Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two mass media mistakes Twitter is making

Twitter is a great environment for adhoc communities to form around common purposes. Groups form for every niche. So why does it remain fascinated with mass media-style editorialising?

Here's two mistakes I think it's making:

1. Trends.
Showing what is most talked about by everyone isn't 'taking the pulse of the planet' - it's just broadcasting spam at the majority of us (and I don't just mean the spammers who take advantage of our interest in the trending topics to spam us).

The effect of seeing what is 'most talked about' is to surface the lowest common denominator and that, by definition in a world in which we can organise around things we care about, is spam for the vast majority (think of the long tail, folks).

It's not even a tyranny-of-the-majority model. It's an imposition by the biggest single group on all the rest of the smaller groups (which collectively make up the true majority). Tyranny by a small elite.

More valuable would be trends among friends: ie what is being talked about among the group of people you follow.

The things you consider useful and good would still be surfaced - the irrelevant (to you) avoided. This would work for everyone - not just those in the small elite.

2. The suggested user list:
A further expression of the mass media thinking at Twitter HQ is the Suggested User List, brought to my attention by a Twitter tirade by Robert Scoble this morning.

That's editorialising by the team - them making lowest common denominator suggestions for people to be broadcast at by (a lot of the SUs are not particularly conversational).

I would much rather be on my followers' suggested user lists than Twitter's.

You will make the intros and connections that are most relevant and therfore of most value to all parties because we know what matters to each other.

Twitter (no centralised authority) knows me like my peers.

  • The image used here is from the National Library of Scotland's Flickr account. I'm shocked to say it's there without a creative commons licence. I took a screengrab anyway. A National Library that doesn't share?

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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?