Posts tagged: 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.

A Ubuquitous Avatar

With around 6.5 billion people in the world, there is a good likelihood that if you think up something “original”, somebody else in the world has already thought of it.

Now, take the internet with just under 1.5 billion people linked in. Now, if you think up something that would be cool or useful (especially if it pertains to technology in some way), there is a good chance that somebody else has thought about it. And if you, like me just want to use it instead of creating it, somebody else has probably gone to the effort of making it work.

For a trivial example, it would be cool if I could have just one bookmarks folder for my Firefox and have this synchronised across all my computers (one in the office, the laptop, and the one at home). Do a quick google search and Bam – there it is… Foxmarks and guess what – it does even more…

Now, this has an interesting side effect. What about all cool things we could do if only I knew what to search for in the first place… I am subscribed to enough newsletters, websites and blogs (of course) to stay apprised of a lot of things that are happening, changing and being used in the world but that still does not tell you about all the cool things that could be done.
So, when I stumbled across this tiny (pun intended) little gem of a service called Gravatar, I was intrigued and impressed. It is such a tiny, simple, straightforward little thing. It also does just one thing, but it does it well. Now what it does it do?

It allows you to set a picture as your avatar against your email address and everyone who subscribes to the service is able to associate you with this avatar.

Why is this cool? Well, we just installed WordPress for our blog and it comes integrated with Gravatar and my user account was automagically liked in to the display the picture that I had set as my avatar. Cool!

If that is not cool enough – I set my mail account to link in to Gravatar (thats actually how I stumbled across the service) and anyone else who uses the service will show up with their pre-defined avatar on my browser.

All that needs to happen now is for Facebook to integrate with Gravatar so that when I change my profile picture, it will update my Gravatar…

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