At first, I was a twitter skeptic. Who needs yet another way to communicate with people to whom I am “connected?” But, over the last few months, I changed my mind. Twitter, while a seemingly simple app, is not that simple, packs some robust features (if used correctly) and can provide a fairly unique way of communicating with a self-selected community that shares an interest in what it has to say. The geek in me likes the whole Scala thing. The English aficionado loves the 140 character terseness the platform enforces.
Now that I’m starting to use twitter more and more, I can see two threats that, potentially, can make the platform much less valuable.
Twitter becomes Facebook: If people keep using twitter to post personal trivia, it will become the live broadcast of a Facebook stream (and competitive victim of the same). There has to be a mental line drawn between what you had for dinner, your kids’ activities, how you are feeling, your FourSquare checkins and a community of followers that are connected to you for professional, not personal reasons. They are followers, not “friends.” Perhaps twitter could provide two levels of relationship — personal and professional (or both) and a way of tagging messages. For example, make all my 4Sq messages “personal” and they will go to contacts tagged as personal. I know you can do this with twitter lists, but I don’t think that’s how people use it. I would love to broadcast my 4Sq checkins, I just don’t want to do it on twitter.
Twitter becomes The Real Housewives of NY. If people forget, even for a second, that everything they say on twitter has the potential of becoming “public,” the little public “twitter spats” will become annoying. A 140 character vitriolic back and forth sent from an iPhone has much less control than blog response streams. Flaming is just too easy. I witnesses a “twitter spat” last night. Believe me, I don’t mind the word “fuck,” (and there’s a lot more than “fuck” that can be packed into 140 characters) but I would hate to see twitter devolve into an arena for public shouting matches. I am not suggesting that twitter can do anything about this — it’s behavioral, and, knowing how people behave, I have my concerns.
I like twitter. I wish the company and the ecosystem partners growth and prosperity. I am just a little worried.