Will Twitter Fly in a Walled Garden?

Twitter could be so much better than it is. I have many brilliant ideas on how to improve Twitter’s interface, usability and performance. So do you. So do Chris Brogan and pretty boy Pete Cashmore. I agree with them, and it’s likely that you do too. A question though: would these brilliant features enhance Twitter or destroy the very thing that makes it a remarkable permission-based engagement tool?

Last night @hidama expressed it best:

I don’t know about you, but what I appreciate most about Twitter is that I can follow a wide spectrum of people. I can follow geeks, vloggers, lawyers, google geniuses, cancer survivors, an assortment of medical professionals and other good people from all over the world. I can also follow feed-bots that provide interesting content. Twitter is social RSS.

When you follow hundreds or thousands of people and feeds, it’s understandable that you want to have some volume control: sometimes you want noise; other times you want music.

The fact is: the web is moving away from the web, meaning that our productivity and collaborative interfaces are no longer tied to the traditional web platform. APIs are developed all of the time.

Desktop, laptop and mobile applications are making it easier to consume and produce your daily needs in your own unique way. This means that if you want a tool to fit your particular needs, chances are someone has (or could) build it.

Even without changes to Twitter, there are thousands of tools to tweek your experience. Here are six:

  1. Twitter Groups – create your own groups for your peeps
  2. Yahoo Pipes – create your own aggregator or tweek templates
  3. Search.Twitter – create feeds for your monitoring needs
  4. PeopleBrowsr – drive yourself insane
  5. TweetDeck – manage your tweeting experience efficiently
  6. Hashtags – learn how to use them (did you know there more commands than just #?)
The list of tools is almost endless. Still, the bread-and-butter of Twitter is the democratic openness and ambient intimacy. Twitter’s success rests in its simplicity.  

It may be coincidental that Twitter is a bird. Birds are pretty in gardens. It’s human nature to box Nature. Ultimately, though, (most) birds are born to fly. I’m sorry about the cheesy metaphors, but it’s important that Twitter isn’t caged in a wall for our convenience.

I’m not saying that certain features necessarily create a walled-in garden. But that’s what we aught to consider before satisfying our comfort cravings.

Something else to consider: not everybody wants the same thing. My brilliant (or hair-brained) ideas might be great for me but terrible for you. What works for Chris Brogan might not work for Seth Godin or Shaq.

Let’s face it: the paradox of technology is with us forever. The easier we make our lives with technology, our use of the technology becomes a need. That need, in turn, spurs the desire for more technology of convenience. It’s a never ending braid.

I’m sure that whatever new features that the boys and girls at Twitter decide to add will be built to dovetail with their revenue model (whatever it will be). Until then, think about your needs and what mashups work for you.

So, what do you think? What features would you like to see in Twitter? What matters most to you when it comes to tweeting?

Update: @hidama kindly pointed out that my title was off. “Gardened Wall” must be the influence of my Hungarian parents. It’s now proper English: Walled Garden. 

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12 Comments

  1. That's funny because I got the same feeling they are going to monetize search, and wrote about it 3 days ago: Tracking Keyword Subscribers on Twitter.

    Twitter opens up everything, except search feeds analytics, which I think is a hint 🙂 I don't think they will do it through advertisement though, but more as selling Twitter intelligence to brands (like they could sell to Apple the info that 150,000 users have subscribed to the keywords 'apps' (and maybe identify those users), or those who subscribed to 'apps' also subscribed to…)

  2. Excellent…I think you put things into a better perspective than I (me?).
    Minimalism seems to work best for Twitter. And you're right, they probably
    have a built-in interest in keeping things simple.

    I suspect it's Search that they'll monetize (in addition to other revenue
    streams, say for large enterprise clients). Recently, I have been able to
    find more information about things on Search.Twitter than on Google itself.
    The search feature is simple and provides results that are more current than
    Google (not for everything, but it is pretty impressive as the database
    grows). We'll see if there's a TwitterSense developed. Again, simplicity is
    silver.

    Thanks for stopping by again.

    Phil

  3. Ah, ok, I didn't get that from your post, thanks for the clarification.

    We can all agree that the reason why Twitter is growing is its simplicity. I sometimes project myself as an employee of Twitter reflecting on what to do next. Outsiders of the company (like tech bloggers, me included) have tens of thousands of suggestions based on just a few info they hold about twitter. The Twitter team has access to everything that happens on their platform. Everything! They must be ten thousand miles ahead of us in the development of their strategy. Yet Twitter remains the same, simple service. It hasn't turned into Pownce where too many features saturated (and killed) the usability. So I think we can trust the team for preserving this less is more philosophy.

  4. I don't feel Twitter is a Walled Garden, in fact just the opposite. It's quite the mutable entity. It's funny how all the other web 2.0 services are trying to 'Twitterize' their service, so to be more marketable and desirable for the masses.
    Twitter is as simple as they come. We complicate it by adding all the other possible ways to USE the twitter service.
    It will be interesting to see it's growth~ not like it hasn't been growing!

  5. I'm sorry if you misunderstood the post. I'm not saying Twitter is a walled
    garden or if I wasn't clear enough – maybe I had too much beer 🙂

    Twitter's wide open and that's what makes it so easy for people to adopt.
    There's just been a lot of chatter about all sorts of new features which, if
    actually realized, could create a sort of walled garden by virtue of how
    users would behave.

  6. Hey Phil,

    From what you wrote, I still don't see what makes a walled garden out of Twitter 😦

    I mean, ebay was a walled garden. Twitter? that's hard to agree with you since they are one of the most successful example of API.

  7. Obviously you know my opinion. 😉

    I always have enjoyed minimalist web tools and Twitter is the best example of this. It's merely someone saying something, and people, without obligation, ignoring it, retweeting it, or adding to the dialogue with a reply. Twitter is a library of the simplest living literature. Every tweet is written thought and readers critique the tweet, judge it's authenticity, and add to the conversation by new written work that argues, supports, or changes that idea.

    Maybe I'm putting Twitter on a sublime pedestal, but I find it's basic design exactly what makes it beautiful. I'm afraid if we add too many tools, too many options, Twitter will become friendfeed, or even something akin to Facebook. If we keep feeding Twitter more tools then we no longer have a flitting barn swallow but a 10 lbs robin. And if we add more and more, for the sake of “easier technology” and “personalization” we'll have a grossly overweight bird no longer able to fly.

  8. Yes, it's definitely too easy to blow a good thing with Twitter.
    There's plenty of other applications for people to use if the choose. I
    agree, the minimalist sensibility of Twitter makes it what it is.

    Glad you added to the conversation. Always happy to have your feedback. 🙂

    Phil

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