Mediaphyter – A Communications Cocktail


Twitter Boycott Defeats its Own Purpose

Apparently some disgruntled Twitter users are organizing what they are calling a Twit-Out (aka a Twitter boycott) this coming Wednesday, May 21. The thinking is that we need to prove to Twitter that its success is powered by the community that participates in it and would be nothing without us. I think this is a fabulous idea. Especially given all of the success we’ve had in terms of boycotting gas on certain days of the week to get those pesky oil companies to drop their prices. /me being sarcastic

A few people, including Warren Whitlock, have already made the “you get what you pay for” statement. I absolutely agree. We get what we pay for. Unless those boycotting have made significant financial contributions to the server upkeep of Twitter I really don’t want to hear it from them. Whitlock also made a great point in his comment on the Twit-Out blog post about how sometimes his car breaks down or appliances go out but it happens. And those are much more frustrating situations because it is our financial investment at risk. Finally, he goes onto highlight that Twitter has rarely ever, if not never, been down for a full day.

So is this boycott really about teaching Twitter a lesson or is it a group tantrum?

My main concern about these Twitter boycotts and “us against Twitter” mentality is this: you cannot continue to build and drive community by purposefully disbanding community to make a point. It’s not as if they are going to march upon Twitter’s San Francisco office and make a stand. No. They are simply going to prove to Twitter that they can, indeed, live without it for a day. Can someone explain to me how this solves anything?

Twitter keeps breaking. We keep going back. We use Pownce and Jaiku sometimes but they pale in comparison. Brightkite is now available but most people use it to feed into Twitter and it’s not near ready as a replacement. The new rage of Twitterfone would be useless without Twitter itself (note: I really like Twitterfone thus far; waiting for improvements on transcription, however).

Sit back kids, grab a blankie and some cocoa and read a story:

A couple years back I was a pretty active member of the now-defunct Consumating.com – a “a social network for geeks” and one of the first that incorporated social tagging. We loved it. We would communicate primarily through topic boards and tags. Then it started to crash. A lot. Some protested, some wrote letters and complained. The drama that was created ultimately led to many of Consumating.com’s power users – myself included – deleting their profiles and forgetting about the site. The community divided and therefore dwindled. And while CNET had purchased Consumating from Ben Brown long before and there was always a rumor that it would shut down, it eventually just did. Part was big corporation power but another key part is that there was just no one left who even cared. It’s now been replaced by Help.com. Who? Exactly.

It’s unlikely that Twitter would go the way of Consumating.com as it’s more than a social network; its become a business tool, a customer service platform, and important networking medium, a blog feeder and a “where are you” connector for major events (Mac World, RSA Conference, and now the upcoming EMC World). But the community divide is just as dangerous as Consumating’s. Let’s not be foolish and bite the hand that feeds us. Sure, we may be an army of powerful voices now, but if we scream too loud eventually we’ll do nothing more than drown out each other.

Don’t boycott. If you want to leave, leave. But if you want to stay, put your energy into something effective. Urge the third-party apps that ping the Twitter API and cause more strain on the network to instill limits (as Shannon Whitley so wisely did with MyTweeple). Reach out to Twitter and see what you can do to help. The Twitter staff knows it has network issues and that their user base is growing faster than it can handle. Or, continue down this route and stop using Twitter – and save the server space for those of us who truly do want to build community rather than aid in its demise.


22 Comments so far
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To say that we get what we pay for is not addressing the issue. There are many many services around that are offered for free and they have excellent uptimes. Facebook is one, (although occasionaly a little slow), and so are gmail and other services.

If you want a community you’ve got to show that you’re reliable and that’s one thing that is really lacking in twitter. It’s got terrible uptime. (for a web service).

The reason frequent users of twitter feel so strongly about this is that they want to get more out of the service.

To go on a slight tangent I would not have lost interest in Seesmic were it not for slow load times, non posting of topics or unreliability.

Twitter should listen to it’s most prolliphic users because they are the advertisers, the motivators. If they can’t get the features they want then they won’t promote it as effectively.

I’d love to say “use twitter” to everyone but not when it may collapse at any time as it did yesterday for at least 5-10hrs.

Comment by warzabidul

Of course it doesn’t address the issue, solely, hence my other points. And keep in mind that MySpace and Facebook are free but they also generate a lot of ad revenue. I was an alpha MySpace user and I remember when eventually the site got more mainstream, the same people who complained about its previous downtime were the same who complained when it started selling ad space in order to keep running. And oh, the hell when they sold out.

I am a very frequent user of Twitter. Sadly, I am known in many circles as “that Twitter girl.” I get frustrated when Twitter is down just as everyone else. I have single-handedly recruited dozens of people (primarily security folks) to Twitter and I consider myself one of their more prolific users in that regard. I still promote it, with the caveat that the downtime sucks, but what you get when it is up is great.

