September 15, 2009

Why we might not want Twitter to grow (when we want something done)

A while back Charlie Beckett wrote from the BBC's Beeb Camp about how Twitter, though still a minority sport, still mattered as it was more creative than the other main ways (email, SMS) people got in touch within the mass medium of television. There are fewer people on Twitter (though this is growing healthily, especially in the UK) and this, in turn, means that there is a better quality of dialogue between "the programme" (or the journalists/presenters/interviewers/interviewees), the audience, and between the members of the audience:

So expert Twittering journalist and Channel 4 News Presenter Krishnan Guru Murthy can appeal for question suggestions via Twitter without getting swamped by replies. If it gets any bigger then it becomes email. Channel 4 has enjoyed some stimulating uses of Twitter to help audiences get more involved in live surgical operations, as well as to comment on the taste of the channel's home (re)designexperts.

Playing along on Twitter, having a conversation with friends as well as strangers who are sharing a common moment, is becoming a common activity amongst Twitters of an evening, using Twitter search or, for example, 4iP's own Hashdash. We've even done some work with the Channel 4 On Demands (4oD) back catalogue, taking 10,000 hours of television archive and making it accessible through a Facebook Connect platform, Test Tube Telly. Go and have a play, see what you're friend are watching and share your thoughts on it all. However, Charlie's point about Krishnan, that "if it gets any bigger then it becomes email", shouldn't be an 'if'. It will happen.

Ray Kurzweil's anatomy of exponential growth tells us it will become bigger, a lot bigger (until 2020, at least), and therefore it almost certainly becomes another form of email: something to avoid on holiday, something to ignore wherever possible. The same thought came to me recently as I was having a bit of bother getting my new home fitted out with a telephone and broadband line. Being a new house, we had been warned by the building site manager that British Telecom would not want to send out an engineer because, from their call centre, the home would appear connected when, in fact, it wasn't. Insist on the engineer, he said.

An engineer was en route until the very last evening before he was due to appear. That evening I wasn't at home, invited instead to an the weirdest dinner I've ever had (a perfume dinner) and ended up sat alongside JP Rangaswami, Confused of Culcutta, one of my blog heros and, as chance would have it, Managing Director of BT Design at British Telecom. He assured me it was easily sorted and that, if I had any problems, I would just have to send a tweet to @btcare and he and his colleagues would sort it out.

I did have problems. @btcare and @jobsworth did sort it out. Really quickly. Really nicely.

I was a happy surfer but started wondering what would happen, when, inevitably, Twitter became THE place EVERYONE started to get their telecoms problems sorted. And it wouldn't just stop there - it would be the place to have your gas line reconnected, get your oven repaired... Would I have to find a new geekerati way to get my stuff sorted out, or simply join the masses in the Twitter queue listening to the Twitter Muzak equivalent of Beethoven's Ninth before I got seen to?

Originally posted at 38minutes.

Comments

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Great post there. Here's some thoughts and ideas:

Surely a company would grow its support desk to match the tweet demand? And if requests exceeded demand, then I would be patient, just like email and wait for a response.

Email is perfect for not having to wait around on the phone all day.

If Twitter evolves to the point of me being able to resolve lots of issues with a 140 char message, then I'll be very happy.

However if there is a delay that takes too long or requires urgency, I would phone or visit in person.

The only issue I have with email is spammers. But Twitter addresses that issue by allowing me to control who I sign up to and who's tweets I receive.


That's why Twitter has been growing in the reason as it can deal with many problems, although sometimes maybe wrong.

Twitter will continue to grow, but will eventually fail.
Twitter will not be able to monetize it's users; giving Facebook the leading edge.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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