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On Twitter, downtime and my lack of updates…

Despite using it less and less over the last few weeks, I absolutely LOVE Twitter. Twitter has had a rough week. Let's discuss!

So, I’ve been like totally DOA on my blog. My bad. I actu­ally have SIX entries in draft mode, but I wasn’t able to fin­ish them in time to be, like, per­ti­nent. Maybe I’ll use them for some­thing in the future. Blame Grant. Oh, yes, because I haven’t made it pub­lic on my “blog” yet — Grant is my boyfriend. We’re totally lame and in love. Laugh at us. It’s OK — we laugh at ourselves.

Any­hoo, Grant is just one rea­son I’ve been less active — I’ve had other stuff going on and I’m try­ing to get a good sched­ule to han­dle all my writ­ings and future projects (includ­ing filmgirl.tv which IS com­ing — the test runs I’ve done have sucked ass so I’m refin­ing my approach).

What finally spurred my need to write on my per­sonal blog was Twit­ter. Despite using it less and less over the last few weeks, I absolutely LOVE Twit­ter. LOVE. LOVE. But Twit­ter has had a rough week. Let’s discuss!

First, the down­time (because I think this is both more impor­tant long-term and because I think the frus­tra­tion over it has made the sec­ond TOS issue more heated): It sucks. It sucks hard­core. The rea­son I’ve been on Twit­ter less isn’t just that I’m hav­ing a hard time deal­ing with how to parse so many fol­low­ers (I like to fol­low peo­ple back and was over­whelmed when I reached the 500 fol­lower mark and then the 1000 fol­lower mark and now I’m approach­ing 1500…it is insan­ity, but in a good way!) — it’s because the damn ser­vice has been incred­i­bly unre­li­able for me both on my Mac­Book (via Twit­ter­rific and the web client) and on my Black­Berry (via Twit­ter­berry, which was bet­ter in the last update but still totally lags in fea­tures com­pared to all the iPhone pro­grams, and the iPhone isn’t even unlocked for 3rd party pro­grams yet!). Unre­li­able ser­vice plus a mil­lion peo­ple = tons of frus­tra­tion. When I get frus­trated, I tend to just NOT use some­thing as much.

I was hop­ing the prob­lems would start to sort them­selves out — and for a while it looked like that was on the verge of hap­pen­ing. But then the ser­vice started totally get­ting suck­tas­tic over the last ten days and eat­ing my updates and hid­ing my replies and I just had to go. AHHHH.

Still, I gen­uinely love Twit­ter and want noth­ing more than for the infra­struc­ture and the ser­vice to suc­ceed. I can­not even imag­ine using another ser­vice (Friend­Feed just doesn’t do it for me — sorry, it just doesn’t.), because absolutely NO pro­gram, social net­work, IM ser­vice, forum, “com­mu­nity”, etc., etc. has had such a high ROI. The one pos­si­ble excep­tion would be Live­Jour­nal back in 2001 — 2003, but that was more of a social ROI and less of a social AND pro­fes­sional ROI. And you had to put a whole lot more into LJ (at least I did) to get the goods back. With Twit­ter, I’ve met so many incred­i­ble peo­ple (Aaron, Jeremy, Loren, Shashi, Linda, Micah, LISA!!, MIKE DOE and a mil­lion oth­ers I’m for­get­ting) that I may never have met (in some cases it is an absolute cer­tainty) and con­nected with peo­ple and an indus­try in a very real and very potent way.

Twit­ter is awe­some and I have undoubt­edly formed and become part of a com­mu­nity forged by Twitter.

But is Twit­ter, the ser­vice, a community?

That seems to be the root of the debate cen­tered around Twitter’s Terms of Ser­vice. Let me start by say­ing that while I do not know Ariel Wald­man, I do deeply empathize with her strug­gle. To my knowl­edge, I haven’t had any­one stalk or harass me on Twit­ter, but my stalker from high school DID show up on MySpace and ini­ti­ated con­tact with me through sub­ver­sive means (before I fig­ured out who it was and told where to go) and it is one of many rea­sons I basi­cally stopped using the site. That guy is men­tally unsta­ble and was demon­stra­bly vio­lent when I met him in 1997 (when we were both 14, almost 15) — I don’t even want to think about what he is capa­ble of now (the fact that he was call­ing my par­ents house as recently as 2001 and tried to con­tact me through MySpace in 2006 is proof of his con­tin­ued insta­bil­ity — we went on maybe two “dates” at the very begin­ning of 9th grade).

