Posts Tagged ‘Super Tuesday’

Twitter’s Scalability Problem Isn’t Fixed

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

By all reports, (and the API, for the most part) sailed through the onslaught of the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday with nary a hiccup. Please join me in a round of w00t!

So ends the saga of Twitter’s scalability. The Twitter community can now grow as far and as fast as we desire without fear of the thing crashing down around our heads. Or can we? I fear that while the Twitter team has overcome it’s technical scalability concerns (again, w00t!), there are serious issues to be overcome with the application’s social scalability.

By "social scalability" I mean the extent to which one can receive the ‘signal’ through the cacophony of ‘noise’ as one’s following list expands. This is a more complex problem that simply limiting the number of Twitterers (Twits?) you follow, as you might do with an RSS list.

The scenario is already presenting itself as the Presidential Primary season hits full-stride in the United States. Most of the folks I follow on Twitter are in the social media space – no surprise there. A few of them are also political junkies like me, as I’ve mentioned before. But what about everyone else? Do those social media folks who are not interested in US politics really want to be inundated with play-by-play tweets of Super Tuesday?  What about the Super Bowl tweet-fest? I certainly wasn’t interested in the game but sat through tweet after tweet anyway in case anyone was talking about anything that did interest me.

It’s manageable at the moment since the community is still relatively small and the event-related tweet-fests are few and far-between… but it won’t be long before every sporting event spawns thousands of Tweets that I don’t care about. Unless it’s a Habs game… I’m in for that. :)

So the question is:

How do you intend to manage a growing ‘follow’ list and a broadening of content on Twitter?

Social Media in Real-Time

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I’m a political junkie. I have been fascinated by politics and government for many years a passion which eventually led to a now underused degree in political science.

I am also now a Twitter junkie. The "global watercooler" allows me to eavesdrop on many conversations and throw in my $0.02 on a variety of topics when I think I have something valuable to add.

In the past week or so, these two vices have collided in a spectacular way. It started with the Democratic primary in South Carolina last Saturday. A few of us social media/political junkies (@stuartma, @JillFoster, et al) began discussing the results as they came in. Those of us purists with online-only access to CNN’s raw feeds (TV is so 1.0) had to rely on others to report the numbers as they came in. We could then offer our thoughts on the how’s and why’s… Or just "listen" and learn.

Once the results were solid and the networks had made their projections, the speeches from each of the candidates began. This was the magical part of evening. Barack Obama’s speech elicited responses from my Twitterverse that were raw emotion and reflected his ability to reach down into people’s soul and stir it up.

That this communal emotional response was palpable in an online medium is, I believe, revolutionary. To the casual observer, Obama’s speech was a great one, to be sure. But the ability to witness the emotions it evoked in others in real-time transformed the speech from a political event into an emotional event shared by a community of pseudo-strangers. This has never really been possible before.

Last night I observed a similar event during the Super Bowl. Since I’m more of a CFL guy than NFL, I wasn’t watching the game. I was, however, watching a couple dozen folks twitter the game as they watched it. Thank to Jeremiah Owyang‘s social media experiment, most of the Twitter-banter centred on rating the (in)famous SuperBowl commercials as they aired. The results of Jeremiah’s experiment can be found by searching for @superbowlads at terramind’s search service. Currently, it lists over 2500 responses. hundreds of people sharing an event in real-time through an online medium. Very Cool. [late-breaking re-cap from Jeremiah]

In between commercials, there was, of course, a football game going on. While I was doing other things online (watching this stunning video, for example), I could get a feel of how the game was going just from the expletive-laced bursts of emotion emanating from my Twitter client.

I am very much looking forward to that other ‘Super’ event this week: Super Tuesday. I will miss the bulk of the day’s conversations since I’ll be in meetings and without internet access all day (though I may sneak a peek at TwitterBerry now & again).

As the polls close, however, I’ll be ensconced in my hotel room all a-Twitter about what the results will mean… even for us Canadians. My prediction? I think by wednesday morning (it’ll come early!) we’ll have a pretty good idea of the two names on the Presidential ballot come November.

I have some more thoughts brewing about the social-scalability of Twitter. Tonight may have been proof that we’ve finally seen the end of the technical scalability problems!  I’ll post later in the week on what I mean by "social-scalability" and why I think it’s a problem. Stay tuned.