Twitter: Turning Kings in to Serfs

Ben Brooks felt strongly enough about the changes to the Twitter API changes that he pushed this [post][art] past his recently implemented pay wall.

> When you are focused on just making money you not only end up screwing people over, but you end up gutting your service. Twitter is gutting the soul from itself and that makes me sad.

I think that Ben is missing the real problem here. The issue is not that Twitter is just focused on making money, the issue is that the focus that made the service great is gone.

When Twitter started it’s goal was to get users. To get users Twitter had to treat those using it’s service like kings. They let 3rd party clients crop up all over, simply because there was no way Twitter on it’s own could keep up with the demand.

The goal of Twitter has changed, now it’s make money. We’re not even talking steady growth of money, they need a huge amount. All those early investors want to see big returns, and Twitter has to deliver. So Twitter doesn’t focus on bringing the best experience possible to it’s users, it’s trying to make it’s users as appealing as possible to advetisers. That’s a whale of a different colour than how Twitter started.

If Twitter started out with a solid business model (paying for API access, or charging users) we would have a very different Twitter. Twitter would have been profitable reasonably quickly (there certainly is an amount of users needed to break even) and the goal would still be to provide the best experience possible to users.

The current problem with Twitter is not that they’re now trying to make money, it’s that they didn’t have a viable business plan from day one. They’ve turned those kings into serfs that are for sale.


Twitter Really is the Bad Guy in this Story

So I wrote briefly about the censorship of a journalist that was critical of NBC and they’re Olympic coverage. Sure NBC was dumb for filing the complaint but it seems Twitter is the real bad guy in this journalist censorship story.

It’s hard to remember now that Twitter was once the darling of techies everywhere. They had an open API and added features from their users (like @replies). Now they lock down our data and tattle on journalists that are critical of advertisers.

Yes it seems that Twitter actually told NBC about the critical tweets and provided them with a form to fill out for the complaint. They basically told NBC that they wanted to censor someone but they need a reason, and asked NBC to provide a reason.

Now where are all those Twitter clones of a few years back? Kind of wishing I did support one so that Twitter wasn’t the only game in town.

Most People use the Native Twitter Client Anyway

I’ve [talked][talk1] more than [once][ins] about Twitter restricting it’s API. Sure most people I know don’t use the native Twitter clients, but most people I know easily qualify as power users of pretty much anything they use.

It seems that the [general Twitter user][art] uses Twitter’s apps or the website. Twitter has these stats as well so they know that they can get away with it. Most of their users aren’t using other clients. Sure those that are may be whiners but the reality is they probably won’t rock the boat enough. 

Our only real hope is that more apps like Instagram gets shafted and then users complain. 

[talk1]: “Twitter, biting the hand that feeds”

Twitter, Not Only Screwing Around with Their API

So not only is Twitter screwing around with user data through their API, they’re getting in to censorship now. The article on The Huffington Post has more detail.

Ultimately, the email address was public. Saying it’s not is like saying my email is not public (see my contact page). NBC just through some weight around and rather than do the right thing Twitter folded.

I wonder when we’ll see Twitter doing the right thing again?

Here Goes Twitter Screwing Around

[As I talked about][talk] a while ago, Twitter is starting to get jealous with its data and API. Just recently the gave [Instagram the shaft][inst] by shutting it out of the API which allows Instagram users to find other Twitter friends. While I can certainly see that Instagram is a heavy user of the API call, I think Twitter is stupid.

While I suppose Twitter “owns” the API the data really belongs to the users. It’s the users of Twitter that made the service so useful. If we weren’t using the service it wouldn’t be around. 

Yes that’s obvious, I just think it’s pretty cheap of Twitter to say how my data can be used. It should be my choice if I want another application to have the ability to find my other friends on Twitter.

I hope that Instagram has enough users complain to Twitter about this that Twitter actually has to start being open. It’s probably a lost hope though, I bet most users will blame Instagram for the dropped feature without looking deeper. If I was Instagram, I’d add a “complain to Twitter” button with the notice linking to a form for my users. 

[talk]: “Twitter, biting the hand that feeds”
[inst]: “No API for you: Twitter shuts off find friends feature of Instagram”

Twitter – Disrespecting It’s Users

Monday of this week I got an email from Twitter with a digest of stuff. Once I realized what it was I deleted it. First, I never signed up for this email. Second, Twitter never told me this was starting and gave me the chance to opt out. This totally smacks of the crap Facebook does (why I do little with Facebook) and is entirely disrespectful to users.

