Filed under: Social Media | Tags: ben brown, boycott, cnet, community, consumating.com, downtime, jaiku, mytweeple, outages, pownce, protest, social network, twit-out, twitter, twitterfone
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.
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