Twitter’s Reverse Adoption Problem
I had promised I would not write about Twitter since it is clearly overexposed right now. But I haven’t seen this particular angle discussed elsewhere so I thought there was some value in contributing it to the dialogue.
For most online services with a social networking component, they need to attract more users to reach critical mass to be truly useful to its user base. Think of a genealogical service, for instance, like Geni. The more people who use it, the more value you extract from it. Same goes for something like Wikipedia. As more users contribute content, the service becomes more robust. Or with LinkedIn, the more people who join, the broader you can use your network.
But Twitter actually suffers from the opposite problem. The more people who use it, the less value you can extract from it. Obviously, there is a need for a certain number of people to be involved to provide any value, but once you hit that sweet spot, the value of the service continues to diminish.
In reading and listening to user experiences with Twitter over the past few weeks, it struck me that as more people became engaged with the service, the more I heard from people about being overwhelmed by the volume of information flowing in.
Most folks seem to have turned off the SMS messaging because it got too annoying (and expensive). Neville Hobson mentioned on this week’s FIR that he has trouble even keeping up with the RSS feed of his network’s messages because they are so abundant. And I have read of numerous people who can’t use the IM because it disrupts them too much, if it is even functioning at the time (which I can tell you for me it rarely does).
It will be interesting to see if the Twitter Phenomenon navigates these waters effectively by changing etiquette/behavior or if it simply collapses under its own weight.
I’d have to agree in many ways. I signed up the service and got my blog plugin and IM alerts and SMS. After about an hour, I killed the SMS alerts on my phone and now I only use the IM. Even the IM can be overwhelming sometimes.
I think the solution is to follow the opposite philosphy. Rather than taking the MySpace/LinkedIn approach, where you try to connect with as many people and groups as possible, Twitter requires some discretion when choosing who you watch.
After messing with it for a couple of days, I’ve found 2 ways I *might* use it going forward — 1. for quick one-two line messages either directly to a friend or the group, which I’ve kept small, only adding a few folks I know and leaving my updates private. 2. For quick questions to my peers when I’m stuck, can’t dig up a fact I need, forgot who did that crappy campaign for soap last year, whatever. Basically tapping into the collective mind, for good or ill. Major updates on my minute by minute activity. Uh no.
The Q&A angle seems to be very popular. It will be interesting to see if that becomes the niche that Twitter fills for many people.
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