Twitter, Facebook, Fixing What Ain't Broke - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
5/13/2009
11:27 AM
Michael Hickins
Michael Hickins
Commentary
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Twitter, Facebook, Fixing What Ain't Broke

It must be a product of the times -- Mark Zuckerberg, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, all watching giants crumble under the weight of their own complacency, and saying to themselves, "that's never gonna be me." But really guys, change for change sake isn't any more of a successful business strategy than resting on your laurels.

It must be a product of the times -- Mark Zuckerberg, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, all watching giants crumble under the weight of their own complacency, and saying to themselves, "that's never gonna be me." But really guys, change for change sake isn't any more of a successful business strategy than resting on your laurels.Twitter has gone and changed an essential element of its service, which is the ability to "listen in" on conversations between people whom you know and people whom you don't. Biz Stone's explanation is condescending to everyone, and infuriating to early-adopters:

Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow -- it's a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don't follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today's update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

Confusing? I'm no rocket scientist, but I've never found that any more confusing than when I'm listening in on my wife's end of a phone conversation with her mother. I figure if it's important, she'll fill me in later.

As for early Twitter adopters, I'll let Jen Leggio speak for us:

It makes me wonder, honestly, if the folks behind Twitter fully understand the value of the service they are offering. The continual pandering to celebrities and now taking an optional service away from the early adopters who bled Twitter loyalty even during the worst of the Fail Whale days.
Given the number of angry complaints about this change, I'll bet that Twitter backs down, just like Facebook has on numerous occasions -- most recently, ironically enough, because it was trying to out-Twitter Twitter by imitating the micro-blogging site's communications stream.

Now it will be Twitter's turn to return the favor and imitate Facebook by showing that it, too, can put itself in an indefensible position with regards to its users and have to back down before its valuation slips out like sand in an hourglass.

Speaking of hourglasses, you don't see many of those these days outside of cribbage games; even the chess players in Washington Square Park use digital clocks. But the people who invented the hourglass -- an improvement on sundials and church bells -- didn't run around breaking their contraptions because they heard that some guy named Leibniz was inventing a better way of telling time. They didn't try to reinvent a digital hourglass (don't blame them for those stupid icons you see when you're waiting for a file to download on a Mac) or make hourglasses for virtual worlds. In the course of history, they were overtaken by a host of inventions, but they found niches -- like the above-mentioned board game -- where their original products are still useful.

Maybe there's a lesson in that paradigm. Maybe the idea of constant innovation is running its course, and it's now time to make better use of the tools we have. Not that people shouldn't keep trying to innovate, but that we should also attach more value to things we already have, rather than adding to the landfills we're running out of room to pile onto.

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