Category: Social Media

Making Twitter Better

I think that twitter is a fantastic service and has a bright future. However, like a lot of new things, the question of whether it will flourish or perish is really all down how the growth is managed, planned and executed.

I should point out that I don’t know the people at twitter at all and is very much an outsiders opinion. I have been running a business for about nine years, and while it is of nowhere near the success of twitter, I’ve definitely learned some hard lessons. I am not complaining – I am however, voicing some ideas on how things could be made better.

My experience also includes working very closely with megabus.com, which grew from a fledgling website 6 years ago to what it is today servicing over a 100,000 visitors every day.

My gut instinct about Twitter is that the guys and gals are working hard to delivery one really good service really well. However, it is of a size now where service delivery should be happening in the background with little or no effort.

When megabus.com first launched and over the first couple of years, we spent a lot of time managing the hardware, software and processes till we got it right. It went through a dramatic re-architecture in 2005 and since then, the management time has dropped dramatically.

To take twitter to the next level so that it can be bigger than facebook, in my opinion, requires twitter to a lot of things:

Reliability & Performance

I don’t know the architecture / infrastructure of twitter but having used it fairly heavily over the last few days, have noticed intermittent outages. This has to be solved. Not just in the short term, but in the medium and long term. Twitter has to be a service that just works. All websites suffer glitches and outages but the mean time to failure needs to be a lot higher and it should be cheap and cost effective to scale.

TwitApplications

There are a lot of services and applications that link into twitter. I consistently use tweetburner, tweetdeck and have looked at / considered a range of other services / applications. While the wiki page can point someone in the right direction. This needs to be integrated better into twitter itself

Facebook really took off and removed bebo and myspace as competitors, in my opinion the day it introduced facebook applications.

It should be a different process from facebook as facebook applications are of a different breed and different target market. Twitter simply needs to make it easier for applications to integrate in to solve two problems

  1. Easy launchpad to add them in and use them
  2. Remove the need to provide the twitter username/password in other websites. I currently have to do this with tweetburner to post directly which makes me very uncomfortable.

Accessibility

I am not talking about makes it easier for people with disabilities to access the site. I am talking about people who are not technically savvy or more importantly twitter savvy.

I joined twitter a while back and just felt a bit lost. There was no guidance as to what a tweet was, what it meant to be a follower or what it meant for people to follow you.

It took an article on a magazine explaining it to make it easier for me to understand and re-boot my twitter life.

Help & Support are good and useful but it should not be necessary if the help and support is present throughout the site. Facebook does this well and makes it easy to learn and do new things. It does not need to be idiot proof but it does need to have just enough information for a newbie to get started.

There are numerous blogs, articles and websites that cover this information but that means that someone has to spend enough effort getting out there and finding out.

This can be difficult when you don’t know what you are searching for as well.

Functional Integrations

There are several integrations that would be useful. There are websites that do some of these things but it would be useful to have them integrated within the site. Examples include:

  • Easy way to see the last tweet of all the people you are following / your followers
  • Popularity of the people you are following / your followers
  • Group people, so that you can follow people who blog about different things but read them together

Conclusion

From my perspective, this is of course a starting point, the tip of the iceberg. Twitter is involved in a lot of new things but without the soft aspect, I think it is making its life harder than it has to be to get the masses.

Work Life (Im)Balance

Started twittering this week although I’ve had an account on there for about a year. Huge, very interesting community on there of people from all walks of life. Whole communities, sub-communities, tools, utilities – all based on 140 character messages. It really is very impressive.

As a twitterer, there is the question I ask myself as to whether i tweet my personal life or my professional life. Right now, with half a dozen followers, it really doesnt matter. But in the longer term, it would be my goal to increase that number substantially. After all, it is all about who you know, not what you know…

I am already following Levar Burton (Geordi La Forge), Brent Spiner (Data) and Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) – all from Star Trek The Next Generation, Richard Branson of Virgin and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror and Stack Overflow.

I’ve often thought about separating my personal life from my professional life in terms of online presence. Clearly Star Trek above is a personal interest whereas the other ones are professional interests. But then, my professional interests are classified as such only because I turned personal interests into a career.

If I could make my interest in Star Trek a part of my career, I will…

I do wonder how it would affect my relationship with my followers though, in the long term. I am always going to tweet about things that are of real interest to only a percentage of the followers. This percentage is going to be lower than for other people. This stems partly from my wide range of interests and diverse group of friends / associates.

As an organisation, that works in a fairly diverse range of sectors, this identity crisis is experience not just by me, but as a whole within the organisation. One of the challenges we face is expressing the core values that are fundamental to the way we do work regardless of what that work is.

I believe, at the end of the day, that is the most important quality and our biggest USP…

Wanna Be Starting Something

There are few joys in this world that starting something – be it a new job, a new relationship or a blog. I am thrilled by the response received from blogging.

For me, the fact that David posted a blog on a Saturday and Nathan posted a blog into the wee hours of this morning is somehow fulfilling. As they say – build it – and they shall come.

I myself am a little addicted to blogging, which will come as little surprise to people who know me. I have an addictive personality, addicted to pretty much anything one can get addicted to including alcohol, cigarettes, red bull, work(of course) and talking (a lot).

In fact, sitting in Sygn (my favourite haunt). I found myself with a compelling desire to Blog about our Mascot. Unfortunately, even through Chris (Who, btw posted an interesting article about pro-bono work) had a laptop, the wireless in the bar did not get to our area – something that we will need to rectify (following on from Chris’ suggestion in his post) for the next time I have a compulsion to blog :-)

I find fulfilment in watching seemingly disparate threads of action or story (with different people)  weave in and out of each other and interact. The more they interact, they enrich each other and something new is born.

Blogging is a very good example of this. It starts with a post which sparks a thought in someone who cover their views, and someone else makes an unrelated post which someone else brings together and integrates. Each one is a step. As Sir Issac Newton once said

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

While the people who sparks thoughts or ideas in us might not be considered giants in comparison to Newton, it makes not a difference… Standing on their shoulders, I can still see that much further (yes, I am physically not that tall, but I am standing on the shoulders of a lot of people…) :-)

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