I’ve been running the near daily #andypoll on Twitter for a couple of months now. Sometimes the questions are goofy, sometimes they are serious, and most of the time they are just random questions that pop into my head. The question I asked today elicited all sorts of answers.
So there was this story last week about Stanford University's "bookless" library.
This whole bookless argument has escalated since Amazon showed that ebooks kick regular books' asses when they deleted copies of 1984 remotely from a bunch of Kindles. Tell me the last time Mr. Houghton or Mr. Mifflin kicked in your front door to take back a paperback copy of Animal Farm...
But my guess is that since most people still read paper books, they aren't aware this battle even exists.
When events happen around the world, Twittererers send their tweets to alert us all. But what happens when Twitter isn't there to accept our 140-character thought balloons? Where do we say what we need to say when our saying place shuts down?
Twitter has been down or mostly down for at least two hours. What happens to all those tweets that never got tweeted? Are they saved in Tweetdeck awaiting confirmation that they can fly off to achieve Tweetisfaction?
Yes, I'm still pondering Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. (See my other blog.)
This week Twitter was hacked. Someone on Twitter's staff had their Gmail account opened by someone who shoudln't have access. Then, because we are all so connected, the hacker was able to access stuff like Google Docs and anything else that we all find google-icious.
And from what I see now, TechCrunch published online some of the hacked (stolen) documents, and Twitter states,
"We are in touch with our legal counsel about what this theft means for Twitter, the hacker, and anyone who accepts and subsequently shares or publishes these stolen documents."
Well, going back to Free, I'm wondering what value intellectual property has when the product is free. If Twitter is free to use, and not publicly traded, then what is the current value of its corporate secrets or intellectual property?
Twitter must have value as a company. They have investors who probably hope to turn their investments into yachtfuls of money. But what is the intellectual property value of free in dollars? Do you have a right to keep competitors from stealing something even if if's free? Does something that's free have any monetary value at all?
I know that free isn't always free. A bowl of free chocolates on a sample table doesn't give me permission to eat the same brand of chocolates that are for sale in the candy aisle.
First. Be clever. But more importantly, be clever in a way that the reporter wants. How do you know what she wants? You don't. So be clever, and lucky, and maybe you'll get your name in the paper.
Back in May, I saw that USA Today had a request for story ideas called "status envy" on how people can post more interesting items on their Facebook and Twitter pages. I emailed this:
When you leave people out of the loop by posting, "now that's what I'm talking about" without letting us know what the hell you're talking about.
Or using microblog slang that I don't understand; or just posting, "watching House." Although "watching White House" might be interesting; or "watching Obama in White House from crawlspace in ceiling" would be really interesting.
and later that day, I had this message from their reporter:
Hello, thanks for message! I'm the reporter working on the Status Envy story and would like to use some of this - can I call you to confirm it's from you and get your details (age, occupation, town you live in, etc.)? If so, please call or email me your contact number.
I didn't believe she was an actual reporter; but phone calls are cheap, so I called her back. Now, here comes the interesting part:
She asked me how old I was, and when I told her just how ancient, she followed with, "Oh, then you're new to all this social networking stuff?"
Or maybe it's a gadgetocracy or an webocracy, but I don't care what you call it because I'm against it.
As a result of another study that confirms that a tiny minority controls the majority of output, following ones done in the last few years on Digg and Wikipedia contributors, the.effing.librarian has decided to stick to his guns when making decisions regarding patron privacy, social networking, and life, the universe and everything.
Just as the richest ten percent of us possess ninety percent of the world's wealth, ten percent of the users of every social networking site can claim ninety percent of the content. The most recent study on Twitter adds to this theory.
So this is why I oppose giving patrons more control over their library records or borrowing history and privacy, or incorporating more social networking tools into our online library presence. We would make ten percent of the people happy at the expense of the rest.
I know that it's not ninety percent who would unhappy with the changes, but I'm pretty damn sure it would be over half. I'm sure over half our patrons are years away from understanding any of the consequences of online privacy. And I don't like to make decisions that piss off over half of the people; I can usually only kick one person's ass at a time, at work, when I'm drunk, and I don't need a second patron hitting me on the head with a flower pot from behind. However comical that may appear.
Tuesday was a unique day. As the 12th day of May and its second Tuesday, I had appointments to keep within civil society. While I was out and about interacting with other human beings in-person, Twitter launched a change. Download Squad reported that Twitter changed part of their core functioning. UX specialist Whitney Hess railed against the change. Gregory Pittman linked on Twitter to a blog post where Twitter explained that the change was due to engineering limitations related to system stability.
This presents a core problem in the Twitter debates. Twitter may be where people hang out. Is it structurally capable of handling the load, though? Are there reasonable assurances of consistent system behavior? Today's blog post dances around the problem of scalability somewhat by relegating it to being the 800 pound elephant in the room.
Twitter, at its core, is a fairly limited service. External bolt-ons like TwitPic, Twibes, and more were created to make the service do more than was ever intended originally. Re-tweets, "Follow Friday", and other such things are more limited now which practically prevents serendipitous discovery. Unless service was contracted by a library with Twitter, there could be no guaranteed service level which could potentially annoy patrons that might seek help via Twitter.
Twitter is not the only game in town for microblogging, though. In December 2008, LISTen talked to Evan Prodomou who is a principal designer of the Laconica software platform. Identi.ca is the flagship site for the Laconica service while others like TWiT Army and Dungeon Twitter also exist. Group functionality that Twibes provides Twitter is also integrated into Laconica itself. Twitpic, Twitterfeed, and more can now interact with Laconica-based sites just as easily as they can interact with Twitter.
It seems a technically superior choice to Twitter exists. With the weeping and gnashing of teeth observed Tuesday over changes in functionality, the question is raised as to what constitutes the bright line that has to be crossed before someone will switch services. At the least, you can control your own local Laconica installation far more readily than you can impact engineering decision-making at Twitter. With federation possible through the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, there is less of a need for the monolithic microblogging platform than before.
The biggest question seems to be, though, what the next move is for Twitter users.
On The Twitter Brouhaha by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.