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09/02/2009 Twitter: More Like a Frat House and Less Like the Neighborhood Bar?

I have to admit, that while I still love Twitter, it's not as exciting as it was earlier in the year. Maybe it's not as new or shiny as it was; or maybe I'm just using it in a more mature way. Those seem plausible, but they're both wrong.

What's missing these days from Twitter is the vast sense of discovery and unexpected connections between new people. It's there, but in a much reduced form. And I think that Twitter itself is to blame.

Here's what I mean: a year ago through the spring, I could discover great people like @inakiescudero, @iboy and @armandoalves by listening in on conversations they were having with others. I might have discovered them anyway, later, but who knows. The fact is that they were tweeting with someone I knew, I checked them out, and became richer for it.

Then, in the spring, Twitter changed its rules. We couldn't listen into other people's discussions unless we followed EVERYONE in the discussion. I didn't really think much of this until yesterday, when I got a tweet from @awolk responding to a comment I made. Here's what it looked like:

On the left is my @ reply column. @awolk has tweeted an @nrose and me. In my normal stream, that tweet doesn't show up. At all. It turns out that @nrose is a creative director at a digital shop, someone I'd never heard of, but who might be interesting to follow. Without that tweet, chances are I'd never hear about @nrose. So the Twitter changes have started to affect who I'll meet.

It's more like the Frat House. I can hang with the Bros, people I know. Everyone once in a while we'll let a group of newbies, and once in a while we'll have parties and ship in some Tweeties. Somehow the Tweeties (a phrase coined by my former colleague Todd Gallentine) find me and everyone else, even if we don't want them to.  But for the most part the Frat feels like a limited social environment.

The Neighborhood Bar, on the other hand, is a place you go to with friends but is a place you can meet new people. You listen in on conversations, an acquaintance walks in with someone you've never seen before, and your social scene expands. Of course, you can just sit at the bar ignoring everyone. But the point is that the Neighborhood Bar, unlike the Frat House, is where you can choose how social you'll be.

It's too bad Twitter isn't as social as it once was. Making that change didn't keep the spammers and Tweeties away, it just limited everyone else.

I hate it when the Good Old Days were only a couple of months ago. I wish Twitter would change back.


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