The social deficiency of twitter.

Apr 24 2007

"What are you doing?"

This is the social problem that twitter declares to solve. Big deal. Twitter basically lets you spam your friends (and other silent lurkers/followers) about whatever you may be doing at any given moment.

Over 2 years ago TXTMob, by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, provided a similar service with a much more compelling agenda. It provided a platform for social and political activists to organize in the streets.

Instead of "What are you doing?" people were asking "What are the cops doing?". TXTMob allowed protesters to quickly communicate and circumvent police tactics aimed at curtailing their movements in urban environments. In 2004 the service was used by protestors at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York: lots of signal, very little noise.

If twitter was a beverage it would be kool-aid. Kind of tastes good at first, but leaves a nasty sugary taste in your mouth and slowly corrodes your teeth.

Equally perplexing is the recent feature in last week's Sunday NY Times business section complete with full color picture of twitter's developers. Why it is being featured at all is beyond me. But in addition, Jason Pontin's half-heartedly bemused critique was kind of wimpy and missed an opportunity to really challenge the social merit of this service.

Lots of noise, very little signal.