Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why twitter is going to beat facebook - and force me into buying an iPhone

Twitter's mobile app is a bit on the crummy side. I can't find new friends on it, I can't send private messages, I can't pick them up.
But it doesn't stop me using it - way more often than I do the facebook mobile app at the moment (see the Armano illustration...hmm).

Why? I think it's because Twitter's 'What are you doing' updates have so much more value than facebook's status updates. They have something Linkedin, and anyone else who thinks low-effort microblogging has tapped into a rich vein, should seriously consider. They have the option to point to something outside of Twitter - to the rest of the known and being-rapidly-discovered-by-my twitter-friends universe of digital stuff.

In short, urls work as they should in twitter. The only time I see them work as they should in facebook status updates, by comparison, and not without irony, is when they are are an rss feed from another application - such as twitter.

Links are immensely conversation-enabling. By pointing at something you flag it as a conversation starter. And the more conversation enabling, the more in tune with the power of the network.

What is it that stops facebook status updates turning into a conversation? Is it simply the clutter of all the other updates streaming through my news feed?
I don't think so. There's plenty of 'clutter', if you mean stuff I'm not going to give my attention to, on my twitter feed. Is it a disinclination imposed by the design of facebook?


Perhaps facebook turns us into little broadcasters? I announce: "my status is x. I don't want to talk about it. I just want you to know it. If you'd like to talk about it... message me."

This indicates the facebook newsfeed is less conversation enabling - and therefore ultimately offers less value in a networked world. Conversations aren't shared so others can't contribute so the Reed's Law value growth enabled by self-forming groups is harder to come by (though granted, far from entirely precluded by other aspects of facebook).

The fact that we move to private messaging when we want to talk on facebook, rather than share an open conversation, indicates to me that facebook risks growing its value according to the law of one-to-one communication networks value (Metcalfe's Law) rather than the exponential growth of Reed's Law (Group Forming Network Theory).

A blog is way more conversation enabling.
Is facebook microblogging at all? Or simply microbroadcasting?
The distinction is writ large by the whole facebook premise. It is about privacy over openness.

Blogs and Twitter (despite the ability to block followers - which again, you can't do on the mobile version of Twitter) are about openness. I haven't received a single private message on twitter since I joined (though I did send a few before I worked out for myself this wasn't really the place). When we require privacy we use different modes of communication.

Conversations are there for all to see and join in. And on twitter they can start from anywhere and from anyone (on a blog its more centralised, more where the author leads).

Perhaps we should describe Twitter as decentralised microblogging?

This makes it exceptionally conversation enabling and a great fit with the networked world - which I think is why the net gen love it so.

Why does that make the inevitability of my acquisition of an iPhone greater by the day? Simply that whenever I click a link in a tweet on the mobile version of twitter I have no guarantee of being taken to a mobile-optimised page or a mobile internet page. I get the 'real internet' on an iPhone or indeed on any good tablet style wi-fi enabled device. Without being able to follow the links I'm unable to join the conversation. 3G mobile isn't enough. So I guess mobile had best stick to broadcast, cracking text plays, and that brilliant services thing - but that's a post for another day...

By the way, follow me. I'll follow you.

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?