I under­stand being stalked and harassed, online or off. I under­stand how it can be hurt­ful and embar­rass­ing to be called awful names online. I can only imag­ine how frus­trat­ing — and yes, scary — it could be for some­one to reveal per­sonal infor­ma­tion about you online using an alias, or using a ser­vice like Twit­ter to say nasty things.

What I also under­stand, how­ever, is that it isn’t Twitter’s role — TOS or not — to medi­ate these types of con­flicts. I also agree with Twit­ter in say­ing that it shouldn’t be their role. I don’t want it to be their role. I’m usu­ally not that lib­er­tar­ian on issues like this, but unless we’re talk­ing clear-cut threats (things that say, “I’m going to kill you” — that sort of thing, again, while I do empathize with Ariel, I do not think being called the c-word, online, offline or oth­er­wise is a threat.), I’m not a fan of any online ser­vice (“com­mu­nity” or not) step­ping in. Flickr has a pretty strin­gent TOS in-place because the main medium being shared/commented on is pho­tographs. Pho­tographs, espe­cially pho­tos of “real” peo­ple carry cer­tain rights and are sub­ject to cer­tain reg­u­la­tions that other medi­ums are not.

Again, I think it all comes down to a cen­tral ques­tion: is Twit­ter a com­mu­nity or a ser­vice. Per­son­ally, while I feel that I have met a com­mu­nity of peo­ple forged AROUND Twit­ter — I do not see Twit­ter itself as a com­mu­nity. Thus, I don’t see Twit­ter as an arbi­tra­tor in com­mu­nity issues. Stop­ping spam, bot-created accounts and other stuff — yes, that’s part of their job as a ser­vice. Get­ting involved in per­sonal dis­putes (even if the sub­ject mat­ter is vile and is insult­ing), I’m not so sure.

From what I can gather, the jack­asses account was erased in March. An account that lots of other peo­ple used to say things anony­mously, like Post­Se­cret, was what was being used to deliver the most recent unpleas­ant remarks. And see, whether or not accounts like that are a tech­ni­cal vio­la­tion of the cur­rent TOS or not (and I so don’t care about the seman­tics of what the TOS says and what parts of the TOS they are actu­ally will­ing to enforce — I am glad they are going to update it to be reflec­tive of their actual posi­tion), get­ting involved in those kinds of dis­putes is just, in my opin­ion, open­ing up a can of worms that will only be an unend­ing night­mare for the Twit­ter employ­ees — who don’t have a lot of time as it is — and I’ll admit my own self­ish­ness here, I would rather they focus their efforts on get­ting the ser­vice usable and sta­ble than get­ting into user-to-user disputes.

Plus, while Flickr is used as the main exam­ple of why Twit­ter should get involved (and that is their own fault — they used some of their terms in draft­ing their terms), let’s look at other ser­vices like Face­book, MySpace, Live­Jour­nal, AIM, etc., etc. Most of those ser­vices will not get involved AT ALL in user-to-user debates. Do you even KNOW how much drama goes on online between girls in mid­dle school and high school online? I mean, holy shit, I remem­ber the level of stu­pid and over-dramaticicism when I was in high school — 7 years later — I can’t even imag­ine. Group chats on AIM where peo­ple say bad things about you and then for­ward the chat tran­scripts to every­one in your class. I’m sure that’s all done on blogs now (we some­times used “guest books”). I don’t know if it is because I’m more immune to this sort of behav­ior because I grew up as it was kind of start­ing (I was in 8th grade when AOL REALLY took off, so I con­sider myself part of Gen­er­a­tion Web 1.0), or that I just find online attacks less impor­tant than oth­ers (per­son­ally, if I see nasty stuff writ­ten about another per­son online, I don’t auto­mat­i­cally take it as fact — if any­thing, I dis­count the nas­ti­ness imme­di­ately because I tend to devalue ADULTS who act like chil­dren), but I can’t really get upset if peo­ple write or say bad things about me online. I mean, I’m ulti­mately respon­si­ble for putting my words and my infor­ma­tion out there. I accept the con­se­quences of mak­ing my life (or parts of my life) “public.”

