Sometimes business planning takes you to strange places.
In my current quest for a co-founder I’ve been talking to many people and explaining what it is that makes microblogging great and what is not so great about it. After all, if microblogging was a mature and well established space, there would be no need for Nouncer and other new efforts. When talking to people new to microblogging, it is usually enough to explain the great potential of this new communication format and the many applications it has. But when talking to geeks fluent in Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and the rest of them, the first question is, what makes my ideas better or at least different.
No claiming any sort of invention, vision, or originality against the current players, I came up with my own idea for a microblogging service about two years ago. While Nouncer is very different from anything currently being offered, the service would still be familiar to experienced users. But while everyone else focus on how to get you more connected and getting more content through more devices, my anti-social tendencies took me to the opposite conclusion. That is, in order for a microblogging site to have mass appeal, the focus should be on content rather than on social interaction. Yes, I want less social networking!
I’ve been dumping most of my Twitter friends recently. Not because I no longer care about them, or because of anything they wrote, but because their Twitter streams are, well, useless. Every once in a while I would get an interesting link or a funny quote, but those come far apart and in between (reports of the weather, food, travels, and other brain-farts). Now, my own tweets are far worse, and mostly consist of stolen quotes from Sponge Bob (and Patrick), and links to old film school footage. So let me be clear that I do not pretend to be offering any better value in my own Twitter steam, but I also do not expect anyone to read it, not to mention subscribe to it on their phone. It is basically a notepad for me to keep funny lines.
Is that what I think microblogging is about? Of course not. I wouldn’t be investing a couple of years into something that silly. But it is a reflection of where the space is in today. Twitter is still a very niche utility, and when you step outside the (hardcore) geek community, no one knows what microblogging is. To some degree, it is easier to pitch Nouncer in NY than SF because most people just never heard about it before and to them I am a true visionary.
Robert Scoble is a perfect example of someone who has very interesting and original things to say but whose Twitter content I simply cannot use. The mixture of news, interesting reviews, and personal brain farts are just too unproductive. And try to subscribe to it on your cell phone without causing a small earthquake. Scoble makes good use of blogs, microblogs, and videoblogs – all are valuable and distinctively different formats. But while blogs and videoblogs allow quick filtration of undesired content like family events, microblogs do not. There is no subject line or way to quickly skip content, and with the currently limited interface offered by all major sites, no way to filter or set subscriptions rules.
The point of microblogging is the immediacy in which content is created and delivered. If you mostly use Twitter on the web by occasionally refreshing your home page, you are not really getting the point of this format. When I first described Nouncer to a friend two years ago the first observation was that this sounds like a awful way to generate more spam. And while email spam is forced on us, following some people on a microblogging site is nothing more than self inflicted spam. So if I no longer follow your tweets, it is not because I don’t care or because they are not interesting – it is because I don’t need to get them RIGHT NOW.