I think Twitter should take notes: Instead of thinking how to make it easier to use, think of how to make Twitter more Fun, Creative, and Useful alà Peach and Google Now. Twitter feels stale, like it has hardly innovated since 2006, and it feels like its catering to brands and celebrities instead of the user. I wouldn’t accuse Google of having Social and Fun in their DNA, but one does feel like they are constantly innovating, in the name of the user, trying to make themselves more useful. Peach also has a personal, interested in the user first, mentality. They’re coming at if from the fun, creative side, but there are seeds of service popping up like the “move” and “song” magic buttons. I’m having fun in Peach, which keeps me in there, and going back more often, and in this attention economy, that quality is hard to overestimate. Twitter should be thinking in terms of pushing into “personal digital assistant” in as much as being a public message bus.
But I think the primary reason Instagram worked were the filters. For the first time the masses like me, who’s only knowledge about photography is how to press the button, were able to see, without opening up some complicated program, what professional and creative effects could do to their photos. And it was one click. When you snapped a photo with Instagram you could either post it as is, or there were a row of 9 or so “filters” at the bottom, “pre-sets” if you will, that you simply selected and it would automatically apply them. These filters were imitations of what the pros spend hours doing in Photoshop. And suddenly the masses had them at the click of the button. This is the same appeal that photo editing apps for the iPhone like Camera+, Best Camera, and Camera Awesome have: Simple, easy, and fun photo editing that is merely the click of a button to get a unique effect.
Limitations are Freeing
I was thinking about this as I’ve begun using Garageband for the iPad. It’s much more limiting than Logic Pro or even Garageband on OSX, but I’m being a lot more productive on it and having a lot more fun. The nature of mobile is intimacy and ease, which equals in a lot of cases increased productivity.
In Instagram’s case, it didn’t have as many filters or options as Camera+, but that limitation made it much more easy to use and much faster to use. To be fair, Camera+ wasn’t trying to be a Social Network, and the app was very successful in its own right simply selling on the App store. But in Camera+’s case and Camera Awesome, after you take a photo, the damn thing disappears! Then you have to go find the little thumb nail of it, re-open it, and then when you go choose the effects, and this is key, what you see are the pages of effects and not the photo. So then you have to apply the effect, wait while it generates, and then finally see if you like it. Whereas with Instagram the original photo is up on the screen at all times and the selections are at the bottom. You can breeze through sampling all the selections and see them immediately. It makes the whole process easy and fun. To be fair I love Camera+ and Camera Awesome and couldn’t recommend them more, but I’m just simply pointing out a couple frustrations with them, and why Instagram out paced them in use and adoption. (To be fair though, like I said, Camera+ wasn’t intending to build a Social Network.)
Being Mobile Centric and only Mobile centric: You can’t look at photographs on the website. The only thing you can do on the website is sign up for an account, is another limitation. Some would say, frustrating, but actually that limitation, in the minds of many, was rather intriguing. If you wanted to see an old photograph, you had to search like an easter egg hunt for the link on Twitter or wherever you posted it. While the developers probably didn’t intend it, they merely were trying to save resources for their primary target, that limitation as well as the limitation of being iPhone only, created a sort of caché in the mind, especially in those of the hipsters, a lot of whom happen to be the biggest influencers on Twitter.
To be fair timing was a key too. At the time, Twitter didn’t have it’s own photo sharing service, and the third party ones that existed just really looked awful and contrived. They were so ugly they conditioned you almost to not want to click on a photo link. So when Instagram launched with it’s beautiful design and hipster appeal, Twitter adopted it as its de-facto photo sharing service, and Instagram rode that wave to mass adoption.
If you haven’t installed the new code, it’s here: https://twitter.com/about/resources/buttons#follow
Even if you have already done that, you may still get that error message instead of the button. What you need to do is clear your browser cache, and it will show up fine.
On Chrome on Mac you click the Chrome menu button and select “Clear Browsing Data”, another menus will pop up, “Empty the Cache” should already be checked, but if not check that one.
In response to John Battelle’s blogpost: Google+: If, And, Then….Implications for Twitter and Tumblr, I wrote the following: (Note such posts harken back to one of my blog posts about blogging itself: That is, if you find something you are interested in, and read blogs about the topic, often times your replies become long enough to qualify for blog posts. Also, by replying and leaving a link to your blog, it drives a little traffic as well.)
