Why Twitter Sucks

Mooney would probably call this "twatter," because I'm about to be a twat about Twitter. If you had the misfortune to be absent from the inaugural Worst Practices Lotusphere session, where Paul uttered his now legendary expletive, use your imagination (just make sure to say it in an Irish accent, bear in mind that to him it's hardly objectionable at all, and picture Peter Pan-level boyish charm in full force at the time...). I come not to praise Twitter, but to bury it (I should be so lucky).

Susan Bulloch had a very insightful post on the subject of geeks twittering (and IMing and surfing, etc) while those around them were trying to be social in the Real World (aka MeatSpace). I'm not going to be that deep about it, butI am officially coming out of the proverbial closet as a Twitter hater. Twitter bugs me, for lots of reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • There are no unread marks. Oh, I know, lots of things don't have unread marks. But guess what does (besides Notes)? RSS Readers. It is soooooo much easier to keep up with blogs than it is to keep up with a Twitter stream. I only "follow" about 50 people, of whom about 15 post updates regularly, but I still find myself annoyed by how much I have to wade through to try to keep up. I read several hundred blogs via RSS with no such problem.
  • People use it to say the most inane things. I'm not going to call out any of the Tweeters in our community, so if you see yourself in here it's coincidental (really - if I want to call you out, I will), so these examples come from the public stream - do we all really need to know what somebody had for breakfast, which pair of shoes they are wearing, that they posted something on their blog (there's this funny little thing called RSS, you may have heard of it...), how many unread messages there were that morning, or what TV show they're about to watch? Really?!?
  • Conversations are unbelievably disjointed. Between a post and its response, dozens of others appear, to the point where following the conversation requires several hops back and forward through the stream. I've seen people use it to collaborate, and successfully too, but I am amazed they went through so much trouble when a simple email or chat thread would have been much easier for them. And I realize that it's not hard to follow a conversation if people correctly use the @tweeter convention, but given the number of typos I see in twitter names, it's definitely not foolproof. Following it when you're a casual observer, though? Not reasonable. In which case it would be better off out of the Twitter stream, since its only real benefit IS the fact that many people can see it at once.
  • 140 characters?!? Seriously, fuck that.
  • Not only are there no unread marks, there isn't even a concept of the stopping and starting point from day to day. The most recent tweets are at the top, and unless you are constantly online in Twitter (and some are, I know, but some of us have actual work to do during the day), you have to scroll through backwards to find the place you stopped yesterday, and scroll forwards again to catch up. I usually can't be bothered, it's way too annoying, so I miss about 70% of the tweets. And yet, somehow I'm not crushed.
  • People tie their Twitter posts to their Facebook status updates. I know why they do it (why do essentially the same update in two places?), but as the information consumer it is very annoying. Facebook status updates and tweets serve two different purposes. One gives friends and family a brief snapshot of what's important to you at that moment. The other is a stream of electronic diarrhea containing every random useless thought that crosses your mind. Crossing streams? Always a bad idea...
  • Because not everyone follows everyone else (even in our self-absorbed little corner of the internets), we all get to see responses that don't make any sense because we didn't see the original post.
  • People claim there's no spam in Twitter, but they're fooling themselves. It's there, and it's only going to get worse. Even if it's just a "can I follow you?" request, think of what will happen when you get dozens a day.
  • People tweet instead of blogging. Oh, not major posts, but little things that they otherwise would have expanded into medium sized blog entries, definitely. Count the number of blog postings while the Twitter use in our community went up - it definitely went down, and significantly, too. There is a finite amount of time and energy available for creation of content on the interweb, and every hour spent on Twitter is less time available for blogging. And yet, Blog postings are much more likely to be really useful, both in terms of immediate effect (more people read your blog than follow you on twitter - guaranteed) AND in terms of long-term availability via Google. So to the extent that Twitter reduces blogging, it goes from being an annoyance to being an actual problem.

In short? It sucks. Not to beat around the bush or anything. :P

I'm aware that there are useful Twitter add-ons that address some of my issues. I tried some of them, but to use them on a regular basis would mean investing more time in Twitter than I think it's worth. I'm not completely avoiding it, mind. I use Twhirl on my Mac, and it's decent at showing me recent entries. TwitNotes allows me to connect from work, if I choose (which I rarely do). And I tried the phone alerts, but they drove me absolutely insane; I already get my work and personal email on my Blackberry, adding Twitter meant the thing was vibrating more often than not (keep the dirty jokes to yourself, Julian).

So color me a Luddite, I guess. Or would that be a Twuddite?

PS Now everyone on my list of "followees" will think I'm annoyed by them. And sometimes I suppose I am. Heck, sometimes I'm annoyed by myself (and I'm hardly alone there...). But if I was truly irritated by anyone, I'd just stop following them. I'm really annoyed by the tool. Really. And yes, it's entirely possible I'll just dump it.