Chip Street: is so hating on Twitter right now.

Gah! I am so frustrated with Twitter right now.

As I stated in an earlier post, Twitter is SO not living up to the hype. Today I tried to Twit/Tweet/Toot, and got this error message: “Twitter is stressing out a bit right now, so this feature is temporarily disabled.” This is not unlike the many messages I get stating that Twitter is overloaded with too many tweets.

If I were at my job, and simply stopped working in the middle of my day and told my boss I was simply “stressed”, or that I had “too much work”, I’d be history. It stuns me that this high-profile, must-have, culture changing technology is so very far from ready-for-prime-time. It’s excruciatingly slow, often crashed, loads without its stylesheets, doubles up messages, and just generally functions like a BETA program.

Oh, and most of the really necessary features that Twitter should have are left to be developed by outside programmers (like being able to meaningfully search for interesting people to follow or posting images) – because Twitter doesn’t provide them!

When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was a silly idea. It’s essentially a blog (which already exists) couple with an IM (which already exists) and email (which already exists). It doesn’t exactly seem to fill any need as a tool, other than to limit you to 140 characters (which I guess is a good thing when you compare it to the long-winded emails so often clogging my inbox and so rarely getting to their points). Limiting people to 140 characters should force them to be more thoughtful about what they say, and more concise. But that assumes a lot of people, which frankly I don’t.

The Twitter site says: “At Twitter, we ask one question, “What are you doing?” The answers to this question are for the most part rhetorical. In other words, users do not expect a response when they send a message to Twitter. On the receiving end, Twitter is ambient–updates from your friends and relatives float to your phone, IM, or web site and you are only expected to pay as much or as little attention to them as you see fit.”

So I guess the point is that, unlike emails or IMs (which have inherent in them an expectation of response) we can ignore “Tweets” (the little messages people post). Of course, I’ve always been able to ignore emails too (I often do, especially the “Save Poor Little Timmy” ones). And of course, I’ve also always been able to ignore blog posts (which I almost always do – in that I’m rarely compelled to “comment” on them). And of course, I’ve always been able to ignore IM’s, because I can always toggle that I’m “away” or “unavailable” or whatever…and if I forget to, and the IM comes through, I can just pretend I’m not at my desk.

I guess the other side of that point, and the REAL DIFFERENCE with Twitter, is that the sender has no expectation of response. When people post their tweets, they’re just sending them out into the ether, the universe, the great unknown. And perhaps precisely because they’re limited to 140 characters, they seem compelled to make their tweets small in character count, they seem also to make them small in scope… so rather than a series of artful haiku-esque updates on the important thoughts and events in their lives, people simply spew whatever is rattling around in their head… without a filter, and to anyone who’s nearby. So we get “Something just fell out of my nose. Updates to follow.”

Email has a real-world analog: snail mail. It improves on that by being free, and by being instantly deliverable 24×7.

IM-ing has a real-world analog: talking. Or passing notes in class. It improves on those by… well, it makes them something you can do at work.

Blogs have a real world analog: print articles… newspapers, magazines, and their letters to the editor. They improve on that by being instantly publishable by anybody. And of course by allowing multiple and instant “letters to the editor” responses.

Twitter has a real-world analog as well: that thing that people can do where they spew whatever random thoughts are on their little minds without filtering them, to no-one in particular, and with no expectation that anyone is going to actually engage them. That thing called “being a homeless insane person wandering around downtown yelling random shit to anyone within earshot”. And it improves on that by letting me be that guy without the embarrassment of anybody actually seeing me be that guy.

Yet Twitter is the darling technology-o-the-day. Everyone must be on it, Senators must ignore Pelosi while doing it, John McCain gets interviewed via it, and of course so now do I have to do it.

Much like how in movies I don’t want the hero to be dumber than me, I don’t want my technology to be either busier or more stressed than I am. I want to rely on my technology, especially the technologies I’m told I must have to be a plugged-in functional member of the cyber-society. I don’t want my must-have online tools to suddenly fail because “they’ve flaked”, to crash because “they’re pooped”, or to freeze because “they’re stressed”. I get enough of that from the people I rely on. I don’t need it from my internet.

