Dear Twitter

Hi.

I just wanted to say something’s that have been on my mind for a while, and you know, well, we’re both really busy a lot, and we just haven’t had a time to talk lately, so, let me just come out and say it.

I miss you. You’re just not the same anymore. And, worst of all, now, you’ve taken all of my friends with you.

I miss the way things were back in the halcyon days, before everyone and their mother (literally) was on Twitter.  Before the failwhale was even conceived. In the days when a few of us got together and put JetBlue on Twitter as a “daring” social experiment (how we got it to live in the early days is beyond me, but, I’m sure glad it did). In the days when my tweets were horribly uninteresting and pretty much dumb. You were just that “thing” that people looked at me funny when I mentioned you.  I stopped trying to explain you.  People just didn’t “get” you anyway.  You were that girl that was brilliantly persuasive, wonderfully intelligent, and not afraid to open up her heart to me.  Those were the times.  Just after SXSW ’07. Before Lacygate.  It was just, me and you, and well, a few thousand other people too ;)

Now, you’ve always been good to me. Introduced me to a whole wide array of amazing, smart, talented, passionate, giving people.  Both here in New York, and Boston, but from places all around the country. You’ve helped me to believe in people again.  For years, I wasn’t sure I would belong anywhere. I found a place on Twitter. I belonged here with you.  And that was great.  You built this lifeline, you shortened the distance between countries, cultures and people. Twitter was the backchannel for technology folks. And then came the second circle of PR folks, and finally, the ordinary people looking to make those sort of connections between them.  Out of all of them, I’ve made some great friends.  And know I’ll keep them for a lifetime.

And, sure, there have been tough times between us. I’ve listened to both sides in the harrassment argument. The countless stories about you being “dead“, and washed up.  But I still believed in the greater good, the “collective good”, that Twitter was a microcosm of the good things in life – that the good so vastly outweighed the bad, that it was worth the system outages. Because, I knew you’d be there for me.

You helped me build trusting, lasting lifelines with 300 people. For someone surprised when his follower count hit 92, this was quite an achievement. To know, and share with these people was an amazing experience.

I was there, fighting through the failwhales, to stay, but I too strayed away, because, so much of life is the “being there” when you need someone. And, rejoice as I did when you married the one that you really loved, you still seemed like the girl that got away. And you wanted to be friends. And I was ok with that.

But, of course, as is life, unfortunately, you’ve led me to bad people as well. The perverbial jumping of the shark was starting. But, I still believed. A solution was coming. So, to keep the good people in and the bad people out, I turned myself into a more private person.

But, now, for some inexplicable reason, and being a person of the Internet for as long as I have, both a “netizen” (yeah, I’m dusting that one off) and a professional, and with the caveat that I certainly understand the interaction and intersection technology of living and working in a cloud of T1 lines, databases, operational data stores, PHP, AJAX and the people who are talented enough to use it, you took it all way. My followers went from 250+ to 21. The people I followed fell off by a similar amount. And what sucks is that these people who took it upon themselves to follow me, and found my tweets to be insightful, interesting, or just a little nuts; these people who’s opinions I valued, and to whom I was grateful to have an audience, were gone. These were real people. Not numbers to me.

You made me invisible. Persona non grata. Since the only other lifeline to the outside world is Twitter Search (Summize), and it doesn’t index private Tweets, I ceased to be. Without explanation to anyone.

So, now I’m left with a private page that prompts people to request to join, makes me look like I’ve left them all forever, when in actuality, I haven’t. I just trusted the wrong person. In this case, it’s not me, it really is you. I was being your friend. Now I’m left with more questions than answers. Most notably, now what?

Whether it was a database query got awry, a stored procedure failure, a middleware problem, hell, even an errant = sign somewhere (I’ve done that one a bunch), the net result, is a equivalent nuclear bomb of human capital going away. Just like that. And, sure, this is probably exaggerating the point several times over, but, I’m not alone. The trust factor here is key. If there’s ever a chance for you to be successful in your life, to make real money, this trust will be ironclad.  Uptime agreements. Guaranteed sponsorships. Third-party licensing agreements. And, violating this trust will lead to bigger issues than a few pissed off people.

