So here’s the 5-step scenario I keep seeing repeated:
1) A new technology or application comes out.
2) It actually gives us a reliable signal. Something closely correlated with how things actually are.
3) The technology or application catches on and gradually becomes a social force of its own – or at least a social force amongst early adopters.
4) These next two happen more or less simultaneously:
5) Either the technology adapts, or people adapt and social conventions adapt, or the “thing” takes a massive nosedive in importance.
A closer look at Step 5
Google is a good example of technology adapting. Say what you want about the peculiarities about page rank and Google’s secret algorithms, people still use Google because it works (that’s why Bing will bomb). Even still, the plight of the link-rich getting progressively richer while the link-poor get consistently buried has at least partially contributed to the appeal of Twitter’s radical democratization of link juice. You tweet – you got juice! (more on this in a minute)
Blogging is a great example of people and social conventions adapting. Ask people who were blogging circa 2003 and are still at it today – the blogosphere has radically and totally changed. What it takes to succeed as a blogger has radically changed. And while there’s never been a shortage of people looking to declare blogging dead, the experts will tell you that blogging has always managed to evolve and adapt.
And DIGG or Technorati are pretty much an example of the “Thing” taking a nosedive. Honestly, does anyone reflexively check out Technorati anymore? Does anyone care? Of course not. Once getting dugg became an organized team sport, the quality of what appeared on DIGG started to suck, and the jig was up.
Which brings me to Twitter. While I’m no Twitter expert, in my eyes Twitter quickly became a sort of “reverse Google” and a self-QA-ed version of DIGG. Let me explain:
- You type your search term into Google and a refined set of results are spit out. The raw data/pagrank factors, and linkjuice behind those results are invisible to you, effectively hidden behind an algorithm. You get the results, and if you’re an SEO expert, you have to then interpolate all the behind the curtain stuff.
- You type a search term into twitter and you see the raw data. You see people talking about your search term. It’s all right there for your review. Except that you now have to abstract out the overall patterns for yourself.
- Because in Google-land the link-rich often just continually get richer and the link-poor get buried, what you see in Google when you type in most established and competed for search terms represents basically the Web’s “establishment” for those terms. Usually that’s a good thing. But when it comes to catching up-and-comers within a more established field, well, then it kinda sucks.
- With Twitter, your search results are nothing if not an instant snapshot of what’s au courant for that term/field/industry. It’s literally what people are all a-twitter about.
- In Google, the paid searches are separated from the organic search results. Plus it costs money to place them. In Twitter, it costs you nothing to spam the stream and place your add into the twitter feed of anyone searching on that particular term. As an example, check out what happened when I searched on iPod from within TweetDeck:
- Because of all the link sharing on Twitter, it’s also a new-school form of DIGG, except that your personal Twitter reputation is riding on your tweets. Constently tweet and re-tweet crap, and I’ll drop you from my twitter feed. No offense, I just want to keep a high signal to noise ratio. That way I can reasonably effect to open TweetDeck and find a steady stream of cool stuff, without having to winnow through chaff.
Unfortunately, Twitter is now on Step 4 of my “grand scenario,” as recent offerings and news items have confirmed we are in the midst of several concerted attempts to manipulate Twitter’s signal.
The only question is, what path is twitter likely to follow: Google, Blogs, or DIGG?
Oddly enough, I think the answer is up to us and our own user behavior, which leads me to hope that Twitter will go the way of blogs.
What do you think?