scoble – Stay N Alive

Twitter, Two Years Later and Nothing Has Changed

Last year, exactly 1 year yesterday in fact, I wrote an article reminding developers, while venting that we were in a constant state of being at Twitter’s mercy.  In the last year, Twitter has actually improved a lot in regards to stability – they attribute that to Unicorns.  I think it’s because they’ve hired a lot of good people over the last year.  Yet, the core problems of 2 years ago still exist, and you know what – I’m fine with it now.

Check out the interview (again) that Robert Scoble and I (mostly Robert) did with Ev Williams and Biz Stone almost exactly 2 years ago.  This was in response to Alex Payne writing a blog post calling Robert a “whale” and blaming Twitter’s scaling difficulties on that.  At the time I was also very concerned about the developer ecosystem, and that has not changed since.  Robert Scoble since has been replaced by pop-culture icons on Twitter’s suggested user list, and, as one of Twitter’s top promoters and even the top user for quite awhile, he was thrown under the rug by Twitter as well.

Here’s the thing though – as I said in my article yesterday, I have no problem with this.  Twitter is a business.  They have a core technology they need to build, and they’re going to continue building that to compete.  They even had auto follow for awhile – I competed, we provided a better service (and probably even had more users than Twitter using it), and Twitter eventually didn’t see the need to continue supporting it.  They’ve since replaced several other features my business offers.  We’ve continued to compete there as well.  They even asked me to remove specific features because it was not in their core interest.

At first I was dumbfounded at how I was being treated by Twitter.  I even left the service for a short while due to my disappointment.  Then I think I went into denial.  I’d continue making the same mistakes over and over, continuing to release features only to see Twitter replace them.  For some reason after each time I’d still get mad, complain, and the cycle would continue.  It wasn’t until this year that I’ve finally come to terms with all of this.  Yes, I have a service that relies on Twitter.  Yes, I have many features that risk getting replaced by Twitter.  No, I probably will never be acquired by Twitter, nor will any of my competitors.

I’m okay with that though.  I’ve provided some great services to many people and people actually pay for this stuff and like it.  We still provide the best stats of new and lost followers on Twitter.  We have some of the best filters on the planet for Twitter.  We have one of the best auto follow tools on the planet and have upheld our responsibility to keep Twitter clean in the process of doing that.  We’ll continue to improve these features and add new features in the future.  I started it – I can’t just quit until it’s all over and either someone acquires me, or Twitter completely puts me out of business.  I’ve come to complete terms with that, while at the same time I realize I need to come up with a core and move towards that as a focus.

I’ve been saying this over and over again on this blog over the past 2 years.  Twitter isn’t going to change their ways.  They’ll continue to compete.  They’ll continue to add features.  They’ll even buy one of your (or my) competitors.  That’s life.  And I’m okay with that.  I’ve been through this too many times to get mad any more.

One year from now I’m sure I’ll say the exact same thing I said this year, last, and the year before.  Twitter won’t change.  They’re a business, and they have to compete to stay alive.  It’s time we all start innovating, and let Twitter be Twitter.  The complaining, quite honestly, is getting old (I think I invented it).

It’s funny how Twitter gives us this reminder almost the exact same time every year, yet we all seem to think it’s news when it comes around.

Does Twitter Have An Internal iPhone App?

TwitterA while back I was surfing the Twitter developers wiki and noticed 2 interesting images uploaded by Ryan Sarver, Twitter’s Platform Project Manager.  One of the images looks like a very rough status message entry screen, with a toggle button for Twitter’s new geolocation feature.  This same feature just launched in read-only mode on Seesmic’s new desktop app yesterday.  The second image is what looks like a screenshot of an iPhone screen prompting the user to enable Geolocation, taking the user to their Geolocation settings to enable it on a user’s account.

Then, today, Robert Scoble pointed out that you could see the new Geolocation feature launched in Seesmic Desktop in action by viewing Ryan Sarver’s tweets in the Twitter client.  This makes me wonder how Ryan is broadcasting his location.  Does Twitter have an internal iPhone app they are using, or are these just proof of concept images for other developers to use in their own apps?

Twitter has long been criticized for the lack of a good native mobile client.  They have also admitted in the past that a new version of at least the mobile web client is in the roadmap.  Could they be taking this a step further and building an entire iPhone app out of it?