That was one of my first thoughts when I experienced Google+ that Tumblr was in trouble
Still they have a community. I’m on it. My impression of it is more of photo and gif sharing, but not personal photos as much as interesting photos, magazine like photos, that people are posting from somewhere else. To get attention on a Tumblr to post, the photos need to be striking, extremely funny, or otherwise “headline” grabbing.
Like Twitter, not a lot of personal feel to it, but fun, and I like Fred’s attitude that companies don’t kill other companies as much as companies kill themselves.
But my main takeaway from Google+ is not so much the service itself, although it is great, as like you say, it’s integrated with all of Google’s other services. Google may be Germany, but the seem to be the one company of all of these that has all the pieces. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And that will be a powerful value proposition.
It almost reduces Twitter and Facebook to applications on this vast Cloud OS, rather than platforms in and of themselves. And Apple, for all it’s wonder, doesn’t have a Cloud Syncing OS, much less a Social Network. I think Apple should buy Twitter and Facebook should merge with MSFT.
The deep integration of Google+ with Android will be compelling and I don’t see the “app” for the iPhone as being as robust an experience as it will be on Android. This could be a long term threat too Apple as well if they don’t get their Cloud Offerings together.
Here it is in a nutshell. You don’t need to read the rest of this post: Don’t worry about getting followers. Just fill your inbound (who you follow) with cool people your interested in who, and this is key, whose information will somehow make your life better. Help you learn cool new stuff. That’s how you get value. And the same would go for Google+.
date 6/23/11 –
Just saw this tweet from @steverubel (Good guy to follow) “How To Answer The Question “How Often Should I Tweet?”http://j.mp/kyTYGR ” – Thought it’d be a good and perhaps valuable read for this subject.
If you’re a member of Twitter, then I’m sure you got this email recently from the Twitter team on how to get the best experience from Twitter. I’ve copied and pasted it hear and put my comments in parenthesis:
Happy New Year,
Our resolution is to help you get the most of out of Twitter this year. To start, we thought we’d send this note with four simple suggestions. Come on by our web site to try these out anytime! http://twitter.com
1) Follow your interests. We’ve found that the people who enjoy Twitter most tend to follow a variety of accounts: friends, family, people in their profession, local shops and events, and most importantly, people who share their passions.
(This hasn’t been easy in the past. For the first few years twitter was all “techies”, but now that it is becoming more mainstream, it’s becoming more possible.)
2) Get specific. Like sports? Follow your favorite leagues, teams, players, coaches, commentators, writers and fellow fans. Love food? Follow chefs, restaurants, critics, bloggers, specialty shops and respected foodies.
(Obviously, no-brainer. 🙂
3) Don’t panic. People turn to Twitter during emergencies. Snowstorms, power outages and fires are just a few emergencies where Twitter may be helpful. Search for #hashtags and follow local civic accounts to stay informed.
(This may be one of Twitter’s most understated assets. Search in general on Twitter is not that good. But when you are searching for something that is happening right now, it’s fantastic. For instance, my team was playing the other night. Their schedule said it was broadcast on “CSS” which is Comcast something. I don’t have Comcast. I have Dish, but I thought maybe somebody was “Ustreaming” or something. So I did a real time Twitter search (Search is the box at the very top center of the page). Couldn’t find anyone Ustreaming it, but what I did find was even better. Someone tweeted loud and clear, “Arkansas vs Georgia on @ESPN3 tonight” ESPN 3 is the online streaming arm of ESPN. )
4) Return to Twitter. There are about 200 million accounts on Twitter now – that means new interests, new voices, and new ideas every day. We offer services in seven languages, apps for most devices, and SMS worldwide.
(Wow, 200 million is a serious number. But I believe it. Every where I go, everything I hear, Twitter and Facebook are mentioned in the same breath, same tandem. So it makes sense that Twitter would start to be getting “Facebook Numbers” so to speak)
Thanks for being part of Twitter,
Part I: What’s in it for You?
Firstly, I wish the follower counts weren’t listed on Twitter. It becomes an obsession, and it works against the first tenant of how Twitter is best used for the “average” user.