When you become the string that wraps around to bind vast distances, ages, sexes, religions, beliefs, hopes, dreams, happiness and sadness, and you snap – it’s more than just a database failing. It’s worse than the telephone going dead, because, in an instant, you’ve removed me from these people’s lives.  And they from mine.  You are the telephone. You are the cellphone. In your defense against Ariel Waldman, you claimed you were merely a “communication utility“. But that responsibility is great – it works both ways. Like it or not, you’re a guest at the dinner table, at the bar, at the party where people are, but also at the board room, the conference where no one knows each other, the silly karaoke night.  You are that string that binds together the people who “have no idea” to those who “know what’s going on”  You bring these people together in life and work and fun. And if calling yourself a “communication utility” that saves you legal hot water, than great, but in the end, it seems, just maybe you’re not living up to this end of the bargain.

Nevermind the arguments about you being free, and incorrect expectations – in the end, you’ve done so much good for so many people, that people want to depend on you.   They want to believe that you can make it happen again.  And, more often than not, you do.

So, I think, for a little while at least, I’m going to see other people. Because, in the end, no one will have the same effect on me as you did. But, I hate being alone again. Especially after I wasn’t. I was less alone than ever before. And I don’t know if I can ever get that trust back again. But I’m also a patient man, and try my best to see both sides of any story. I want to believe in you again.

You’ve been great to me. Hope to come back around again soon and see you happy, healthy, and strong.

Love always,
Matt

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12 Responses to “Dear Twitter”

  1. Vanessa July 24, 2008 at 8:34 am #

    :( This was a sad read, Matt. Don’t force me to get accounts on other sites to keep up with you! I joined twitter,….. sheesh :(

  2. Gradon July 24, 2008 at 8:35 am #

    Matt, I’m sure Twitter loves us just as much as we love it. It’s just, y’know, going through one of those times where it just doesn’t know HOW to love us. Hold tight, Matt. Twitter will come back around.

  3. Liz July 24, 2008 at 8:38 am #

    So, so sad. I’m sorry to be one of those late-comers, missing out on the early golden days of community-building.

  4. pprlisa July 24, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Matt,

    First of all, that was awesome, so wish I had written that same letter. I feel the exact same way – I had over 2K followers, and i have no time to figure out how to get them back.

    I have a great community built up, and I dont want to leave, but its like they are daring us to try something else – their explanations to us could at least be more sympathic. I am a HUGE twitter proponent see here: http://twitterstars.com/2008/07/22/viva-la-revolucion/ – but when even I start thinking of hanging up the Tweets, you know there is a problem.

    –Lisa

  5. Melissa July 24, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    I hear you, Matt. I’m working on building up my networks on Pownce and Plurk and trying those now because of the Twitter issues :(

  6. Dave L July 24, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    The problem is largely with Twitter status. It’s not comprehensible.

    Many people don’t know about status.twitter.com, but even there, they warn of lower numbers, and a fix taking “several” hours when it’s now 15 hours without a further update.

    And those status updates at the top of our feeds are even less helpful. Not always there. Unclear. Or directing us to the more wordy but equally unclear and unupdated status.twitter.com

    Got to update people! Can’t just say it will be “several” hours and “Even after this recovery is complete.” Instead, how about “Still working on it .. Still working on it .. done!”

    As it is, we don’t know if the work is unfinished, or if we are seeing a new problem, or if this is a “new rules” Twitter and we just have to get used to it.

  7. Whitney Hess July 24, 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    If this whole thing ends with Twitter never being able to get our friends back, I’m glad I’ve said hello to every person who’s ever followed me. I can just go back in time using “Summize” and send them all notes asking to re-follow. As for the ones whom I’m following, I have no doubt I’ll find them again. If they were interesting enough to follow the first time, they shouldn’t be too hard to find.

  8. Marissa July 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm #

    I just cried a single tear

  9. Alexa July 24, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    This post actually made me feel very, very sad. You raise a lot of great points, Matt. I hope that Twitter gets its act together, but at least I know that I have other ways of connecting with you and all the other cool, amazing folks on my network.

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for a better Twitter tomorrow.

  10. Meg July 25, 2008 at 7:35 am #

    I was waiting to comment because I had this perverse faith they’d fix it. When I talked to one of them the afternoon it happened, he said it was totally fixable… it would just take time.

    Now, I know marshmallow-all about how that stuff works, but it happened, so I’m happy.

    All the other inconsistencies and service outages… well, I can’t explain or make excuses for those. I just know Twitter ain’t Twitter without our Matt. So, uh, yeah. Stick with it.

  11. Mario Bourque July 25, 2008 at 7:37 am #

    How long before a mass exodus to identi.ca?

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  1. tagsmith.org - the cyberworks of Matthew G. Knell - » Blog Archive » …and the morning after - July 25, 2008

    [...] of you have read my Dear John letter to Twitter of just two days ago, and let me start off by offering secure thanks and appreciation [...]

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