Blog Post

Twitter Staffer Stops Blogging After Backlash

Updated: Alex Payne, a Twitter engineer, is shutting down his personal blog after a comment he posted on Twitter became the subject of a TechCrunch blog post and caused a minor firestorm among Twitter application developers and others involved with the company. The comment (which has since been deleted from Payne’s stream) referred to “some nifty site features” that had been implemented on the internal version of the Twitter site. The Twitter engineer said that if users had access to the same features, “you might not want to use third-party clients.”

As the TechCrunch post described, this caused a bit of consternation among developers, some of whom were concerned that Twitter would be implementing features that might compete with third-party Twitter tools such as Tweetdeck, Seesmic, etc. As TechCrunch writer MG Siegler noted in a post on his personal blog about the response to his piece, certain Twitter staffers were unimpressed with the article and expressed their displeasure (via Twitter, of course) over what they seemed to think was an overreaction to Payne’s comment.

So did the Twitter incident cause Payne to stop blogging? He says in his final blog post that while he intended the personal blog to be a place where he could talk about ideas, his posts had started to “spark whole conversations that I never intended to start in the first place, conversations that leech precious time and energy while contributing precious little back.” He also responded to someone on Twitter that he had been considering taking a break from blogging, but that the TechCrunch post “certainly pushed me to consider how I communicate.” And he said that he is “still baffled as to why anyone pays that level of attention to what I have to say.”

While the Twitter engineer said he will continue to use the service he helped create, it sounds like he will be more cautious about what he posts and the possible implications. He says: “Over time, I’m coming to realize what sort of messages I can communicate effectively via Twitter, and what sort I can’t.” And in a Twitter post, he says: “Learn from my mistake: talk about your business carefully.”

Although it’s too bad that Payne will no longer be sharing his thoughts about the service and its implications on his blog (which I confess I had become a fan of), it’s somewhat comforting to know that even one of the key architects behind this popular social media tool is still learning how to use it effectively — as we all are.

Update: Here’s a video clip of some Twitter staffers discussing Payne’s comments at a recent “tweetup” with Twitter developers at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco (thanks to Kosso from Phreadz, who posted a link to this video in a comment below):

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Why NewNet Companies Must Shoulder More Responsibility

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Flickr user BrittneyBush. Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user Charlesdyer.

30 Responses to “Twitter Staffer Stops Blogging After Backlash”

  1. OK, so, wait, developers are concerned that Twitter, the company that OWNS the API they develop against, is going to implement features that might make their software obsolete? This makes no sense at all.

    Do they believe Twitter should just stay as this basic service and let third party developers use their bandwidth, hit their API, and do all the cool stuff and they should NEVER seek to innovate?

    Third party developers:

    Yes, Twitter is going to step on toes and implement things on the site that will make some third party tools obsolete. That’s just the way it is and they way it should be. Twitters first responsibilities are to THEIR investors and THEIR users – not yours, third party developers. How do you handle Twitter making your app obsolete? Innovate! Find a hole that isn’t being covered by Twitter that causes pain in the user community and cover that.

    Isn’t that what you did when you developed your apps in the first place? There was pain having to use Twitter web from a mobile browser so you developed mobile apps, people wanted a better desktop experience that extended what you could do with Twitter, so we have desktop apps. It’s all about innovating and filling a need – not stifling Twitter.

    Get over it.

    • That’s a fair point, Anthony — third-party developers had better get used to the idea that companies like Twitter are going to do what is in their best interests, and that might not always be in your best interests. I think the sensitive relationship that services like Twitter have with third-party developers is part of the reason why Alex got so much flak for his comments.

  2. This is a classic example as to why you should not blog about your personal life or your business, especially when it is a corporation that you do not own.

  3. Frank Rizzo

    … and this is why, no matter what company I work for … no matter how big or small. I do NOT ever, discuss anything work related on twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc. Hell, I even stopped putting the name of the company I work for in my bio. That way, no one can complain about things I say on those networks.

  4. This is all surprising how? TC is a site like any other that leeches anything remotely news worthy from the Internets and spins it like a top. if they dont do it another one will. Its base human behavior! We are all just knee jerk moment away from outing something or someone … lets face it.

  5. He knew what he was doing. He says he was surprised at the level of attention? He hadn’t noticed the incredible number of conversations about Twitter? Really? I don’t think so. It seems a bit extreme to stop altogether. He must have gotten a big bite taken out of his butt by someone.

  6. Did he let the cat out of the bag? I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about. I don’t think anyone expects Twitter not to be developing next generation tools to complement their core service of micro blogging. In any case his mention of ‘third party clients” is perhaps good for Twitter, it keeps them in the news and keeps the competition guessing, it keeps innovation alive.

  7. whoop dedo

    i’ve always thought the idea of “corporate blogging” smelled funny. whats the subtext? “we encourage our employees to write what they want, except in cases where they shouldn’t, and we won’t tell you what those cases are, just know that should you mess up, our business is at stake”

    even without touching on company matters, every serial blogger at some point has their audience turn on them…scoble, spolsky, sierra, arrington…fame’s a bitch people

  8. Actually is more sad than anything.

    Because of this event Alex’s behavior has changed, his approach to the very product he helped to create has shifted- he will now police himself, his tweets now need a layer of approval in his own mind before charging out to the web. Maybe they always had this layer of approval going on, but now it has a new DEFCON 1 process being applied to it.

    All of this results in Alex’s true thoughts revealed on twitter to be less authentic, natural and free. Alex isn’t the first to have something like this happen to them. Over time more and more people will police their tweets. This will impact their participation in these networks too. Will it cascade, likely, just like people using twitter for advertising everything else, its all accelerating making the feed less and less noise to signal of real goodness.

    You have to wonder what will be come Alex’s new authentic playground where he can freely express himself without fear- its no longer twitter.

  9. People have to realize when you work for one of the biggest social media sites in the world. You have to proceed with a certain level of caution to everything you publish, whether it be personal or business related.

  10. Anyone ever see that Simpson’s episode where Homer keeps putting his hand against a hot stove, screaming “Oww!” and then repeating the process?

    That comes to mind whenever I see a story about some guy who thought it was OK to post internal company information on his personal blog.