venturebeat – Stay N Alive

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!