In col­lege, when I didn’t write for any well-trafficked web sites or par­tic­i­pate in any larger-spread web com­mu­ni­ties, I felt more at ease to write about my per­sonal angst and ennui in my jour­nal. I still didn’t pub­li­cize it — I still pro­tected any entries about close friends, room­mates, boyfriends or fam­ily mem­bers. As soon as I got the gig with USA Today last year, I real­ized I would have to use my pri­vate jour­nal in a dif­fer­ent way — and I accepted that. Oh — FYI — the most bla­tantly awful e-mails I have ever received (though they are closely tied with some of the TUAW com­ments on the devil’s advo­cate par­ent­ing post I wrote) were from Clay Aiken fans — women in their 40s and 50s — threat­en­ing me, send­ing me viruses and e-mail bombs and try­ing to find out my per­sonal infor­ma­tion because I dared say that the guy didn’t have any tal­ent. Yeah…

Twit­ter is a tool; a ser­vice. The ser­vice itself does not con­sti­tute a com­mu­nity. If the users of Twit­ter who con­sider them­selves a com­mu­nity want to set cer­tain accept­able and unac­cept­able lim­its for what is appro­pri­ate and inap­pro­pri­ate, we can choose to unfol­low or block peo­ple we find vile and dis­gust­ing. The answer, I think, is to not feed the trolls. The answer is not to have the ser­vice act as a medi­a­tor, a judge or an arbi­tra­tor in inter­per­sonal dis­putes. Per­son­ally, I don’t want Ev or Biz involved in my per­sonal issues. I don’t want any­one from any ser­vice involved in my per­sonal issues. A real threat or a vio­la­tion of the ser­vice using spam or bots — fine — but insults will hap­pen with or with­out Twit­ter. Why waste time focussing on fix­ing a prob­lem that will only get big­ger the more you poke it?

Again, I ulti­mately think the reac­tion to this issue was exas­per­ated by the down­time of the ser­vice. If the ser­vice was work­ing bet­ter, peo­ple would be less inclined to jump on any band­wagon. Instead, it is eas­ier to see this as just another area that the ser­vice is fail­ing. I under­stand this — and it is unfor­tu­nate for Twit­ter that this dis­cus­sion is tak­ing place now (though it is a dis­cus­sion that needs to hap­pen). It’s just another rea­son Twit­ter needs to FIX THEIR SHIT!!!

Alright, I’m out!

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8 people have left comments

Mike Doe - Gravatar

Mike Doe said:

Hey Christina,

Great post! Wish I had some deep thoughts to add on your twit­ter com­men­tary, but, uh, that’s not so much my thing. All I can add is “Amen, Sista” and my own hopes that Twit­ter gets its act together ASAP.

As for FilmGirl.tv, I’ll be glad to give my two cents on any “demos” you’ve done so far. Just gimme the word.

Great to see you post­ing again!

Posted on: May 24, 2008 at 7:11 pmQuote this Comment
Linda Sher­man - Gravatar

Linda Sher­man said:

Christina, It’s great to hear from you. Thank you so much for includ­ing me in your top of mind short list of peo­ple you have met on Twit­ter. You are cer­tainly on mine.

I agree that the “block” func­tion should be suf­fi­cient for nasty or ill-intentioned peo­ple. I appre­ci­ate receiv­ing warn­ing DM’s from Twit­ter pals about these folks. I do take time to check peo­ple out before I fol­low them back. I usu­ally look at their pro­file and their blog. If I spot a mean tweet on their pro­file, I stop there. I cre­ated a set of Twit­ter fol­low request e-mail fold­ers. One is for pro­files to come back to later when they are fur­ther devel­oped. Time allow­ing, I’ll drop them some advice in a DM. It’s amaz­ing how few peo­ple think of leav­ing a thought­ful com­ment on a blog in order to get atten­tion for a follow-back con­sid­er­a­tion. I am very cau­tious on Face­book because I feel that peo­ple I friend have access to my friends. That’s because new friends can approach my trusted friends with me sit­ting there as a reference.