Why am I automatically opted in? If the new ‘feature’ was really awesome you could let me know about it and you know I’d sign up. But Twitter knows that many users will never opt in because it’s another annoying email. They also know that most users will just keep deleting it and not unsubscribe. This means they can show investors that XXXX people want and get our digest email, here are the numbers.

It’s just like showing off your pageviews to advertisers. They look awesome but really don’t mean much to advertisers. If I was an advertiser I’d rather be with a site that had less pageviews but more people clicked through on my ad and started paying me for whatever I do. One day they will wake up to this and pageviews will be seen as a stupid metric.

Investors are rarely going to ask if the email numbers actually mean anything about engagement.

If, like me, you want to stop this stupid email from Twitter, David Cialo has a [post with instructions][notwit].

[notwit]: “Disable Twitter Digest Email”

Do You Let Your Tech Get in the Way?

I recently [shared some images taken on the bike][bikeimage], and while I enjoy taking pictures of the stuff I get to see, I’m out there to really experience it too. Even the morning that post went up I was riding and watched the sun rise over the local mountains and I thought about taking a picture to tweet about it, but then I just stopped and enjoyed it.

> At a coffee catch-up yesterday, the person I met with was too busy typing meeting minutes in Google Docs to actually have a face-to-face conversation with me. Even after I received his play-by-play account of our meeting via email, I left feeling as if we wasted time and never went deep enough to discuss specific, critical issues.

When I’m out with a client and need to take notes I always use my [Moleskine][msnote] notebook instead of my iPad or MacBook Pro. I do this for the simple fact that the technology gets in the way of building a rapport with the potential client. No my notes don’t stay in the book, I transfer them to nvALT for long term storage.

When I’m out having coffee with a friend, and it’s not meeting to work in a coffee shop together, I purposely leave my phone alone. The only person I’ll answer my phone for is my wife, all other calls go to voicemail. On a number of occasions I’ve had a friend wonder why I’m letting messages go to voicemail, then I tell them that my time is their’s.

I do all of the above in an effort to not let tech get in the way of actually living life. 99% of everything else is more important than what is currently happening on your social network of choice.

[bikeimage]: “Get Out of the Office”
[way]: “Stop Documenting, Start Experiencing”
[msnote]: “Moleskine Ruled Notebook – Amazon”

Twitter as a Free Service

A recent comment on my post about staying away from services with no business models noted the irony that they found the link to the post via my Twitter account.

Twitter if course is by an large a free service, but it’s not really a service that has no business model. Currently Twitter has the ability to let businesses pay for trending tweets (or whatever they actually call it). Now I don’t think that this really a model that is supporting them fulltime, I really wish Twitter would charge a bit for their Apps. I would pay a few dollars for the iOS Apps and the Mac App.

I don’t think that Twitter does this because it feels it can make more money by allowing trending tweets and injecting things in your timeline. That is certainly their decision to make, but it does make the users the product and the advertizers the customers (much like Google’s business model). I wonder if they will add a bunch of ‘crap’ to users timelines and then drive away users? I certainly don’t want to see any trending topics or promoted tweets in my timeline.

Finding the Right Twitter Client – Echofon

Before Twitter had their own app I tried many different options like Tweetdeck (way too busy), Heltweetica (meh), and Echofon all of which needed to be revisited when Twitter announced their new application policies. Today we’ll look at the features of Echofon.

I suppose it’s also worth noting that since Twitter has made their announcement on how they plan to treat applications moving forward I just won’t use the Twitter supplied apps, yeah it’s a moral stand. Echofon, Tweetdeck…helped make Twitter what it is and they’re just biting the hand that fed them. I wrote [more]( about it previously so I’ll leave off the full rant now.

Really with Twitter apps there isn’t a lot of innovation that can happen. As long as the app handles @replies DM’s and lists in a pretty way 90% of people are happy with most clients. It’s the little extra features that make one client better than another, so what are the little features that make Echofon my current choice.

### Awesome

I find Twitter noisy and easily overwhelming so I prefer single column clients that are simple. Really I prefer simple software interfaces in general. Looking at my [Wakoopa]( favourites is a great example of this. After my first few favourites I realized that I only really loved ‘simple’ applications. Well, Echofon suits this simple interface nicely. Single column with a place to type new tweets at the bottom. A few icons across the top to show @replies, DM’s, lists and search and that’s it.

Echofon's simple UI
Yeah it's a simple UI and I love it

Being a Vim user I love that Echofon has basic navigation with Vim keys. Want to navigate up in the list of tweets then ‘k’ is your friend, down then it’s ‘j’. If you’re not using Vim then you just don’t know how awesome full keyboard navigation is.

