Twitter: It’s the most brilliant and cunning Web 2.0 app ever!

Well, Twitter is a genius app. Genius! That’s the only word for it.

Twitter is a microblogging platform. This thing you’re reading right now works just dandy for publishing vast acregaes of doggerel that incorporate graphics, sound, and video. Twitter is designed for little 140-character blurblets. That’s text-messaging length. It’s long enough to communicate a single, efficient thought or idea, but only just. You subscribe to other users’ Twitter feeds and it’s all aggregated together on your custom page on Twitter.com.

(Check out my own Twitter feed right here.)

I thought it was a pretty dumb idea when I first tried it. And I was certainly right. If you don’t have a whole bunch of friends who happen to be using the service, then Twitter takes a hobby that’s already pretty pointless and adds Annoying to the mix.

But I tried it again about a year later. By then, lots of my pals had joined up. Lots and lots of them.

Oh, and Twitter has released an open API to their service, allowing anybody to write custom apps and widgets for receiving Tweets. There are new tools that are way better integrated into your life than a page on Twitter.com. Regardez “Twitterific,” a megaspiffy Twitter notification app from the good gremlins at Iconfactory:

Twitterific Normal

Every time someone you’re following posts a new Tweet, an annoying tweety-bird sound erupts from your speakers (no sweat, you can turn that off in prefs) and the Twitterific window floats into view. And when you’re consumed by the need to tell everyone that your burps have been tasting like pencil erasers all morning, you can just click in the little text box at the bottom and presto…suddenly, it’s the world’s business.

Twitterific even locates “replies” to your Tweets and colors ’em for your attention.

(And it’s just fifteen bucks…or free if you’re OK with seeing ads. Cool.)

But that’s not my point. My point is that Twitter is brilliant at anticipating and dealing with user complaints. Witness a recent state of affairs:

Alas, this has been happening all too frequently. Twitter is the poster child for Reason One why doing business on the Internet is by no means a straightforward, linear proposition.

Call it the “Springtime For Hitler” Syndrome: your product can become so successful so fast that it ruins you. You attract so many users that your servers can’t handle the load. Meanwhile, your company is young enough that you don’t yet have the cash or the credit line to upgrade those three Commodore 64’s you’ve got in your server room.

Result: frequent outages, skyrocketing expenses, and a big opportunity for anybody who has been observing your company’s meteoric rise and calculating just how little money it would take to do exactly what you’re doing, only with better hosting.

Normally, a series of regular, Soviet Union-style outages would be a death warrant. But it’s different with Twitter. Stop for a moment and think this through.

I’ll wait.

Do you have the answer?

Yes: the folks behind Twitter have obviously realized that when the service is down, its users don’t have access to the megaphone that they’d normally use to tell the world things like “****ing Twitter! It’s down again! Cripes, if only there were something just as good that I could immediately switch to!” So the pressure’s off.

Genius. Genius! It’s up there with the Geek Squad offering free unlimited online tech support on issues involving faulty Internet service.

One or two “for the record”s: there are indeed some microblogging alternatives, led by Jaiku. But Jaiku takes something simple and straightforward and pretty and makes it complicated and ugly, like when sex with a co-worker in a supply room during the office Christmas party turns into a real relationship.

And although I find Twitter’s frequent outages to be pretty damned annoying, they’re not so frequent that I’m tempted to give up.

10 thoughts on “Twitter: It’s the most brilliant and cunning Web 2.0 app ever!”

  1. I’m fairly certain you just wasted my allotted fifteen minutes with that screenshot, Andy.

    At the least, you wasted the fifteen minutes that was supposed to go to my scalp.

  2. “But Jaiku takes something simple and straightforward and pretty and makes it complicated and ugly, like when sex with a co-worker in a supply room during the office Christmas party turns into a real relationship.”

    I love the simile!

  3. I have a solution for the outages thing. Turn that option off on Twitterrific. Twitter gets these hiccups where it isn’t working for a few minutes (I’m not talking about the big downtimes) and Twitterrific sends those yellow messages. I’m blissfully ignorant of such hiccups because I turned the error messages off so I never know about it. The window just doesn’t pop up and I continue working on whatever I was doing thinking that Twitter is running smoothly as ever. I like my happy little world. :-)

  4. @Iaanba – Yeah, but it don’t bring Twitter back online. That’s the prob…I love the service, but a small part of me dies every time I try to post a tweet and see that cartoon bird apologizing for the disruption…

  5. Andy, I agree. Yesterday was HORRIBLE! I’ve felt disconnected before, but not to that degree.
    I get those error messages daily. I think it also has to do with Twitterrific.
    Getting notes that I’ve basically ‘pinged’ over 40 or 70 messages when I’m not even posting.
    What I do like is my Growl/Twitterrific combo. Fills the screen tweets and you set how long you want them to
    stay visible. Now if I could just work out the Quicksilver/Twitter script and maybe break from Twitterrific, but what about Growl:(.

    I was just thinking is there a way to have receive blog post follow-up comments via twitter instead of email.
    I already have a DMZ & Archive file. I don’t need more meta, meta email. (channeling merlin)

    I think I need to curb my online addiction, huh?

  6. @Jes: Forget email, forget Twitter, for blog comments, just use RSS (link goes to the comments feed for this blog).

    Or, if you don’t want to subscribe to every single comment thread on the blog, you can use co.mments to tag individual comment threads from around the Web and have them aggregated within a single RSS feed.

  7. I like Jaiku.

    I like the threaded conversation model. I like the channels. I found Jaiku far friendlier and more accepting than Twitter if you didn’t already have a bunch of similarly switched on friends to talk to. When I tried Twitter (around about SxSW, whenever that was), I found it exclusionary, a little snobby and very definitely Bay-area centric. After a couple of months I discovered Jaiku and it clicked for me. I tried to do both but in the end gave up on Twitter.

    Maybe Twitter has changed since I last used it (June, I think). Maybe it is more fun, more open and cooler. What hasn’t changed is that I still don’t have any friends on Twitter and I’m not hooked in to the tech crowd on a social level, so I have no motivation to switch back. I see that major downtime issues still abound with Twitter as well.

    Which is not to say that I don’t use Twitter at all. The power of RSS lets me follow a select few people on Twitter – Merlin’s taken 140 chars and turned it in to a form of art, after all – without having to once access the Twitter website.

    Each to their own *shrug*

  8. I just think it’s confusing. It tries to be a too many things at once and it sort of resists elegance. If my needs ever exceeded Twitter, though…

  9. @Shane: Having people you actually know using Twitter regularly is key to its appeal.

    If I knew no one with a telephone personally, I’d find telephones an exclusionary and snobby technology too.

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