Why People Don’t Get Twitter

Yeah, more Twitter ramblings, I know. But hey, it was down this morning, so I had a lot of extra free time.

It occurred to me, after reading an interesting post about the Opaque Value Problem in social media, that maybe one of the reasons that people think that Twitter is a waste of time is because this is the first thing that they’re greeted with when they visit the site:

Twitter Public Timeline

I’d think that’s a waste of time too, if I read about it on a blog and decided to check it out. The problem is that the public timeline is interesting in a curiosity type of way, but it’s effectively gibberish. It’s like tuning into Lost midseason. The people on the screen are clearly speaking English, but the stuff they’re saying doesn’t make any sense because you have no context and no connection to them, nor should you.

The public timeline doesn’t convey that I can keep in touch with people who I don’t always get to speak to, and do it without being tethered to the computer when they’re online. The public timeline doesn’t convey that I was able to research and decide on a digital camera with help from Twitter friends in the course of a morning, when I had been fruitlessly researching on my own for three months and kept coming up empty. And the public timeline certainly doesn’t convey that I was able to announce the birth of my daughter to a good portion of my friends all at once with a single text message.

I think, if you want to make Twitter more accessible, get the public timeline off the front page and explain better how people use Twitter. Get testimonials if you have to. But the public timeline is the last thing you want to show to a prospective user, in my opinion. It’s like trying to demonstrate television with a test pattern.

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