Based on current facts the natural assumption would be that this is just an internal app they are using to test out mobile features like geo-location.  The roughness of the screenshots and focus on just geolocation that we know of thus far lends to that conclusion.  However, it’s important for all developers to be prepared, and be aware that in any market sustained by just Twitter your greatest competitor could just be your supplier of information (a concept I learned in business school), Twitter itself.  If you’re developing an iPhone or mobile app for Twitter this is indeed something you should always be prepared for.

Here are the screenshots – you tell me. Is Twitter building an internal iPhone app?

Geotagging Toggle UXPopup+Disclosure

Scoble and Twitter, Behind the Scenes

IMG_0024.pngToday I had a very unique opportunity to in many ways get in the middle of the Twitter Fiasco, the VentureBeat article suggesting that Robert Scoble was the reason for Twitter’s failures, and Robert’s response to it. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and before I start I want to thank Robert for bringing me along to be able to participate and hear all of this, first hand (and still getting me back to the airport in time). Robert Scoble’s such an amazing guy and no one could ever tell me otherwise – I wish all could meet him in person, hang out with him, etc. like I was able to do today.

Originally Robert and I were just going to go up to the Disqus new offices and see the founders, Daniel Ha and Jason Yan (they said they are readers of this blog!). However, today around lunch he called and said we were going to make a pit stop at the Twitter offices in South Park. I was told they had made an offer to him (and he was happy to accept) to come by and chat about the recent blog posts and frustration between the two.

When we got to Twitter I was actually quite impressed by the professionalism of Ev and Biz at Twitter, along with Robert as they discussed the matter. There was some nervousness on both parts I could tell, but after the cards were laid out on the table and both sides understood, I think both felt a little better about the situation. In the end, here’s what I got out of the conversation (which you can view via Robert’s Qik stream here):

  • There is still a long way to go before Twitter will have a fully functional product – they are in the process of re-architecting it all so they can scale further as it grows further.
  • It does seem they’re still trying to work with it to make the existing system work with what they have.
  • The problems they are having are NOT because of big “whale” (and I doubt the picture on Twitter’s error page was meant to reflect this) users such as Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington.
  • The problems they are having are very much due to problems with their current architecture, and in particular the way their API is currently set up to handle. Their system was built as a prototype and ended up becoming the product.
  • There is no good immediate solution to this. As they remove API features, applications like Twhirl and TweetScan, and other 3rd party applications with thousands of users will fail, and thus the users will complain and leave. They simply can’t punish the developers as a whole because it would end up offending their users as well.
  • There are still some pretty smart people at Twitter and I really think they know what they’re doing – they’re just stuck between a rock and a hard spot because they designed their architecture wrong.

The most interesting thing for me, and should be for developers as well, IMO, came at the end however, and I think it’s a smart move the faster they can implement it. Twitter is looking into the possibility of having a better way of tracking the Applications developers write on the Twitter API. By doing such, they can first of all put an end to spammy applications that are abusing the system and killing their traffic with too many unnecessary requests (similar to the way Facebook does with notification limits), but secondly they can begin to organize the Applications and provide a centralized directory for all the Twitter applications out there.

I recorded this video to get Robert’s thoughts on the interview afterwards – I think he shares the same feelings as I do:

[vimeo w=400&h=300]
Getting Robert Scoble’s Thoughts After the Twitter Interview from Jesse Stay on Vimeo.

You can also see some more of my thoughts afterwards, although I think I was still processing it after we were done so I didn’t say much. You can see that on Robert’s Qik stream here.

In all, I think while there’s still a long way for Twitter to get everything worked out, what they said to us was very promising. It’s promising, yet frustrating at the same time because I know it may still be some time. They are willing to accept help and ideas. If you are a developer and want to offer your time to help them out, join their mailing list, offer your assistance in any way. Most of all, as was pointed out, if you’re going to do any heavy hitting on their API, let’s talk to them the same way they’re talking to us now. Let’s build an open communication between the developers and the Twitter dev team themselves and I think perhaps we can all work together to make Twitter an even better place than it was before.

I’m going to talk a little more about my trip to the Bay area in another post coming up. I feel like I visited half the Web 2.0 internet, in person, in a matter of 3 days, and I’m still processing it all. The Bay is an amazing place that you just have to see for yourself to believe. Now Robert – my offer still stands if you ever want to come out to Salt Lake and have me show you around next time!