If you are an average human being, who isn’t interested in being “recognized” or being a digital “star” the best way to look at Twitter is simply what value you can attain from it. You shouldn’t care a hoot who or how many people follow you. You should only be concerned about following people who interest you, who can give you value for your life, entertain you, whatever turns you on. You’re first objective is that Twitter should be a pleasure, not a strain. You should look at it as a media source, the same way you look at which book or magazine to buy that will give you those same things.
- So, firstly, you should find 150 or so great people to follow or whatever your “Dunbar” number is, and leave it at that. Don’t follow people just so they will follow you back or just because they are following you.
- You would rather follow 1,000 of the most awesome people in the world and have 0 followers, than have 10,000 followers and be following 5,000 people who tweet things that aren’t adding value to your life.
That really could be the end of it for most of us. Think of Twitter like a book. If you’re reading an awesome book that enriches your life, do you care if that book “Like you back” so to speak, or “follows you back.” Heck no. Even if you were Ashton Kutchner or John Mayer, you would be better off with ZERO followers but following only people who were enriching your life. This really is the top priority of Twitter. What can I get out it that adds to my life. Not, oh, if I can only get Roger Ebert’s or Steve Martin’s attention!
Part II: Your Still Not Satisfied
OK, so you still want to be a “Digital Star” part of the “digerati.” If you do want to attract honest to goodness followers, and by that I mean folks who aren’t following you just so that you follow them back you need to
- Create original content in a subject that you are passionate about, preferably in video format.
It’s easy to tweet interesting content that someone else created, say the New York Times, the Tech Blogs, etc. But everyone is doing that. It’s ok at times, and especially if its something you find truly interesting and that you have actually read yourself and thought about, but people are more interested in the source. They may follow you, but they are listening to and influenced by the source. Because the source is the guy who is passionate about his subject, he’s going to deliver the most interesting, not only content about it, but perspective and opinions about it.
So find your passion, no matter what it is, and create original content around it. It may not be tech or some of the other popular Twitter topics, but even if no one else on Earth was interested in what you were covering (and that’s highly unlikely) at least you’ll be living on the edge of excitement all the time.
And one of the points of Twitter is that you would rather have 1,000 followers who are truly interested in your tweets than 10,000 who are only following you so that you follow them back. That is akin to having a conversation with someone who is only there so that you’ll listen to them.
What are your thoughts about the best way to use Twitter? Love to hear your insights.
Update 10/07/10 – It definitely could be just a bad USB port causing it. That same port that was causing this error for me is also crapping out every few seconds when I plug in a mouse. So that’s definitely what it was for me. I don’t know why or how USB ports can go “bad” or what to do about them, but I see that it can happen.
Update 9/20/10: Well I just successfully updated to 4.1 without a hitch (But not without some fraying nerves, mind you!) so in this case it looks to be like solution 1 below, simply changing the USB port that the phones chord is connected to is the ticket. I learned this from Joseph Thornton @jtjdt on Twitter, so if you run into further problems you might try to contact him. Which begs the question: Why isn’t such a simple solution not mentioned on Apple’s website? And what’s the difference between one USB port and another that would cause this problem to begin with?
If this situation happens to you try:
- Simply hook your USB chord to another USB port. Simple as it sounds this solution worked for me for the 4.02 update, and I assume it would have worked for the 4.01 update a month ago, but I didn’t know about it.
- If that doesn’t work, try the solution mentioned in this MacRumor’s forum post. This is what I did when I initially had problems with my 4.01 update, and it did work.
- Before you Update your iPhone always make sure that copies of your photos, notes, videos etc. have been transferred over to your desktop. Because by the time you get this error message, although you will be able to fix it with one of the solutions above, all data is wiped out on your phone. You’ll have to restore from the most recent sync.
Days, after I got my iPhone 4 in July, Apple came out with an update 4.01. So, while the phones is tethered to iTunes on the Mac, I click the button to update. It goes through the process, everything’s looking fine. The little meters that show progress are humming along. The Apple Logo comes on the phones screen, then the white update meter on the phone is updating. Then when everything’s almost finished, it stops and in iTunes a pop up message says, “The iPhone “iPhone” could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (9).