Jumping off Vim keys is full keyboard navigation. Sure a mouse is useful in some scenarios but those are few and far between in my opinion. Twitter is about text and it’s not faster to take your hand off the keyboard to select a tweet, send a new reply, see a user profile…so why on earth would you do it. Full keyboard navigation is one of the things that turns me off any application quickly.

Echofon keyboard navigation
Lots of keyboard options are exactly what I look for.

Just like many others, I’ve got [multiple]( [Twitter]( accounts so having a way to access them easily is high on my list. Well Echofon supports as many accounts as you want.

Echonfon also deals with media like many other clients, it just displays it in a new window without opening your browser. It’s nice that we don’t have to open a new application all the time to view minor things like this.

Viewing media with Echofon
Single application to view many types of media

While I feel that notifications are time sinks 99% of the time (since you’re working hard and getting distracted) Echofon does support many types of notifications if you’d like. You can set notifications for tweets, @replies, and DM’s. It also supports Growl notifications if you want those.

### Meh

I mentioned above that Echofon includes Vim keys, but unfortunately it’s only a partial implementation. The really annoying item that’s missing is ESC. When pressing ESC it should take you out of the new tweet window and allow you to navigate up and down the list of tweets, but it doesn’t. To get out of the new tweet window you’ve got to move your hands off the home row of the keyboard over to the arrow keys and press up or down. Once that’s done you can go back to normal navigation. It just seems pretty obvious to me that this should be a supported feature but it isn’t and it’s really annoying.

While Echofon supports multiple accounts, it’s easy to forget they are there since it gives you no indication that you’ve set up a second/third account. I actually had to check in the application preferences to see if it supported multiple accounts only to discover that I had 2 others set up.

It’s also hard to see what’s going on in other accounts. I’ve tried a few ways to get notifications or @replies in my non-primary accounts with no luck. Even making a highlighted word in the preferences doesn’t make it show the Growl notice. I assume that this is because it’s only updating the active account. A final solution would be to run a search for the @reply to an account and show a growl notice for it but that doesn’t solve the issue if you have more than one account that you want to monitor @replies for in the background. This minor annoyance could be solved by simply allowing notifications to be set per Twitter account instead of globally.

Echofon word highlight options
I wish highlights would work on non-active accounts.

If you regularly have conversations with multiple people you’re going to get really annoyed by this pretty quick, Echofon doesn’t include all usernames in a reply. Yeah that’s right you’ve got to type it out to include the other person included in the Tweet or they won’t have it show up as a reply.

Adding to the annoyance from the above point is the fact that Echofon doesn’t currently autocomplete the usernames of people you follow. So when you’ve got to type in that other name, you’ve go to type it in fully with proper case and all that jazz. It would certainly be nice to have some assistance with it but you’re not going to get it.

Drawing a Line with Social Media

It’s not news to anyone that social media is everywhere. We’re all on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare, Gowala…at what point does it all this sharing of our life become too much? How much do we let our personal and business life become intertwined?

This is an especially poignant question for freelancers who do business under their own name. How far do you let business relationships join with your personal life? Do you want clients to see the latest pictures of your children? Do you want them to know how much we visit coffee shops to work?

For me this came up recently when a client wanted to know if I was on Facebook. If you’ve seen any of my tweets you’ll know that while I have a Facebook account I’m not really a fan of the service (and we’re not even talking about their privacy crap yet). It took a few tries to communicate with the client that while I was on Facebook it was not a place that I did business, so even if they did friend me I would not approve the request.

I know that many businesses have had great success getting work from Facebook but I’ve decided to draw a line on business joining my personal life and Facebook is off limits. I don’t have a business Facebook page and I won’t approve your ‘friendship’ with me if we strictly do business together. I honestly don’t really care if you’re upset about it. I don’t even approve all of my college/highschool/gradeschool friends and we were truly friends at one point. While it ‘s sorta neat to see where they are and what they’re doing we don’t hang out, I haven’t seen them in years, we’re not really friends now.

I think that everything has to have boundaries, places that aren’t open for everyone to see. If we let business in to every spot in our life then there is no place we can go an unwind, no place that is truly personal. That’s why I turn my phone off at night and why not everyone gets to tread on my Facebook profile, it’s reserved for friends, people I interact with on a regular basis that mean something to me on a personal level.

So yeah if we do some business together and we’re friends on Facebook you should feel lucky, you’re in a select group of people that I’ve let cross that boundary.