31 Comments

Summary:

Twitter, in a post on its blog, has acknowledged that it’s been having problems. It attributes some (not all) of them to so-called “popular” users that it says overloaded the system when they sent updates in too quick a succession. In other words, it was a […]

Twitter, in a post on its blog, has acknowledged that it’s been having problems. It attributes some (not all) of them to so-called “popular” users that it says overloaded the system when they sent updates in too quick a succession. In other words, it was a tactical acknowledgment by the company of problems that have already been widely reported.

Of course Twitter’s most popular user is Robert Scoble, and as far as numerous successive posts have argued, he is the real source of the problem (prompting some not-unexpected foot-stomping on Scoble’s part).

I wrote about Twitter’s problem in a post last weekend and how they should charge for people like Scoble, Michael Arrington and myself for using their system so aggressively. Our use of Twitter benefits our businesses. Links to Scoble’s posts can drive traffic to his site or his videos, which in turn drives attention to his work and his employer. Same holds true for Michael and for me. On a more philosophical basis, it allows us to stay in touch with our readers, who in turn keep us in business.

Nevertheless, since common sense and paid services are apparently not part of this brave new Web 2.0 world, my idea didn’t play well. What was I thinking? Instead there’s this belief that Twitter, the ultimate tool of our collective narcissism, should be so lucky to have super users, that they are what make it popular with everybody else. I don’t subscribe to that point of view, but hey that’s just me.

For Twitter, the challenge of keeping the service going while at the same time fixing it to scale up is immense. Thankfully they have the money and what looks like the will to fix the problems. Will they? We shall see!

Update: The debate about Twitter rages on. Scoble met with Twitter team and talked about the various issues in a video interview. I got an email from Even Williams who is one of the founders of Twitter and this is what he had to stay:

We like the idea of charging for commercial use. That’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time (you can probably find my quoted saying that from a year ago). We’re just not there yet.

Given all different opinions, and other issues that have emerged, I have to reiterate that by charging the super users, I am suggesting that costs will bring in a sense of responsibility to the entire ecosystem. When there is no tax involved, there is no cost to having thousands of followers, or sending hundreds of messages. When asked to pay, heavier users will use the system responsibly.

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  1. Thomas Hawk Friday, May 30, 2008

    I’m not sure that money is really their problem. Don’t they have something like $15 million in the bank?

  2. An example based on 3 well-known journalists does not mean the bulk of the popular users now or in the years to come would be using Twitter for profit, like you do. Some people just have a lot of friends. Still I believe they would accept your voluntary donations :)

  3. De olho no jargão: narcisismo coletivo | Produtividade Pessoal Friday, May 30, 2008

    [...] onde se sabe, narcisismo coletivo foi um termo cunhado pelo jornalista Om Malik, para se referir ao aplicativo Twitter. Por mais que ele mesmo use a ferramenta para negócios e [...]

  4. Duane Storey Friday, May 30, 2008

    I’ve never really understood the whole “free” business model. All it ends up promoting are crappy services. I’d question anyone who wouldn’t want to front $10 for a service they use and like, and I’d question the business itself if nobody was willing to pay. I think those are metrics everyone should use. If a service isn’t worth paying for, is it really that useful?

  5. @Duane Storey: Hmmm…. yes, well, Google is ostensibly “free” to the end user, yet millions of people can’t live without it. The advertising model has worked extremely well in their case. Same for YouTube, sort of. Twitter could certainly follow in their footsteps; in fact I’m betting that’s what will happen.

    I wonder why Google didn’t buy Twitter. Could it be because their technology sucked?

  6. Trevor Plantagenet Friday, May 30, 2008

    Robert Scoble, and the super-tweeters for whom he’s set an example, such as Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis, believe they should be allowed to run their businesses off of a free service. They pay for their blog hosting and bandwidth, they pay for their mobile phone bill, they pay for their travel expenses, but when it comes to Twitter, they think they should get a free ride. Scoble will keep proclaiming this, and Dave Winer will rationalize it, and people like Calacanis and Arrington will pocket millions of dollars while Twitter’s investors subsidize Mahalo’s and TechCrunch’s online marketing. These people should be paying not $5 a month, but hundreds of dollars a month given the real value they derive from the service.

  7. KevinKrewell Friday, May 30, 2008

    Om,

    On this I have to disagree with you. I don’t think other high Twittercount people like Kevin Rose and Leo Laporte should pay. Using myself as an example, I joined Twitter because of Leo’s comments on his “Netcasts.” He brought me to the service which increased its value to investors. If anything, Twitter owes Leo money.

    If Twitter can’t resolve its infrastructure scaling problem, I’m sure there will be a dozen start-up eager to replace them.

  8. @KEvin and @Juri

    I think if you are using for twitter for commercial purposes you have to pay. I am all for forming a basic tier which could be enough for normal people with a reasonable set of friends who want to follow them on the service.

    The infrastructure problem is directly correlated to the over use by super users, whether we like it or not. i don’t deny the company has problems and needs to rethink its infrastructure, but if they had taken steps like facebook-limiting-people to 5000 friends, it wouldn’t be facing these problems.

    Clearly I am in a minority of one on this one.

  9. Trevor Plantagenet Friday, May 30, 2008

    Om, you’re not a minority of one, you’re part of the silent majority of tech users who know that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. My respect for you has gone up seeing you not pandering to the freetards unlike other journalists (see TechCrunch’s cocaine-addled anti-copyright screeds). People who truly love the services that web 2.0 brings them need to start championing the idea of paying for them, otherwise we’re all selfishly contributing to the upcoming bust.

  10. I think the key takeaway is that if you love Twitter, you need to unfollow Scoble.

    Do yourself and the world a service, unfollow Scoble.

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