Twitter Does A Lot Of Different Things For Different People, Deal With It

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Today, Dalton Caldwell, founder of things that have pivoted, called out Twitter in a blog post for, well… pivoting. His post received many “kudos” on blogging software Svbtle, which amounts to those fake points that Drew Carey used to give out on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”

Caldwell is currently working on App.net, the pay-to-post service that I can’t get a straight answer out of anyone on, when it comes to how it’s doing or whether anyone really likes it. When I hop on the service, yes I paid for an account to support it, all I see is cross-posts from other services, and well…you might know how I feel about cross-posting.

In his blog post, he discusses the recent appointment of former Myspace President, Peter Chernin, to its board of directors. Apparently, Caldwell feels like this one single move signals some major shift for Twitter. Let’s try to parse through his thoughts, because it took me a while to do it myself.

First, Caldwell points to something that Chernin said in 2006. So what? That was six years ago — it’s immediately old and invalid. Basically, Chernin said that Myspace served as a jumping-off point for services like YouTube and Flickr. Yes, at one point Myspace sent a metric ass-ton worth of traffic to other sites. Fact.

From this old statement, Caldwell drew up this conclusion:

This was the justification and mentality that MySpace employed as they blocked various fast-growing platform partners that they felt impinged in MySpace’s core user experience. Any of this sound familiar?

First of all, Chernin was brought on to Twitter’s board, not as president or CEO. Second, the “Any of this sound familiar?” line is propaganda, as some developers are crying foul that Twitter is tightening up its API and is dissuading developers away from creating apps that replicate Twitter’s core functionality. You know, asking them to be original. For reasons. I care deeply about the developer ecosystem and I do believe that Twitter being completely open to them and then closing things off is painful, but it hasn’t done any real damage.

Then, Caldwell goes on a mission to dismiss Chernin because he “tweeted wrong”:

This was Chernin’s first public tweet on the account, and well, maybe he doesn’t use it to tweet as much as some of us do. In fact, my boss Alexia pointed out to me today that I tweet “a lot.” Magical. So since Chernin didn’t tweet with a period or to the public by replying directly to Twitter, this signals a pivot. Yes, Twitter is changing course. All because of this. Let’s not forget that Caldwell might just have an axe to grind with the former Myspace president, and the company itself, because of things like this. Just a week after his company imeem was acquired by Myspace, this happened. Hmph. He also has issues with Facebook.

After this analysis of a single tweet, which was indeed a reply to a tweet from the main Twitter account, Caldwell continues with a rant about something that… I have no idea….

It’s well known that Twitter has a steep learning curve for new users. The steep learning curve was famously spoofed by a parody Jack Nicholson account.

From a product perspective, Twitter needs to either:

Rethink onboarding of new users to do a far better job of educating people about how things like @-replies, RTs, hashtags, etc work.

OR

Admit failure and give up on trying to get normal people to tweet. Pivot the company at this late stage in the game and completely redefine what the core user experience is.

It seems they are opting for the latter option.

My mom uses Twitter. She figured it out quickly. Her use case was originally that she wanted to keep up with the stupid crap I said so that she and I could have something to talk about when we connected on the phone. Now, she tweets at other people, and uses it to see what’s trending in the world. Imagine that.

The fact that Caldwell is giving Twitter advice on its product is astounding to me. I don’t know Caldwell personally, but I tend to lean towards working on your own thing really hard before you start throwing darts at others. Let’s just say that many people believe in what Twitter is doing: investors, partners, users and the media at large. I haven’t seen an App.net post on CNN yet.

According to Caldwell, Twitter is “seemingly” giving up on trying to get normal people to tweet. Guess what, normal people do tweet. Check this out:

That gal has 66 followers, isn’t a tech geek, and she figured it all out just fine. Just do a search for any non-geeky term and you’ll find regular folks using Twitter, and a lot of them. Just click the “All” button.

What I’m really saying is that Twitter is many things to many people. Sure, some people don’t want to share their thoughts publicly. They just don’t feel like they have anything interesting to say. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be around others who have things to say, in the hopes that they’ll find a relevant “conversation” to jump into at some point.

What Caldwell forgets is that the whole world isn’t like us. They do things at a different speed and in a different way. What Twitter is doing is trying to serve all of the use cases it can to make sure that the service is inviting and welcoming for all. That’s not a pivot, that’s just smart business.

I think this passage from Caldwell’s piece says it all:

How is Twitter going to pull off their mid-flight pivot, which entails largely redefining what Twitter actually is, not to mention how most people are supposed to use it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Yes, Dalton. Your guess is as good as mine. Because neither of us works at Twitter and neither of us has a wildly popular, or even marginally popular, consumer service under our belt currently. The core idea of Twitter remains, things are just evolving to provide context to all of this information flowing through the service.

Adding a different point of view to a board of directors doesn’t equal a shift in direction. Nothing is binary. Duh.

[Photo credit: Flickr]