The (Predictable) Misunderstanding Of Twitter Moments

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Twitter Moments launched this week, which caught none of Twitter’s most hardcore users by surprise. We knew it by the name of “Project Lightning,” I refer to it as “Project Glacier” because it slows things down for folks who aren’t use to drinking from the water hose.

One of the most talked about aspects of Moments is the lack of “personalization” and “customization.” That is fair. It’s also by design. This isn’t some PR speak comin’ at you, it’s a known fact and the product was launched barebones on purpose.

That doesn’t seem to have stopped the bafflement of some super smart folks:

The key of Moments is to nail the experience of most people who consume tweets. I’m not talking about the 316M of us who use it, us it…I’m talking about the rest of the world that consumes tweets by other means, namely on TV. Those folks have either signed up and abandoned, or have never signed up in the first place. There are probably hundreds of mini-cohorts that Twitter are going after, I just painted a broad stroke.

People are also conflating not knowing how to use Twitter vs. not seeing a use of Twitter for themselves. Most people know what Twitter is. They just don’t see the point of using it themselves. It’s not rocket science. You have an open box and you put text in it and people can see it. I spend a lot of time talking to people who don’t spend all of their time on a computer like I do, and they get the concept, not the reason to use it.

Moments is supposed to be a reason to use Twitter…on Twitter.

Now that we have that out of the way, back to personalization. People who don’t use a product have no data to personalize, therefore Moments had to, and did, ship barebones. It’s very similar to the experience you’d have watching CNN. You’re presented with a “story” and then shown a bunch of content found on Twitter that has to do with that story. CNN maybe does it for one or two stories a day tops, whereas Moments pumps these things out all day.

Smart.

For those of us who actually tweet, we like finding our own Moments. The fun of Twitter’s fragmentation is that we can piece things together ourselves. It’s like a scavenger hunt. Some of us are paid to do it. Some of us simply have the time to blow on doing it. That audience is tiny compared the rest of the universe. So sometimes Twitter’s first go at a feature isn’t going to be for us. Also, people have complained that retweets and favs are hidden. That’s fine, because the people who don’t use Twitter have no graph to share things with.

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Perhaps Moments will one day be more intelligent. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe we’ll be shown less sports, or in my case more. But what Moments can’t do, and most “personalized” or “customized” products can’t do, is see into the future and figure out exactly what kind of stuff you want to see before you see it. It’ll always be “wrong.” It’ll never be perfect. That’s how life works, our brains are a wacky thing. What product do you currently use that you would consider to be perfectly personalized to your wants and needs? I thought about it and couldn’t name one. Expectations on things that are overhyped get out of whack, and sure, that’s Twitter’s fault. They’ve been talking about Lightning for a long long time, and well, geeks tend to ride the hype wave. And then it’s not what they hoped. And then they crash. And then the thing “sucks” and it’s “not for me” and it’s going to “fail.”

At the end of the day, all of this requires an open mind and the ability to step outside of yourself, step outside of how you use a thing. Because if you want tons of others to use the thing that you use, which you should, then the thing is going to change a bit.

What will Moments be judged on? While we don’t know the exact vanity metrics Twitter will shove at us, you bet that it has to do with eyeballs and a bit of clicking around. Not the clicking that power users do, but the kind of babysteps that shows people are understanding the nuances of Twitter. It doesn’t matter where the buttons are, because rest assured they’ll be moved if they’re not working. It’s hard to fix the plane while the plane is flying, but them’s the breaks.

The genius of Moments is that an entire team within the company agreed on a path and stuck to it. They spent time thinking about the hard problems that face them and took steps to correct it, no matter what anyone else outside of the company thinks. And the rest of the company got behind them.

That’s promise.

That’s the glimmer of an reinvigorated company.