A few days ago, Jeff Atwood responded to one of my status messages on Twitter with the following response of his own

r @carnage4life you keep saying that, and yet that doesn't make it true. Twitter is Facebook without all the annoying bullshit on top 

This is a good opportunity to talk about what Twitter brings to the table as a social software application (as opposed to the Twitter as Google Killer meme). Twitter currently positions itself as a microblogging platform which is implies that it’s like blogging just smaller. A blog is often two things, first of all it’s about personal publishing platform for one or more people to share their opinions and knowledge with the world. The second thing is that it is the community of people who read that blog and the conversations they have about it on the site. The second is usually embodied by comments on the blog. In fact some, like Jeff Atwood, have argued that a blog without comments isn’t really a blog. As Jeff writes

I firmly maintain that a blog without comments enabled is not a blog. It's more like a church pulpit. You preach the word, and the audience passively receives your evangelical message. Straight from God's lips to their ears. When the sermon is over, the audience shuffles out of the church, inspired for another week. And there's definitely no question and answer period afterward.

the church pulpit

Of course, I'm exaggerating for comedic effect. Maybe a blog with comments disabled is more analogous to a newspaper editorial. But even with a newspaper editorial, readers can make public comments by sending a letter to the editor, which may be published in a later edition of the paper.

When you look at a blog such as Mashable and compare it its Twitter counterpart or even Jeff Atwood’s blog versus his Twitter account, it seems clear which is more of church pulpit where the audience passively receives your evangelical message versus a forum for two way communication between the audience and the author.

An interesting dynamic that Twitter has added to personal publishing that doesn’t have a good analog in blogging is the notion of a public list of subscribers to the publisher’s content with links to every one of them and a fairly pejorative name for them  “followers”.  This feature has led to both micro and macro celebrities engaging in games to see who can amass the most fans with the most notable public display being the race between Ashton Kutcher and CNN to a million followers.

Twitter takes blogging to the next level as a platform for building and encouraging celebrity. The other side of this is poignantly captured in James Governor’s post A truth of Asymmetric Follow: On sadness, fans and fantasy 

Well last week I had a chance to walk in the fan’s shoes, and of course I learned a lot, while trying to build buzz for our charitable efforts for Red Nose Day. I have to admit I hated it. I *really* wanted to get the attention of @wossy or @stephenfry. Could I? Of course not. These guys have day jobs…

But it was only on spending a lot of time surfing around user profiles to check for spambots that I discovered how profoundly depressing the celebrities on Twitter phenomenon can be. It was coming across profiles of Twitter users following ten or so celebrities on Twitter (and nobody else), wondering why their questions weren’t being answered. Why are they ignoring me, I keep asking them questions? After I saw a few of these profiles I felt a little depressed.

From this perspective it is unsurprising that tech celebrities like Jeff Atwood & Robert Scoble and real-world celebrities like Ashton Kutcher & John Mayer love the Twitter dynamic. Similarly, it is also unsurprising that over 60% of users abandon the service within the first month. After all, we aren’t all celebrities.

In its current form, Twitter is growing primarily as a platform for celebrities, wannabe celebrities and their fans. The key thing to note is that celebrity here isn’t limited to the kind of people you read about in People magazine and US Weekly. For example, I use Twitter to follow web technology celebrities like Tim O'Reilly and Scott Hanselman. On the other hand, my wife uses Twitter follows popular mommy bloggers like McMommy and Playground for Parents.

Going back to Jeff Atwood’s twitter message, I don’t consider Twitter to be Facebook with the annoying bullshit stripped out. For the most part, the Facebook experience has focused on being away to bring your offline relationships to the web. This is captured in the current home page design which proclaims that Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.

From my perspective, this goal has more widespread appeal and utility than being a next generation platform for celebrity on the Web. Your mileage may vary.

Note Now Playing: Kid Cudi - Day N Nite (remix) (feat. Jim Jones & Trey Songz) Note


Wednesday, May 27, 2009 5:47:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Aren't @replies simply Twitter's comment mechanic? I have conversations with friends and strangers on Twitter that feel identical to commenting on each other's Facebook news feeds or commenting on their blog (albeit with a character limit).
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 10:12:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I get the sense that Twitter is more for the types of fans who will wait out back after the show just to hear the rock star say a catchy one liner about their town while they walk to the tour bus. It's mostly unrealistic for anyone to hope that any of the celebrity people they follow would hear their voice among the other screaming fanboy's.

There's a part of Freakonomics where Levitt and Dubner talk about why drug dealers still live with their parents / eventually wash out of dealing; they eventually see that it's a tournament / game of chance. I think the same applies to the 60% statistic you see with Twitter; people eventually figure out that it's a lottery, and they decide not to play anymore.

Also, who the hell can convey a clear message about a worthwhile topic in 140 characters or less?
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 10:15:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"Twitter is growing primarily as a platform for celebrities, wannabe celebrities and their fans." This may be what's easily visible, and sure, I subscribe to celebs, major media outlets' tweets; random quibs that occasionally amuse me, but I'm far more interested in what people from my offline--"real" network have to tweet about: thoughts/photos/links from my friends, coworkers and family; which is what FB has been good for.

I may not have a 1 million-plus followers, but i can guarantee that there are at least a million-plus people like me that find additional utility in twitter where Facebook has left off. And in many ways, does it a whole lot better.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 11:53:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Couldn't agree more. After all this hype I still don't get Twitter, how it's useful, different, and where people find the time to pay attention to it.
P.S. There's a typo - you used "Away" instead of "a way".
Gaurav Sharma
Thursday, May 28, 2009 11:09:20 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
twitter is not microblogging neither. it's synapses firing. if there is any order in twitter posts it comes from some higher instance, may that be facebook or some other more coherent social network or some particular domain of interest. twitter alone is not able to sustain thought. however no other social network can achieve such an high speed in conversation, which is typeof(fire, speak and forget) btw, as twitter does today.
Sunday, May 31, 2009 3:23:04 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Great insight Dare! Not bad for a remedial programmer.
Fabulous Moolah
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