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.

Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter – Oh my!

So I spent all last week getting myself up to date on Facebook (here) and LinkedIn (here) and Twitter (here). It’s a time suck, as one good friend on Facebook warned me…. I’m exhausted. And I ain’t done yet.

But here’s my impression thus far…


  • BEST USE: is indeed best reserved for real professional connections — people you have worked with before and know reasonably well. It’s a great way to grow your professional network, and the cross-referencing database (it knows where you’ve worked and during what years, and recommends connections who also worked there during that period based on that info) is proving to be pretty successful so far. Plus the ability to connect with people “once removed” — people connected to people you know — makes it a  great “warm lead” tool for professional networking.
  • BEST FEATURE: Be sure to leverage the “recommendations” feature… and start by writing recommendations for folks you’ve worked with (and would actually recommend). Do unto others… then if they don’t respond in kind in 30-60 days, leverage the “request a recommendation” feature (assuming you’re confident the recommendation will be forthcoming and positive).  Once your profile and initial network is established, it (hopefully) won’t be too much of a time suck. Check it regularly, keep it updated, and nurture your circle.
  • DOWNSIDE: This downside is pretty specific to freelance filmmaking, but I’d guess it’s troublesome for plenty of other freelancers too. LinkedIn has two places for work experience – a big text field to input your Resume (called “Summary” – which I guess you could use for something else) and a series of individual forms to input your job history (called “Experience”). The Experience fields lets you create a searchable database entry for each job, with  fields for “Company Name”, “Title”, “Start Date”, “End Date”, and “Description”. These standardized fields make it easier for the system to find people with whom you may have worked (rather than the system trying to scrape and decipher relevant info from your long text resume). The problem for those of us in the filmmaking industry is that we may work on films for a few days, weeks or months. And if we want the system to link us to others who worked on that production, we want to reference the job just as they did, so the system can recognize our affiliation. So what do I put in the “Company Name” field? Do I put in “Fat Rose and Squeaky” (the name of the film), “Fat Rose LLC” (the entity created to manage the production) or “Etc… Group Entertainment” (the parent prodco who spearheaded the production)? What’s the DP, or director, or actor on that shoot likely to use? Right now, what many seem to be doing is “slashing” the “Company” field, putting “Fat Rose and Squeaky / ETC. Group Entertainment” – trying to cover both bases in the hopes of finding others from the shoot. But will the system understand? And will everyone on the Fat Rose shoot do this? It would help to have a field for “Project”, a field for “Company” and a field for “Title” — so my entry would be “Fat Rose and Squeaky” for “ETC Group Entertainment” as “Art Director”. This goes further to standardize the data per the fields, increasing the likelihood of finding potential colleagues. And, I imagine, would help consultants of all kinds.
  • CAVEATS: I’d stay away from being too “social”… maintain a workplace demeanor. Because apparently everyone sees Twitter as a threat, LinkedIn does have a “Twitter-like” feature – a small field called “What Are You Working On Now” where you input your most recent status (though updating it overwrites the previous, it doesn’t create a historical thread). Don’t use this like Twitter (“I just worked on an amazing ham and cheese sandwich”) but use it to highlight projects and jobs (“Just started a new user interface for Yahoo!”) that will reflect your professional value.


Note: Being brand new to Facebook, I joined just after the famed “redesign” which apparently radically changed the look and feel, and usability, of the site. Old timers are complaining long and loud about the new look. I’d be curious to see the old one to compare, but I’m not hating on the site quite like they are. Maybe I just don’t know any better. But my comments are all based on the new site, and without any “comparative data” vis-a-vis its previous incarnation.

  • BEST USE: Its core function is much like LinkedIn; it cross-references work and school histories with other users to recommend “friends”, as well as “friends of friends”. Is that its best use? I don’t know… but it’s the most fundamental feature of the site’s architecture. Oh, and like LinkedIn, it’s got a “What Are You Working On Now” type field you can update from time to time, which appears just below your picture on your profile. It’s a good place to manage work and personal relationships… a combination of MySpace and LinkedIn.
  • BEST FEATURE: Well, maybe not a best feature, but a differentiating feature… In an effort to keep up with the Twitters, LinkedIn also just added a “Twitter-esque” feature of their own, a small text field that asks you “What’s on your mind?” (as opposed to Twitter’s “What are you doing?”). These entries are piped onto your homepage for your friends to see, along with every “What’s on your mind” post from every friend you’ve got… and along with every “comment back” on those entries that every friend you’ve got might add. This makes Facebook a more social version of LinkedIn — a kind of Myspace for grownups. And that might be its WORST FEATURE as well.
  • DOWNSIDE: The user-flow of the Twitter-clone is clunky and confusing… on your “home page” (which is your view) you’ll see all your updates, all your friends comments on your updates, all your friends updates (whether directly to you or just to the world), and all of their friends comments on those updates, ad nauseum. The view of you that your friends see is your “profile page” where they can see your “wall” (which is all your updates, and any updates your friends have made directly to you, and any comments your friends have made about your updates – but not your friends general updates to the world), or they can see your “wall-to-wall” which is just comments back and forth directly between the two of you. Confused yet?
  • CAVEATS: Can quickly become a time suck, if you allow yourself to get wrapped up in the “moment to moment” updates of all your friends and their friends. Lots of Twitter-esque “I just ate pudding” updates — honest to God I don’t care. And I don’t see the need to see the personal exchanges between suzy and bob about the dinner they had together last night. None of my business, I don’t give a crap.


  • BEST USE: I’ve seen a few Tweeters who use the system prudently… they offer relevant personal or industry updates on actual events of mutual interest, and the ocassional “Bob Smith Co. needs an intern – apply at” that’s a real benefit. There’s also a well-known script consultant who’s trying to create a “group script writing” thread called tweetamovie. I think that’s a cool idea, but it doesn’t seem to be taking off, and part of the reason might be that it’s not simple to send her a direct message that she can “filter” and choose to post. You can only send direct messages to people who are “following” you, so that’s out… you have to email her your submission, and if she uses it she’ll post it… and then you’ve circumvented Twitter altogether. What’s the point of that?
  • BEST FEATURE: Simple design? I’m stretching here…
  • DOWNSIDE: I don’t care what your bowel movement looked like this morning. Twitter has no analog for real-world relationships. While it could be compared to High School note-passing, at least then you knew the person you were passing the note to. Twitter is more analogous to spewing random thoughts without the filter of purpose or relevence, to anyone who is within earshot. It’s closest real-world analog is the crazy homeless loon who wanders downtown yelling “My feet hurt! Chester’s dog is a CIA informant! Why are birds so loud in the morning? I think I’ll get some coffee now. Ack! Ack!” I don’t get the allure, purpose or value of Twitter (and nope, they’re not profitable yet, as there is no business model – it feels very 1999).
  • MORE DOWNSIDES: My experience on Twitter has been that the site’s excruciatingly slow to load most of the time, it often “crashes” (giving me a message that the server’s overloaded with “too many tweets”) and often when it does load, it’s not got its style sheet (meaning all the “design” is gone, and you’re seeing raw text poorly formatted on the screen). Twitter definitely feels like an unfinished interesting idea that’s not ready for primetime.
  • CAVEATS: I would be very careful choosing people to “follow”, and find some that are going to bring some kind of real value (I’ve seen people who are “following” over 1,000 Tweeters. Seriously? Are you really keeping up with all that? And is it worth it?). And conversely, I’d be prudent about my updates. Sure enough, once I’m famous, somebody will find that old “tweet” of mine – “Killed a drifter today. Then ate at Applebee’s.”