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Killing Time

This morning, even before my first cup of coffee – I went through my stable of Twitter accounts and started deactivating them. Easier and more straightforward than I expected.

That was before Leo Laporte’s Buzz Kill post hit my radar:

“It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. All this time I’ve been pumping content into the void like some chatterbox Onan. How humiliating. How demoralizing.” – Leo Laporte

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Twitter's a Memory Hole

“…it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

This weekend, I opened up my Twitter account and read each message I had posted.

Then I deleted it.

And I kept reading and deleting until Twitter stopped showing me my messages – sometime around October 2009.

I started with more than 7200 ‘tweets’ and according to Twitter, I’ve 6,587 remaining.

Now if you visit /garrickvanburen you won’t see any of them. Seems as though Twitter has decided that anything I’ve written prior to, say, October 2009 is no longer available [1]. But – if my profile says I have 6,587 ‘tweets’ – where are they?

I even searched for them via search.twitter.com;

” Older tweets are temporarily unavailable.”

If they’re not accessible – shouldn’t the number be 0?

I’m completely fine with Twitter being temporary. I think it should be (that’s why I mass deleted them anyway). I don’t think Twitter should be indexed by Google or Bing or any other service. The question is – how long should a give ‘tweet’ be accessible?

Nine months seems as arbitrary as 140 character limit and killing off basic auth in August.

So, how long should a ‘tweet’ live?

If Twitter’s goal is to capture the zeitgeist in real-time, how long does it take for a moment to pass?

5 minutes? 1 hour? 24 hours? 1 beat?

Update 25 June 2010: As of this morning, my Twitter account reads ‘0 tweets’. Makes me feel that Twitter doesn’t see any value in keeping the old stuff around and accessible. Feels very Logan’s Run. Not sure how I feel about this yet.

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Shortly Over Part 2: Twitter Returns Long URLs

After maintaining years of awkward, inconsistent URL shortening behavior because of some vague argument about SMS capabilities – Twitter has announced links passed through their service may or may not be shortened to t.co.

“A really long link such as http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 might be wrapped as http://t.co/DRo0trj for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as amazon.com/Delivering- or as the whole URL or page title. Ultimately, we want to display links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened link and lets you know where a link will take you.”

This is a win for the casual users of Twitter that still send & receive URLs through the service.

Shortly Over Part 1

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Find 'Twitter', Replace with 'Second Life'

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In the past week both Apple and Twitter have carpet bombed on their respective development communities. As I’ve written about previously – I’ve been off Twitter now for nearly 2 months.

This week an interesting switch flipped in my head.

When I hear ‘Twitter’, my head replaces it with another corporate site I have little presence within. Most often it’s ‘World of Warcraft’ or ‘Second Life’. Sometimes it’s ‘MySpace’.

It gives whatever statement a quaint, historical tint to it. Rather than the blanket of pretension I’ve been feeling lately.

Elsewhere:

“Twitter vs Facebook battle he alludes to is already over, and Facebook wins….There’s just more value in being able to share anything.” – Fred Oliveira

“When [Twitter’s] conversion to OAuth is complete they will be in a position to instantly block any application they don’t like, which they have already started doing. “-Eric Woodward

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I'm Garrick and I've Been Twitter Free for 30 Days.

“You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 17

At some point in late February – after 7,367 posts – I stopped visiting Twitter and deleted all the Twitter apps from my machines.

My world suddenly became more calm, more quiet, and I had more focus.

I’ve posted a handful of direct messages during that time – but nothing public.

In the past couple days, I’ve been visiting Twitter.com again and have found it as satisfying as a fifth Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut.

The @-replies, the retweets, the opaque URLs, the echo chamber-ness, and the cute passive-aggressive-ness all taste like the sugary frosting around 140 characters of emptiness.

Based on this graph from Compete.com, I wasn’t the only one visiting less.

Have I missed things that are important?
Maybe. Google’s ‘latest’ search captures most of the things I’m actively tracking (and if there’s a good way to see how empty 140 characters feels – compare it against other search results). For the rest – given how quickly the Twitter stream flows – quello che sarà, sarà.

Has it changed how I communicate?
Most definitely. I’m emailing and IM’ing more and I like that. More thoughtfulness, more conversational, more intimate, focused topics, far less twitchiness.

What happened on my Twitter account during that time?
My follower count remained static. I received a small number of direct messages and an even smaller number of @-replies. It left me with the distinct sense that maintaining engagement on Twitter is like pushing on a string – once direct pressure is no longer applied, movement stops.

Yes, this post is primarily to put a bookend on my my archive of Twitter-related archive.

Want to discuss this further? Drop me an email or IM.

Hat tip to Jamie for the intro quote.

Update 24 March 2010:
I just received this message from Klout.com

“Our analysis shows that your influence on Twitter has dropped from 30 to 8. There are a lot of reasons this could have happened but don’t worry, we are going to help you become more influential!..”

“…can the zeitgeist get so toxic that disconnecting from it is the smart play from a mental health perspective?” – Dave Slusher

Update 2 April 2010:
It occurs to me that Retweeting is Email-forwarding’s lazier cousin.

Update 21 April 2010:
I finally found a line I wrote in June 22, 2009:

“there’s an argument that I live 2 years into the future. If that’s the case – then sometime between now and March 2011, Twitter (the organization) is no longer relevant.”

Elsewhere:

“When I Tweet, nothing much happens for me other than reducing my incentive and motivation to create anything else. That seems like an obviously pretty bad deal in every way you slice it.” – Dave Slusher

“I’m well into my social media vacation….I’m not sure I’m ever coming back….There is a calmness and peace to my days…” – Dave Slusher

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What Were You Doing?

“I shut down a whole bunch of experimental Twitter apps. I feel a phase ending. I don’t see Twitter as my platform.” – Dave Winer

In my work to bring Cullect back from hiatus, I’ve been doing a full code review and asking myself what should stay, what should be fixed, and what should go.

A number of the services Cullect originally integrated with no longer exist (Ma.gnol.ia for example). Cullect had fairly deep Twitter integration (at the time) but that seems extraordinarily less useful or valuable today.

Importance is difficult to discern with a 5-minute half-life.

Adding to that – I’ve got another project with fairly significant Twitter integration – and I’m just not terribly interested in building it out. Nor am I seeing the demand for it.

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Mental Exercise: Who Wins When Twitter Stumbles?

In continuing my short sell of social media, I’ve been imagining Twitter and Facebook as holdings in a hedge fund manager’s portfolio.

In my amateur understanding of hedge funds: the goal is to reduce risk and maximize returns by investing in assets that move in the opposite direction. The magic is in finding the complimentary assets.

A very simple example: if you see long term growth in the US stock market – a hedge would have 50% of your investment in the bond market, for stock and bonds prices often move in the opposite direction.

How does this metaphor extend to social media?

I’ve got a couple projects that would be interesting within a service like Twitter and I’d like to hedge my investment (development time). The question is – where are the complimentary assets?

Or, who wins when Twitter stumbles?

If people stop sending messages via Twitter – where does that communication flow?

Facebook? WordPress.com? Movabletype? Tumblr? Posterous ?

Maybe. While they all offer a similar capability – they fell to similar (private, hosted, silos) to be complimentary.

WordPress.org – feels closer (free, open source, well documented, mature API). But, I have a hard time imagining people mass-installing WordPress in their own web space after having everything taken care of for them.

My favorite answer so far: Email.

What would your Social Media Hedge Fund portfolio be made of?