Tech Crunch have a very useful article today on the value of Twitter as a tool. In many ways Twitter is a technology built like Microsoft products. That is, quick and dirty and falls over a lot. It is the antithesis of Apple products, which are based on stunning design, effortless usability and interface, and good up-time. But using highly developed design for something like Twitter – maybe Friendfeed or any of the other emergent feed-based products – is pointless. People just want to connect and talk. What they say is probably 60%+ irrelevant or trite. Maybe more. Thus using a beautiful interface to access majority rubbish is stupid.
What the Tech Crunch article focuses on, however, is the targeted nature of Twitter as a pre-chosen audience. Unlike Facebook and other social media networks which require ‘friending’ (approval of a friendship link) for viewing of activitiy in the network, Twitter works on the basis of allowing anyone to ‘follow’ an author (self-selection of content consumers), but gives the Twitterer a chance to block followers (authorial control over readership). This slight variation on the standard group membership practice is significant; it enables discovery of Twitterers on the basis of keywords and topics of interest – see the thing that used to be Summize, and is now Twitter Search. (And an example of how quickly Twitter value among social media advocates is being understood is how applications have been built for the platform, and already acquired by Twitter.)
Twitter search enables ‘lurking’ – Twitter users can follow a Twitterer without necessarily engaing with them in a truly reciprocal communicative relationship. And that is *fine* because anyone who thinks that social media is about balanced communication is kidding themseves. Some users are power Twitterers who are always interesting and have fascinating commentary. Others are banal and should be relegated to the secondary users list.
What Twitter is not good at, is being terribly selective in terms of lists. This is something that users of IM tools are used to doing – grouping friends in accordance with their category or level of importance. As more users get on to Twitter, there is a growing need to categorise posts by specific users, even among the people you do follow. Then the power of highly selective audiences comes in to its own. Not only does it register the cumulative value of your network, but it also tracks that audience over time.
It will be interesting to see how this might impact on friending/defriending etiquette over time.