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.
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.