So get on the stick, Twitter, before somebody else comes along and does it right, and you’re left a half-remembered poorly executed first mover like the Nikola Tesla or Patrick Matthew that you are.

Die, Little Timmy! Die!

I heard once that the Spam company was trying to get people to quit using the term ‘spam’ for unsolicited email. They gave up… ‘spam’ is just too universally accepted as a term for anything that you receive that you don’t really want.

Like a fruitcake, In-Laws, or a drip that requires penicillin.

Or Urban Myths.

You know about the Urban Myths. You get them in email, with the subject line that says “Happy story… forward this to a hundred friends, and make a difference in a little boy’s life, and happy good luck will follow you all your days.”

Little Timmy is dying a slow and painful death from some obscure South American toenail disease he contracted while swimming in the ball pit at McDonalds, and his last wish is for me to send a list of sappy affirmations previously turned down as too saccharine for Hallmark, and not funny enough for Jack Handy, to 10,000 of my closest friends in the next 24 hours, and if I can also see my way to sending him a book of matches from every nudie bar between here and Las Vegas the Doctors in the toenail ward will donate all their earnings to the SPCA to save a blind kitten.

Every day I have five or ten of these waiting for me at my desk, in amongst the real important mail. It won’t quit. We just change the name, change the disease, and it’s a whole new story. Next time, it’s Tommy, not Timmy. It’s ringworm, not toenail rot. We can’t let these stories go. We love the myth. We love the fantasy. We won’t let Timmy die.

And the kicker, the real pisser about this whole thing, the aspect of this that convinces me that I haven’t been nearly careful enough in choosing who I hang out with, is that these are coming to me from my friends. People who say they like me. People who, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t toilet paper my house or leave bags of burning dog crap on my front stoop, but they send me these things because they really believe these stories. What kind of a moron falls for this crap? What kinds of idiots have got me in their address books, that I continue to receive this kind of drivel?

We never used to have these kinds of problems, back in the dark ages before the Internet. Actually choosing to have a subscription to the National Enquirer was the only way you knew that someone was taking up a collection to buy Wolf Boy plastic surgery. They didn’t just drop by the house and slip it in with the bills in an envelope that had an IRS return address, and if you opened it you were automatically signed up to receive another ten Wolf Boy stories in the mail every day. I never had my privacy jeopardized because a coupon book from the neighborhood Quick-E-Mart arrived in my mailbox, and a midget jumped out, ran in the kitchen, stole my address book and started mailing coupons for hookers and farm sex to all my friends. Not before the email.

Ah, the internet. Brave New World technologies that will turn the old school on its ear, and reinvent the way people interact and share and grow and learn and live and love.

Brave New World my ass.

Well, we may have to stick with the Internet now. Too late to do anything about it, everybody wants it, everybody has to have a website, nobody writes letters any more, nobody makes a damn phone call any more, nobody buys Playboy any more, nobody masturbates in the bathroom any more.

I guess I’ll have to get used to unscrupulous mass-market-mailing companies sending my unsolicited advertisements. I dealt with it in the pre-internet days. I’ll deal with it now.

And I guess we’ll get used to the anarchistic, adolescent sexless computer geeks who get their rocks off writing code that brings small business to its knees so they can have their fifteen minutes of fame among their anarchistic, adolescent sexless computer geek friends, because their computer virus corrupted more flower shop’s address books than their buddy’s computer virus.

But this crap from friends I don’t have to stick with. I want someone to write a computer virus that will automatically remove me from the address books of anyone stupid enough to send me this kind of crap, and make me forget that I ever thought these people were smarter than a bag of doorknobs. A virus that will bring an end to this inane waste of time, and destroy the myth. A virus that will kill Timmy. Let go, little Timmy. Let go! Put me out of your misery!

Death to the little boy with the rotten toenails, that’s what I want. Is that asking so much?

That’s it. That’s all I got.