A Clear Indication That Scoble Doesn’t Use Twitter Like I Do

“If you don’t read tweets for eight hours, don’t worry, all the big stuff you missed will be on TechMeme.” – (Scoble’s latest meanderings on the evolution of Twitter)

No, that’s not nearly it for me, or for many others. It’s not just a technology aggregator. It does that well, but it does so many other things well. Robert undoubtedly has scores of friends, loved ones, and colleagues on Twitter, and who have been there for a few years now, and yet he continually misses out on(or chooses to tune out) what makes Twitter great because he’s so focused on it as a tech news beehive. He starts out the above blog entry by celebrating that Twitter used to be “for telling all your friends you were having a tuna sandwich at Subway in Half Moon Bay” and is no longer. Incidentally, that’s the same argument newcomers make who haven’t yet immersed themselves in Twitter’s culture, which leads me to believe Robert really is only on the fringes while looking at his usage numbers you’d think he’s at its core. I’m thankful that sandwich talk is still a big part of what happens on Twitter. Robert dismisses birthdays as “small stuff,” of little importance if you miss it, and/since it’s not on Techmeme. I’d be pretty crestfallen if all of my friends dismissed my birthday as the small stuff. The “small stuff” is what I use Twitter for. The rest, meh, I can read in a zillion places that Adobe acquired Omniture. He’s got it backwards.

Any number of articles have been written, including Leah’s piece from the Spring on the value of phatic communications and how Twitter extends them to new territories — “Seemingly meaningless conversations that add up to a relationship being formed. It is the digital version of what’s up/fine in the hallway. Relationships include long conversations, sure, but the cement is often tiny interactions that keep the door open between long conversations. Twitter expands the hallway to the globe…”.

Another observation from the piece: “It’s very hard to say anything useful in 140 characters. Believe me, I’ve tried to spend most of 2009 saying stuff in 140 character bites. It isn’t satisfying most of the time.” For someone who reads so many Tweets and spends so much of his time immersed in Twitter culture, I was floored that he feels this way. He attributes the high percentage of tweets that have links in them to the fact that it’s difficult to pack something compelling into the short format, but I don’t see such a strong correlation between the two. A link isn’t necessarily used to expand on tiny thoughts; it can be an object that commentary is wrapped around. It’s the constraints of the medium that make it interesting. Even early on, I remember Robert struggling with this. He used to use ellipses a whole lot, to try to string together a series of Tweets into one thought — not sure if he still does that. At the time I made the remark to him at SXSW that there was a potential business model there. They could charge people like Robert who have trouble with brevity each time they use an ellipsis.

Robert has always described the world of technology through the lens of a very particular kind of person, perhaps even more particular than he realizes. When he decried the state of blogging in October ’07, he did so in broad strokes and imprecise language but he was really talking about his friends and colleagues in technology, not the rest of the online world. When he “returned to blogging” earlier this year, it was as if no one had been using blogging tools since he’d “left.” When you haven’t read him for a while and then pick up something he’s written, it’s often jarring to what extent he uses general language to describe very narrow and focused behaviors and interest patterns.


  1. Actually you are reading too much into this. I use Twitter for the small stuff too. A lot. That’s why I follow 2,800 people and go to so many events around the world. The small stuff is why I get interviews and other people don’t.

    But, that also is missing what is going on on Twitter: the big stuff is getting bigger and faster and more important. Twitter used to ONLY be about the small stuff. Now the small stuff is playing a smaller and smaller role and the big stuff is playing a bigger one.

    That’s fine with me. Knowing you had a tuna salad for lunch is cool, but I’d rather know what you’re working on and how it will change the world.

  2. This gets to the heart of my frustration with Scoble — the persistent “everybody behaves and thinks as I do” assumptions. For example, when he announced a month ago that Twitter was much more fun after he unfollowed 100,000 people, he wrote as if he were sharing a great discovery. In actuality, he had only curtailed bizarre, fringe Twitter behavior, bringing him a little closer to the experience most Twitter users were already enjoying. Perplexing.

    (Here’s the link to the post, which is now going to a 404 page: http://scobleizer.com/2009/08/05/you-are-so-unfollowed/)

  3. Tom: most Twitter users aren’t like you either. They don’t follow anyone and they don’t post. So, stop trying to say you have a handle on what it’s like to be an average Twitter user either.

  4. Hi Robert. That’s a good clarification point — I should have specified that I was talking about active users, rather than people with Twitter accounts. And yes, I would agree that I don’t have a handle on what it’s like to be an average Twitter user. I don’t know that there is such a thing, since we’re talking about a wide spectrum of people and behavior. And that’s really the point — generalizing about something as open-ended as Twitter breeds inaccuracy.

  5. Thanks for coming by, Robert. Am I misconstruing your point of view? It seems to me like your bottom line is that interactions that don’t add up to a conversation about how what I’m working on will change the world aren’t particularly valuable. Which, to me, is still the argument that Twitter’s value stems from its ability to connect you with tech news, or more broadly, news relating to tech that could “change the world.” And that’s plainly not how I use it (which is fine, we don’t all have to be Scobles :))

    Even when you explain that you follow a gajillion people, you point out “The small stuff is why I get interviews and other people don’t.” I guess I’m thinking about all of the interactions and uses for Twitter that don’t have anything to do with getting interviews (which, by the way, are interviews about tech news, kind of circular) and I think those are extremely valuable. But you seem to give them real short shrift, here and back on your original blog entry I was reacting to.

  6. Scoble has always been an outlier, but at least he had connections to technology innovators at Microsoft. He is now essentially disconnected, working for a hosting company in the bible belt, mostly playing with his toys and his small kids. His observations are becoming less representative and less useful.

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