I've seen it all play out before, over 20 years ago.

In the last days of an ancient contraption called the ARPANet, when bits traveled uphill (both ways) to get to their intended time wasters, and Spam was still potentially nutritious, dozens of people on closed networks were familiar with an application called "Oneline" that was very similar to Twitter, except we only had 80 characters to express our most in-depth thoughts, and we could only make one post per day. The behaviours I observed then are all too familiar in today's Twitterati.

People want to feel like they have control of their environment, no matter how trivial. People also have an amazing capability to lose all sense of time management when an opportunity to engage their pleasure centers is presented. Twitter offers people a way for people to become fortune-cookie publishers in any conceivable location, at any moment. A person can push a button and feel good that they have sent their bit of e-wit into the ether, for the benefit of society. We even have metrics provided for us that shows how we rank as important members of society, and how to improve ourselves (just look at Twitalyzer, Twitter Friends, and other tools that emerge almost daily). You and I, Jim, are ranked as "emerging personalities" by Twitalyzer (yes, I looked).

Twitter succeeds because it is a game, and games are important to the human psyche.

Twitter and other social media platforms that provide free outlets for would-be Shakespeares, are not developed for the users. They are developed for marketing and advertising concerns. We are the endless supply free fool..er..fuel that powers their machines. While we certainly take benefits from the experience (at least our pleasure centers tell us so), the disruption is not in how we benefit and how we work, but in how we are used.

Still, The Trouble with The Twitters is not a problem to be solved.

Certainly I can't see the whole kitten-kaboodle being whisked away - there'd be no Twitter at all.

(I should tweet that.)

Renee Hopkins Callahan

Hi there! I missed this until now, although we discussed it at dinner last week. My observation about Twitter's target customer leads to an obvious question -- does such a person with such an unfulfilled job-to-be-done exist in enough quantities to ensure success for Twitter? Alas, the jury is still out on that one. Meanwhile, as pretty much all the rest of you have pointed out, Twitter still has no business model or means of making money. The choice to build their audience with VC funds rather than put something out there that they are charging for and thus get a very quick and specific answer about what people are willing to pay for, they've muddied the picture for themselves and missed out on gathering valuable information about their potential customer base.

Renee Hopkins Callahan

OK, well, that last sentence is missing a verb! Try "The choice to build their audience with VC funds rather than put something out there that they are charging for and thus get a very quick and specific answer about what people are willing to pay for MEANS they've muddied the picture for themselves and missed out on gathering valuable information about their potential customer base.

James Todhunter

Brandon, Drew, Jim, and Renee: Thanks for the great comments. I think you are all spot on in your observations.

Since this was posted, the Twitter debate has continued with no real insights into a Twitter strategy. Meanwhile, rumors of M&A talks behind the scenes continue to surface, and Facebook continues to look like it's taking aim directly at Twitter.

I for one am waiting to see the rest of the saga unfold.

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