Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hey Twitter - beware the groups!

I hear it won't be too long before Twitter finally deploys the 'group' function so many have requested since its inception.

Biz & Co, can I offer a word or two of caution?

What I like about twitter is that it is evenly distributed micro-blogging. It's a place where the conversation can start from any node. It's a place without hierarchy. It fits the networked world. Edge in, not centre out.

Group messaging speaks to the asynchronous. Group messages by their nature are not necessarily intended to be responded to by all parties right now. They make the assumption that not everyone in the group is connected at this very moment. And they offer less value because of this. Real time response is a critical element of value-creation in social network's.

Stowe Boyd's 'Boyds Law says the value creation of a network is in direct proportion to that groups willingness to contribute their time to respond with their efforts in real time (ie drop what they're doing and help you).

You can't access that with a group message - not unless you think of your broadcast as trying to reach as many as possible. And that is a legacy, group email-like approach to using the medium. It's broadcast.

It's microbroadcast if you prefer (though the way Jason Calcanis (12,000-plus followers) and Dave Winer (5000+... and following less than a 10th of this number) are going at it even the 'micro' bit is being challenged).

The massing around groups means the power inherent in the distribution of information can become concentrated. Who controls the group is therefore vital.

So, as a sop to me, at least make sure that anyone in the group can message everyone else in the group (this control should not be vested in the person who sets the group up).

That is; if you join the group you have the same rights as any other member of it. Seems reasonable doesn't it? Maybe the group has to decide if you get to join in the first place. As well as being neatly democratic that might sort the potential spamming risks, too.

I think twitter is at its best - and such a good fit with the networked world - when it sticks to its even distributed, disaggregated guns.

Hopefully the very open nature of twitter - exemplified by its exceptionally developer friendly api - will continue to pervade its each and every development. And if it does, it will sustain its lead in being fit for the networked world.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?