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4/27/2009
11:50 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Twitter Backlash Bubbles Up

I was going to weigh in with yet another opinion about whether microposts reminiscent of that 1970s ad -- "if u cn rd ths msg, u cn gt a gd jb" -- presage the post-literate future or are instead our decade's pet-rock moment. However, what's more interesting is the brewing battle over whether Twitter backlash is for real or just a made-up story attempting to throw cold water on the popular Web 2.0 time-suck.

I was going to weigh in with yet another opinion about whether microposts reminiscent of that 1970s ad -- "if u cn rd ths msg, u cn gt a gd jb" -- presage the post-literate future or are instead our decade's pet-rock moment. However, what's more interesting is the brewing battle over whether Twitter backlash is for real or just a made-up story attempting to throw cold water on the popular Web 2.0 time-suck.If you're like me, you live on both sides of the Twitter fence. As a user, you merrily tweet away, both because it's fun, and also because you've got a sense that there might be some career skin in it for you. (Same reasons one does LinkedIn and Facebook.)

On the other hand, when one steps away from the keyboard and assesses the Twittersphere from a more sober, adult-like perspective, one can't help but be struck by a troubling, Zen-like contradiction. Namely, Twitter is one of the two most successful Web 2.0 apps (the other is the aforementioned Facebook). Yet Twitter is little more than a broadcast, Web-based text-messaging service, or what's also been called AIM on steroids. With no revenue, to boot. (Facebook, of course, is simply MySpace for adults.)

Talking pluses and minuses about this stuff is a little like arguing over President Obama or the existence of a deity. In neither case are you going to change anyone's opinion. It's probably the same deal when it comes to Twitter, but that intractability is precisely why the debate is so much fun.

So here's where the backlash battle stands. Recently, CNet blogger Charles Cooper weighed in with a post entitled "I'm officially dropping out of the Twitter gab fest." I'm loosely paraphrasing -- hey, you've got the link; go read the post -- but Cooper essentially said he was bored with a venue filled with "brain farts," and that many sober people also wonder what all the fuss is about.

The fact that Cooper might be abandoning Twitter because he no longer has the time to Tweet -- he's going off to work under Dan Farber on CBSNews.com -- shouldn't necessarily negate his argument. (Or should it?)

Anyway, so some real provocation comes via The Industry Standard's Paul Boutin, who posted on PCWorld, "Ready? The Fake Twitter Backlash Begins." Boutin makes the cogent argument that, just because a bunch of news outlets and bloggers are saying there's Twitter backlash, doesn't make it so.

Yet Boutin fails to actually put forth a case regarding the question at hand. He elevates the fact that the media are often wrong into confirmation that they've got this one incorrect and thus it's a trumped up story. This doesn't follow.

I think we all know Twitter backlash when we hear it. As in, "Can you stop Tweeting, put down the stupid iPhone, and for once in your life pay attention to the meeting?"; or

"Did you see so-and-so's Tweet that he just passed 20,000 followers? What a [insert word which simultaneously conveys jealousy and disgust here]," and

"Oh, God, I have to go and Tweet now."

Btw, you can follow me here Twitter: (@awolfe58). Please!


What's your take? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net.

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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