Twitter Just Pulled the Ace From Their Sleeve and Lit it on Fire

I’ve always been keenly aware of the massive chasm that exists between my core abilities and experiences and those of many of the people I follow on Twitter and FriendFeed (in fact that is precisely why I love following so many of them), so I do my best to leave the deeper analysis to the experts.

Even so I have always been an interested “outside” observer as the ongoing “will they or won’t they make it” Twitter saga has played out.

When I first began immersing myself in new media I was startled by the volatility that exists in the user market for any number of web-based programs and I have always intrigued by the way that Twitter has avoided this pitfall.

Unfortunately, their most recent snafu (see the link at the beginning for a succinct explanation) may be too much to overcome.

I can’t imagine any other service surviving as long as Twitter has while exhibiting the same level of near-constant problems they have and I think the underlying lesson, while extremely intuitive, should serve as a powerful reminder for anyone, in any business, in any industry.

None of us are perfect – we may make perfection our goal but it is a universal constant that every human and every organization is going to fail at some point. The trick is to identify the things that you MUST get right in oder to ensure your survival.

For Twitter I believe this was the subscription process.

There have been a few comments on FriendFeed chiding people for focusing on form over function, implying that the outcry over Twitter’s latest stumble is the result of the rampant egoism of some who find more value in amassing a large audience instead of developing quality relationships and conversations.

I can see where they are coming from but I don’t know that I agree entirely – while there are certainly some who view Twitter as a game to see who can build the world’s largest megaphone, there are also many people who haven invested a lot of time cultivating a community and environment that provides mutual exhortation.

I firmly believe that the success that a large number of highly influential individuals had on Twitter is the very thing that kept the service alive.

Makes sense doesn’t it?

If you had invested countless hours in a service and, as a result, had amassed a “following” of several thousand individuals who were eager to hear from and interact with you wouldn’t you give that service every chance to survive as well?

I’m pretty sure I would.

And so a cycle was created that acted as a virtual respirator for Twitter: highly interesting or knowledgeable person develops a large following on Twitter, word spreads as more and more users enjoy and benefit from the service, more join, Twitter hits massive potholes in the road, power users hang on for dear life not wanting to lose all of the hard work they had invested, mass defection is avoided as the rest of the service’s users enjoy the interaction that a growing, vibrant community offers.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s latest error was aimed squarely at the one thing that may very well have kept them alive all of this time.

This isn’t another “Twitter is now dead” post – the game isn’t over and, although it would take enormous effort, Twitter may very well still survive.

Instead, my hope is that this can serve as a reminder that no matter what the endeavor – relationship, job, company, etc – so long as we identify and remain aware of the expectations that we must meet at all costs and apologize and rectify our screw ups in all of the other areas, things will turn out just fine.

But if we neglect one of those core expectations…

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9 Responses to “Twitter Just Pulled the Ace From Their Sleeve and Lit it on Fire”

  1. Roger Says:

    Awesome post. I totally agree with you. Perhaps like Apple Twitter will be talked about in University business courses in a few years about what not to do.

    Just thought I would be one of the few that published a comment on your blog being as you seem to be getting lots of comments in FF.

  2. Ken Sheppardson Says:

    As Roger mentioned, Marco and others are engaged in a conversation on this over on FriendFeed.

  3. aureliusmaximus Says:

    thanks Roger!

    Even if they pull through I think Twitter has a lot of lessons to offer in things you must or must not do in a crisis situation (of which they have had many).

    It has been frustrating to watch from my perspective because there have been so many things that could have been done along the way on a communications level to dramatically decrease the impact of an issue AND even develop a deeper sense of community and personal ownership in the process.

    As I said in the post I am a total outsider in many ways and when I first started using Twitter and then FF I was struck by the level of support Twitter had from its users and how it wasn’t until very late in the process that the Twitter team even thought about communicating more information to their users when there was a problem.

    The Twitter community has proven that they are pulling for the service and are willing to be extremely patient as some very large bugs get worked out but at some point if they don’t feel that their appreciation for the service as users is matched by an equal or greater appreciation from the service for them they are going to walk and I don’t blame them.

  4. Phil Says:

    You spoke much of how I felt this morning. It is unfortunate to invest time in building a community of intelligent, interesting and kind people and then have it stripped away by incompetence.

    I’m grateful for the free service Twitter offers; but I agree wholeheartedly with your perspective here.

    Mistakes happen. But I think what’s happening here has more to do with strategic blundering than the quirks of quantum mechanics.

    I’ll comment on FriendFeed too, just because Twitter doesn’t allow that kind of dialogue.

  5. sean808080 Says:

    like a bad relationship, we keep coming back. what is it about twitter that keeps us coming back? the knowledge that we’ll be disappointed yet again?

  6. Roger Says:

    Marco I love your post really can’t comment much beyond that because it was like you took the words out of my mouth.

    But I will say this when blogs first came about they were said due to trackback, and pingback to allow for the first time a fluid single conversation to occur across multiple voices. Twitter did this really well in its own way too.

    What is interesting is during the drama at Twitter everyone has focused on their pitfalls and has in my own opinion possibly missed another important factor in Twitters existence and that is the market has changed or rather is in the midst of a major transition.

    Conversations are now being initiated on Twitter and Blogs but they are being aggregated elsewhere. Initially this happened with the support of bloggers through the use of Disqus, Intense Debate, but not it seems to be skipping over them and heading directly to a new kind of service altogether.

    Friendfeed and their kind (socialthing,etc) are where the micro-conversations are occurring. These sites are extending what Twitter started out doing so well but in the end it is and always will be a slow and inflexible service when compared to the new breed (FF SocialThing, etc).

    Your thoughts.

  7. An Ace on Fire is Still an Ace « Aurelius Maximus Says:

    […] Let me start by stating the obvious: I am absolutely trying to capitalize on the attention my previous post […]

  8. How has Twitter stayed #1 despite themselves? - New Comm Biz - New media strategies for business Says:

    […] background on this episode of drama, Marco and Louis have some excelent posts about the most recent Twitter […]

  9. aureliusmaximus Says:

    @roger totally agree – what you identified is exactly what captivated me about these services to begin with. They changes and things a service like FF offer seem like only slight variations but I am convinced that they are massive shifts that will have huge impacts.

    Eventually I believe we will be at a place where technology allows much, if not all, of these conversations to be linked automatically so that it will be much easier to navigate (or even aggregate) your discussions about a specific topic that might be spread across several different services.

    I never really planned to try and build a massive base of readers with this blog but I have found that even the sporadic posting I did initially has decreased DRAMATICALLY as I have spent more time on FF.

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