05.10.2009

Twitter is no "Social Network" but a "Conversation Swarm"

I have made some remarks on this earlier here in a German post:
Was ist Twitter? Jedenfalls kein Social Network! (feel free to drop a tanslation link in the comments ;) )

As the topic came up again I made some more remarks in a Twitter conversation and I'll doument and elaborate them here for further discussion:

@MattBlaisdell was asking why I said that 'Twitter is only a SN if you follow 150 or less'.

I replied
Well 140 chars are a little short for this argument. Some ppl tell me 150 is what they can really follow and read.

I think Twitter is a 'different tool for everyone'. U can use it as an SN, as an RSS reader, as a monitoring service etc.

In the SNs I am in (Xing & FB) I have about 1000+ contacts each. Too many of those are 'met once never talked to again' ppl. In the case of FB I am rather tolerant, I am more strict in XING, which is a business network.

What Twitter 'is', depends on who you follow and what you do with what you (could) read.


To elaborate a bit (but I'd really like to continue this in the comments together with my readers):

On a more sbstract level Twitter does NOT show 'who I know/talk to' (social network) but 'who I wanna read' (more alike to a blogroll or OPML-file with a list of RSS subscriprtions.

IF there is a conversation (thus an exchange and thus again the basis for something called a 'network' whether social or not) depends on the question whether people 'follow back' and listen.

Now if you 'follow back all' this does not scale (as Scobleizer has proven).

If you do NOT follow back you create asymmetry and thus it is no network any longer but just a channel, that is very often one way: peolpe can read me, but they will not necessarily be listened to when they talk back.

Through the additional fact that someone who does not follow @userabc AND me will not see when I send a public reply @userabc. ONLY when that person visits the page with only MY tweets will he/she be able to extract that part of the conversation. IN addition to that many conversdations are fragmented by the fact that some users have their streams locked and are thus nio findable via search.

So in short: Just because I read @CNNbrk I do not create relationship or conversation there...

Claudia Klinger has onnce in a German article in her blog described this as: "it is not a (chat)room but a swarm". A description that has helped me very much in understanding the 'nature' of Twitter.

What Twitter is in my optinion is a 'Swarm of asymmetic conversations' and a kind of 'swiss knife conversation tool' that can be different for each person. But NOT a social network that 'graphs relationships'.

Your opinion? Why would Twitter be a SN?

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