So then your phone gives you an image like so:
Then it says that because of this error I needed to restore the phone from its last good backup. But trouble was, when I attempted this, the identical thing happened. It gets almost to the end and says the same thing, “Unknown Error (9).”
So there I was, first day I’ve got my iPhone and the thing is bricked with seemingly no way out.
Well, I googled and found a solution in a forum that worked for me. Ah, it was a MacRumors forum. Here’s the link to the solution that worked for me in unbricking and successfully installing 4.01 onto my new iPhone 4: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=969080
Now the only bummer is that I lost all the photos and videos I’d taken on the new phone because I hadn’t transfered them over to the desktop. It was only a few, because I literally had only had the phone a day, but still, just enough to get under your skin. So definitely lesson 1 is to never update your iPhone before you’ve transferred all your media to your desktop.
I think this also highlights a weakness Apple has around data. They’re just not good with data. They don’t treat your data with the kind of respect it needs to be treated. This is an advantage that Google/Android has.
So fast forward to last week. New 4.02 update after the Apple announcement. Every time I plugged my phone into my computer I became wary. There was a pain in my stomach. Didn’t want to do the update. Felt like something bad would happen.
Anyway, I felt like since I had downloaded the RecBoot to solve my first upgrade problem that that same program would keep me immune from another one. Still, I made sure that I copied all my phone’s photos and videos over to the desktop before I did.
Sure enough the same problem and error message happened again. And sure enough I wasn’t even able to restore it. AGAIN!. GRRRRRRR!
So I Google, but I couldn’t find that same solution that I had found a month before.
I had tweeted the solution, feeling like I was being a good ‘netizen’ to all the other souls with the same problem who may be searching for it in ‘real time’ on twitter.
But here’s a good lesson when it comes to social media. I’d been better off blogging that information. Because with Twitter, I couldn’t find the tweet through a search. If I’d blogged it, inane as the post may have been for those who read blogs expecting original content, it would have been in my own repository of information that I could have easily retrieved (with the search function in WordPress and I assume that’s also in all the other blog platforms.)
Twitter doesn’t treat your data with much care either. Although they are coming on strong with new features, and I’ve heard that searching your data base of tweets is one of those features coming. Still, you can never completely trust a third party with your data. You need your own copy of your data at your fingertips at all times. And the blog is the best solution for that. Also the blog has two more salutary effects: Writing about something helps you learn more about the topic, expand on it, and so become more educated in general. Writing, in fact, ironically, is more important to learning than it is for teaching, for broadcasting a message of sorts.
Then of course, when you blog about a solution. Its searchable in Google to others looking for said solution and you also can create more links, images, meta information around it and also have a place where folks can comment and contribute to the conversation.
So I’d say, score one for the blog. Of course you can tweet it too, but make sure blogging it is your first priority.
After the post is done, then you can tweet the post itself. Remember Twitter, Social Media in general, are yesterdays newspapers, and your tweets are like ads in those papers.
Oh, anyway, back to my 4.02 adventure. How did I resolve it. I had seen in my initial searches that some had solved this problem simply by changing USB ports. At first I thought that sounded too simple, but then after I had tweeted about my problem using the hash tag #iphone an Apple employee reached out to me and advised that solution.
Turns out it worked. So I’d definitely try that first before downloading some software like BootRec. And I was pleasantly surprised that 4 or 5 knowledgeable people reached out to me on Twitter. I had almost gone into a phase, like Leo Laporte that Twitter had become a vast echo chamber and no one was listening, certainly not personally engaging.
Also, I was pleasantly surprised that not only an Apple employee reached out to me, concerned about my problem, but that an Apple employee was even on Twitter itself, seeing how the company seems to feel about Social Media in general.
Well my phone did get updated to 4.02, and I didn’t lose data because I took precautions, but the state of the phone was not the same. All kinds of apps weren’t on it that had previously been on it, etc. So it was still unnerving. Of course, I simply had to drag those apps over from iTunes onto the phone again. But still my folders structures that I had spent time setting up were gone. Stuff like that. Just a pain. And unnerving that your data can so easily, and quite often does, disappear, as well as “meta” data such as your folders, etc.