Thursday, May 22, 2008

Robert Scoble and 20,000 People Walk Into a Bar (or, what I learned during the Twit-Out about Twitter vs. FriendFeed conversations)

I used the Twit-Out (and the time before it) as a learning experience. While I've already shared some of the things that I learned about mobile access, and while there were other wrinkles such as malfunctioning text messages and some accidentally discovered linkblog capabilities, I guess that the main thing that I learned during the Twit-Out was about the drastic differences between Twitter conversations and FriendFeed conversations. I was trying to capture the words to describe the differences, but other than referring to FriendFeed conversations as islands, I couldn't really capture what I wanted to say.

So I gave up. Sorry that I couldn't describe the differences, but trust me, they're out there.

Since I'm already writing a blog post anyway, I'll take this opportunity to tell a story. This is a story about a guy named Robert and his evening out on the town. Nothing in this story is real, with the exception of one phrase that I adapted from the title of a blog post.

Robert had been busy all day and was looking forward to a night of relaxing and chatting. He was going to to to the Twitty Bar, a place where he spent a lot of time. Now that Twitty Bar wasn't necessarily a high-class bar, and it was run rather haphazardly - sometimes it would close in the middle of the day for no apparent reason whatsoever, and the bar's owners rarely said why - but Robert still loved the place anyway, because a lot of people congregated there.

As it turned out, I was also in the Twitty Bar that evening, even though it didn't have any NTN/Buzztime games. But I liked to have a good time also, even though I knew far fewer people than Robert. Robert had a loud, booming voice that could be heard by thousands of people in the bar, while my voice was much softer and could only be heard by a few hundred on a good day.

And I wasn't immediately recognized by Rob Schneider, who was sitting by the door, greeting everybody.

@scobleizer ... @robertscoble ... @scoblematic ... coming to the Twitty Bar ... @scoblicious ...

The Twitty Bar was noisy, with all sorts of conversations taking place between groups of people, and between individuals. In some places, people were whispering to each other so that no one else could hear. A bunch of people were crowded around a TV, watching the Red Sox game. I was carrying on a conversation about the "Total Devo" album, but no one was paying attention to it.

All of a sudden, Robert stood up on a table, and in his loud, booming voice, said the following to the crowd:

I'm going to eat dinner at the Friend Feed. Join me.

Ah, the Friend Feed, the new restaurant that had opened up next door. A lot of people were talking about it, and because Robert's voice was so loud, a bunch of others started talking about it.

Hey, did you hear @scobleizer? He's going to the Friend Feed tonight.

What, @scobleizer's tired of Twitter already?

Some people asked Robert questions directly.

@scobleizer what's the Friend Feed?

But while a lot of people were listening to Robert's conversation, it certainly wasn't the only one out there. The game was still on the TV, and Doug Haslam was enjoying it, which is to say that the Red Sox were winning.

That was an amazing play at the end of the 6th inning.

Chris Brogan agreed with Doug.

@dough you're right. The 6th inning was a keeper.

However, there were thousands of conversations going on in that bar. I was still prattling on about my Devo album, although I had half an ear cocked to the Friend Feed conversation.

Speaking about ears, I have to say that Robert had some of the biggest ears ever seen on a human being, with the possible exception of Barack Obama. While people always talked about Robert's big mouth, Robert said that his big ears, which allowed him to hear almost anything, were more important than his big mouth.

As Robert continued to talk about the Friend Feed, he noticed someone trying to get his attention for a private conversation.

d scobleizer

In this bar, that's the way you got people's attention. The person, bighunkingboobs, then whispered to Robert.

d scobleizer wanna cyber?

Robert turned to her in anger.

@bighunkingboobs, I'm a married man!

Robert then stormed out of the bar, and a bunch of people (including myself) followed him.
The Friend Feed wasn't nearly as noisy as the Twitty Bar, and it was certainly a lot less crowded. People would cluster together at different tables, chat for a bit, then move on to another table.

Robert found an unoccupied table and, holding up a newly-printed book, he said:

I want to share something that I just read. It's called "I'm going to eat dinner at the Friend Feed. Join me."

Immediately a bunch of people gathered at Robert's table, including Paul and April Buchheit. April spoke first.

I like this.

Paul then spoke.

I like this. And I think you'll like it here too, Robert. Let me know if there's anything wrong with your meal.

I was sitting at my own table, frantically trying to figure out if anyone else at the Friend Feed liked "Total Devo," when I heard Corvida say something.

I want to share something that I just read at the Googleplex. It was written by Louis Gray, and it's called "Robert Scoble has gone to the Friend Feed."

People came to read the book that Corvida shared, and you would have expected them to go over to Louis' house and talk to him about his book. Instead, they talked to Corvida.

I wonder if Robert will like it at the Friend Feed.

Does that mean that Friend Feed's kitchens will be overloaded when everyone comes here?

Sitting at my own table, I made a statement myself.

I want to share something that Corvida just shared. It was written by Louis Gray, and it's called "Robert Scoble has gone to the Friend Feed."

Steven Hodson walked by my table.

I like this.

Next thing I knew, there were ten different tables talking about the book that Louis Gray wrote. And nobody was talking to Louis Gray about it.

Corvida was starting to get angry, so she went to another table and stood on top of it.

Stop! Shouldn't we have some decency and go to Louis Gray's house and talk to HIM about his book, rather than just talking about it at the Friend Feed?

Robert walked over to Corvida's table.

I like this.

Louis happened to walk into to the Friend Feed at this time, and joined Corvida at her table.

Hey, I don't necessarily mind the fact that people chose to talk about my book over here at the Friend Feed. While I would of course appreciate it if people came over to my house to talk about my book, I'm happy to have conversation occurring at other places also.

I happened to hear Daniel Ha's comment:

Hey, if you want to hold conversations at your house, I have a really nice table that will help you have better conversations. It's in your house, but it's really in my house.

Someone responded to Daniel:

Well, that's not a good solution. It doesn't do me any good if the table's really over at your house. If people start looking for the table, they'll end up at your house rather than at my house.

Well, that conversation really took off - so much so that I couldn't even see the middle of the conversation, only the last few comments, such as this one from Corvida.

I agree, something has to be done about this.

Then Robert spoke up.

If the Friend Feed doesn't fix this problem about conversations happening at multiple tables, this restaurant is going to be shut down and replaced by a better one.
I left the Friend Feed after that, having thoroughly enjoyed the evening at both the Friend Feed and the Twitty Bar. Two very different places that give off different vibes, but they're both good places to visit.

Well, at least when the Twitty Bar's open.

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