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March 07, 2008

The man whose tweets were all exactly alike

Two significant Twitter-related things happened yesterday... I blogged the first, the release of CommonCraft's Twitter video tutorial.  The second was that the technology section of the UK Guardian ran a short piece about Twitter under the headline, Why are there no spam or trolls on Twitter?

This is not the first time that the Guardian has covered Twitter and it certainly won't be the last.  But it seems to me to be indicative of a gradual mainstreaming of Twitter as a tool, as is the CommonCraft video.

Mainstreaming will bring with it greater numbers of users.  That, in turn, will bring growing pressure to use it as a channel for spam and other less-than-desirable uses.

The thrust of the Guardian article is that Twitter has a natural immunity to spam-like problems because of the way it works.  I don't strongly disagree with this.  On the other hand, spammers are inventive people and if they can find a way to make the benefits outweigh the costs, they probably will.  We don't tend to see much of it at the moment because of the relatively low numbers of Twitter users and because most of them are currently tech-savvy people (err, geeks).

Mainstreaming will also bring with it self-inflicted issues - wanting to following large numbers of other twits (twitterers) for example.  Email isn't a broken technology as such, it just didn't cope with scalability issues very well.  Will Twitter go the same way or is it genuinely protected from such a fate?

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A key factor in twitter is likely to go if it becomes mainstream - serendipitous relationships with people who have a really exciting pioneering spirit.

When I was pregnant with Mr10, I was on a discussion board for mums expecting in the same month. We had a great, tight knit little group and shared wonderfully - we had both our pregnancies and our early adopter, eager beaverness in common.

When I was pregnant with Mr5, I went back to the same site - but there were so many people that it just felt like a huge noise and no-one really formed close relationships. It was much harder to find people I had things in common with.

I've met so many eager beaver early adopters on twitter... initially friends of friends were terrifically diverse, so I have been watching and learning from people I would NEVER have had exposure to in Real Life.

It's like the days waaaay back when I hung out at aus.tv.talk. We all had both our love of Twin Peaks and our "hey this is such a joyful and cool way to connect" attitude in common. It even happened on early listservs - tools that seem so boring and lifeless to us now.

Then again, those of us who have been hanging out in twitter for more than a year maybe shouldn't worry too much - when the mainstreamers flood twitter, we'll be all going "yay, this is such a coooool way to hang out together" on the newest online buzztoy - at least I hope so ..

Well I think if anything is certain in this world then Twitters inability to scale is one of them! As it becomes more mainstream it will fall over more and more and the less forgiving 'mainstream' users will move on leaving Twitter to the geeks!

I was at a talk by Blaine Cooke (the chief architect at Twitter) at FOWA last week and Twitter crashed within moments of him taking the stage - because so many twittered at the same time about him taking the stage!

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