Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Signal to Noise - why Twitter failed

This article has been published on Homepage Daily, please view it there.

It was an interesting experiment, but Twitter has been spammed out before it even got mainstream.

Twitter, a micro-blogging service where users send and read posts of up to 140 characters called tweets, is aptly and deliberately named for its very low ratio of signal to noise. We’d don’t know, as Twitter won’t release hard facts, how many users it has and how it plans to make money. But in early 2009, Twitter had a monthly growth of 1,382% and total users were estimated at just under 20 million. That’s a lot of user data, and the only real asset Twitter has right now.

Sounds good? In fact, the hype may have been Achilles’ hell. Once word got out it was a great way to reach a large audience for free, it was hi-jacked by salespeople long before the customers arrived. Pollies, porn sites, police and spammers – meet your new Twitter friends. Trends, topics that are mentioned the most in tweets, are mainly propagated and kept on the top ten by spammers mentioning them in their tweets as an aside after their sales pitch. Politicians are onboard, with Obama and KRudd being joined by Malcolm Turnbull - – not someone you’d call an early adopter in any area.

Today the Victorian Police announced they are to tweet the "embarrassingly boozy breath readings recorded" of drink drivers caught. Cautionary tales, fresh from the police to your inbox. If you can find them in the spam. Why would you want to sign up to this? Twitter was meant to connect people but it has been seized with the enthusiasm by the mainstream to market to you.

Lets face it, it’s too easy. Low commitment, high impact. No fees. The very ease of set up makes filtering difficult and spamming easy for advertisers. If you had a mail server that did that you’d be screaming.

Now I’ve worked out the way to get value from it is to lock it down – private, friends only, the opposite of what Twitter should be. I’m not writing it off. The connectivity, the immediacy, the mobilisation of real people over a quick connection has huge potential. But right now, it’s just another way to get spammed and sold out.


  1. I personally don't like Twitter, its like blogging for lazy people, and to be honest I would rarther read a few paragraphs about what happened what "Am in the trains Station" "Still waiting for the train" etc

  2. I love Twitter but I use it more as a networking tool. I have added media outlets, freelance journalists and celebrities to my account. I use Facebook to connect with people I have lost contact with. If I want to speak to my family or friends, I God forbid, pick up the phone and speak to them!