There is one other cat­e­gory of cyber aggra­va­tion and that is some­one pos­ing as being or own­ing a brand. On MySpace I was very appre­cia­tive of their abil­ity to react to a request to take down a site that was mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ing a brand that I rep­re­sented. For this they required legal doc­u­ments show­ing own­er­ship of the brand. The requests were rea­son­able and reac­tion time was not bad at all.

I would like to intro­duce you to @vvanpetten who includes cyber bul­ly­ing in a blog for par­ents of teens called Teens Today.

Posted on: May 24, 2008 at 8:09 pmQuote this Comment
Saul Colt - Gravatar

Saul Colt said:

Christina, Grant

Con­grats on find­ing love!

saul

Posted on: May 25, 2008 at 8:58 amQuote this Comment

LISA! said:

U 2 r giant suck faces and i love it! i’m so glad your absence was caused by sop­pi­ness rather than a trip to rehab… although appar­ently you can find love even in rehab… well at least until you sober up and real­ize you’re mak­ing out with an emo­tion­ally unsta­ble and needy actress headed on a down­ward spiral…

but hiz­zah! you rock and i’m sooooooo happy for you and your use of comic life! re: twit­ter. i’m still totally in love with it, but i agree that as your num­ber of fol­low­ers increases (which is awe­some, but..) you have less time to actu­ally fol­low peo­ple you actu­ally know and iCelebs that often post cool and inter­est­ing things. i think the main prob­lem i’m fac­ing is whether or not to fol­low peo­ple back. when you get 20+ fol­low­ers a day, it takes so much time to look at their tweets, check their blog, and make sure they aren’t lame twit­terspam. but, if you don’t add peo­ple, then they are unable to DM you, which is kinda lame because some­times i miss the @ com­ments (espe­cially lately because of the“giant fail”. i noticed that you’ve added quite a sig­nif­i­cant chunk of your fol­low­ers and also reg­u­larly @ them replies. how are you find­ing this? too demand­ing? or do you set aside some time for this and just do an hour of this and then walk away from your computer…

PS I love that you are in love. Aww.

Micah Bald­win - Gravatar

Micah Bald­win said:

Wow, Ms. Christina, you go silent for weeks and then bam!

So there are three dis­tinct top­ics you covered:

1) Twitter’s TOS bat­tle — unfor­giv­able. Not that it occurred, but that all sides allowed to to spi­ral out of con­trol. Ev’s blog post that uses “we have no pr people…waaaah!” as an excuse doesnt alle­vi­ate the issue. It is one of com­mon sense and decency. Rule #1: If cus­tomer is pissed, assume cus­tomer has a blog. Rule #2: action is bet­ter than per­ceived inac­tion. It was the fact that twit­ter didnt seem to “care” that was the crux of the issue.

2) Twit­ter as a com­mu­nity. Twit­ter is not a com­mu­nity. Twit­ter is a com­mu­ni­ca­tion medium. It would not be sur­pris­ing or ground­break­ing if the con­ver­sa­tions occur­ring at Twit­ter moved to Friend­Feed or Pownce or the Next Next Cool thing. The only thing that makes Twit­ter inter­est­ing from a com­mu­nity stand­point is that the rapid nature of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion allows for increased famil­iar­ity. Copy that some­where else, and every­one will move. Hello Friendster.

So, for Twit­ter to sur­vive, it has to make the com­mu­nity feel wel­come — there­fore see point #1.

3) How cool it is to have met me. yeah, I couldnt agree more.

(This old douchebag still has it. Bam!)

Posted on: May 25, 2008 at 3:49 pmQuote this Comment

The War of the Tweets « Thoughts, Raves & Out­right Beatings said:

[…] my hard-core lib­er­tar­ian stances, I’d nor­mally agree with this person’s argu­ment.  In fact, one of the things I like about Word­Press is that my block­age of obnox­ious posters […]

Shashib - Gravatar

Shashib said:

Christina,

Can’t wait to meet grant and take more pic­tures. Great post. I was under the impres­sion the world has changed and there were no stalk­ers any­more . oh well , me and my dreams :)

Shashi

Posted on: June 9, 2008 at 8:54 amQuote this Comment

The­jesh GN said:

Hey Christina, Great post. I had sim­i­lar thoughts on twitter.

BTW you are right in the fact that twit­ter is very addic­tive and my biggest online com­mu­nity is now on twitter.