Twitter was down for 10 hours yesterday? I thought it was only down for three. Regardless, I think we all want the same thing — Twitter stability. We just need to be wiser about how we go about getting it.

Comment by Jennifer Leggio

I agree with you Jennifer. There’s too much of a sense of entitlement from some people, considering that Twitter is free. If Twitter ever became fee based, then perhaps they might have an argument concerning the up-time. I also think that their downtime is a reflection of their success as they try to handle the large volumes of traffic. And a boycott won’t work as the ones complaining the most about the downtime are the most addicted. :-)

Comment by Timothy McDoniel

This is the STUPIDEST thing that I have seen in a long time!! I agree with Mediaphyter, if you cannot stand the outages then either (1) send them money and ACTUALLY help them out, or (2) GET OFF THE SERVICE!

I like twitter as much as the next person, but, sheesh, I don’t freak out when it is down. I move on to something else on the Internet.

@Timothy
If twitter became fee-based, me and a lot of others, would probably abandon. It is not THAT cool!

Comment by Michael

Totally agree Mediaphyter. Twitter has plumbing and engineering problems brought on by its own success/adoption rate. As new Twitter apps are bolted on from all these independent parties it is becoming yet another communication channel.
It will be fixed. It is refreshing to watch birthing pains. It means something is being born.

Comment by Stiennon

First off, I love Twitter. I brag about it to as many people as possible as much as the next person, and I can honestly say it has had a profound impact on my life. That being said, I and many others, rely on Twitter ALOT. Relying on an unreliable service (yes going down for 3-10 hours is a big deal when you use it as much as I do) is sure to raise ire.

Participating in the boycott is my way of saying to Twitter, “Hey, you’re great and I depend on you a lot, but my loyalty wears thin every time you go down.”

You better believe Twitter is going to start making money off us soon, and if they plan on doing that, they better earn my loyalty back, it’s already losing out some to FriendFeed.

Secondly, no one is trying to change the world here. We recognize Twitter is working on the issues and that not a lot of people are going to even participate. It has NOTHING to do with any sense of entitlement.

Read more on my reasons for participating here, rather than regurgitating my post.

Comment by Shey

[…] Leggio makes the reasonable argument that Twitter users are acting out of a sense entitlement when they demand better service but reject […]

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First off, thank you for mentioning My Tweeple. This is a great conversation. No matter how you feel about the issue, it’s well worth discussing. That’s what I enjoy about Twitter, the diversity of opinions.

Personally, I don’t plan to participate in the Twit-Out. What I should be doing, and haven’t yet, is trying to engage with the folks at Twitter more. They are available on GetSatisfaction.com and there is a Twitter Dev Google Group.

I’ve said many times that I’m willing to pay for Twitter. I don’t know why Twitter hasn’t taken me up on it. Perhaps they fear actually being obligated to work most of the time.

Twitter has been having growing pains for months. They need to make a real investment of time and money to continue their success. Will the Twit-Out itself make a difference? I’m sure it won’t, but the conversations that are sparked by it on both sides just might.

Comment by Shannon Whitley

As I blogged a few days ago, I really don’t understand this protest (http://seanreiser.com/node/1435). I have taken part in boycotts that have worked and boycotts that haven’t but at the end of the day they all had a clear measurable purpose.

Most people involved in this boycott have been saying “I know they are trying as hard as they can but I’m boycotting to let them know that they are having outages and I’m mad” because… you know… the folks at twitter don’t know that.

Twitter has been having growing pains since day one. They never envisioned the response they are getting and somehow, even with all the bad press over stability, they still manage to grow month over month.

If someone could explain to me the measurable, manageable goals from the twit-out I might understand.

Comment by Sean Reiser

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I will be twittering all day tomorrow. Does anyone want to join my Twitter Boycott Boycott?

Comment by Mobilebuzz

Thanks !

Comment by swisionfosink

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Until twitter allows posts up to a minimum of 1000 characters it will be useless. Period. Using proper spelling and grammar, it is impossible to articulate a coherent, intelligent thought in 140 characters or less.

Comment by Robert M

Until twitter allows posts up to a minimum of 1000 characters it will be useless. Period. Using proper spelling and grammar, it is impossible to articulate a coherent, intelligent thought in 140 characters or less.
Please do not encourage our young people to continue using “1337/twitter speak” as the lexicon is corrupted enough as it is!

Comment by Robert M

Throughout the great scheme of things you actually receive an A+ for hard work. Where exactly you lost us was first on your details. As as the maxim goes, the devil is in the details… And that couldn’t be more accurate here. Having said that, allow me reveal to you just what exactly did work. The text is definitely incredibly engaging and this is most likely the reason why I am taking an effort to opine. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, whilst I can easily see a leaps in logic you make, I am not confident of just how you seem to connect your details which in turn make your conclusion. For now I shall subscribe to your position however hope in the future you link the facts better.

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