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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.