Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The "100" in "Time 100" does not stand for 100% accuracy

In the process of researching a response to a post by Corvida, I ran across this October 2006 post by Michael Arrington. I was looking for some information about the demise of Audioblogger, but happened to notice this quote at the end of the post:

As much as I’ve questioned Odeo’s ADD business (un)focus in the past (see last paragraph here), I have to say that this is probably a smart move and not necessarily a sign of Odeo’s eventual demise.

Then Arrington gives his thoughts on Odeo's Evan Williams:

In general we’re seeing a lot of smart and humble moves by Odeo recently, not least of which is Founder Evan Williams’ extremely honest assessment of the company at a recent conference.

Arrington then gives Evan Williams a little bit of advice:

In our opinion Twttr, which competes with Google owned Dodgeball for attention, should be the next to go as the company focuses on the basics.

Which caused me to wonder - what the heck is/was Dodgeball? I honestly hadn't heard of Dodgeball (sorry Alex). Looking at Twitter vs. Dodgeball in May 2008, it's hard to turn the clock back and see what both services were doing in 2006, but even today there are some superficial parallels between the two, since both allow you to send messages and both allow you to befriend other people.

But back to Twttr. I searched around and found an earlier Arrington reference to the service, dated July 2006. Here were some of his concerns about the service itself:

There is...a privacy issue with Twttr. Every user has a public page that shows all of their messages. Messages from that person’s extended network are also public. I imagine most users are not going to want to have all of their Twttr messages published on a public website.

So his concerns weren't with monetization or scalability, but with the basic premise - who in the heck would want to post messages in a way that everyone could see them?

With hindsight it's easy to say, "Boy, Michael, you were stupid! You're writing in this blog where everyone can see it; what's wrong with people writing in a microblog?"

However, it would be unfair to do a "nyah nyah" here - especially since Arrington's primary concern at the time wasn't with Twttr itself, but the way in which it was diverting Odeo from its main project.

This wouldn't be the only time that a "side project" would explode - remember Steve Jobs' obsession with the Macintosh, which diverted resources away from the Apple II? Or how about when Nokia made that stupid decision to diversify out of paper products? Or when Oracle quit working for the CIA and started doing things for business customers?

But there's one thing that Arrington clearly did see - namely, the personal nature of Twttr. At its heart, and ignoring @lafd and everything else, Twttr/Twitter is a personal communications tool. At the time, Arrington noted:

People are using it to send messages like “Cleaning my apartment” and “Hungry”.

Boy, I'm glad that we moved away from those silly messages like that. For example, look at my latest tweet:

have you ever had "in the court of the crimson king" pop into your head for no apparent reason?

Um...never mind.

Obviously I missed a lot of this early history of Twitter, since I didn't join Twitter until September 16, 2007. But it's fascinating to see how people perceived the service when it started, and it's also good to note that even when the crystal ball is cloudy, you can still make out a few things.

P.S. I found an old (March 2007) Robert Scoble post about a service he refused to name. Back then he was only following 1,000 people. Wimp.

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