The good and the bad of engaging with your community -

The good and the bad of engaging with your community

Today I noticed two blog posts regarding Twitter, one good, one bad.

On the good side, Twitter seems to start communicating with their users to inform them what they are doing behind the scenes to improve the service. As you might have noticed Twitter had it’s hiccups esp. in the last couple of days. As I commented on the blog post this very much reminded me of the growing pains of Second Life although I’d say that Second Life is a bit more complex than Twitter. What I would wish for more would be more technical details and explanations of the problems and how they have been solved. For more information on the issues of scaling such a service I recommend reading Eran Hammer-Lahav’s series about Scaling a Microblogging Service (part 1, part 2, part 3). And btw, I think it is hard to scale such a service.

On the bad side though, Twitter seems to reject any responsibility in community management when it comes to harrassment. Ariel Waldman experienced this herself and here is her blogpost about it which says it all. This shows once more that it’s not important what business or lawyers say, it’s most important what your community says. Without them you are nothing. That’s what flickr experiences here and then and that’s what Twitter also experiences now again (not to mention Second Life again where we have a quite popular culture of demonstrations or open letters).

So all you community based services out there: You’d better keep your community happy, communicate as much as possible as transparent as possible and try as hard to solve your user’s problems!

9 Kommentare » Schreibe einen Kommentar

  1. Oh, I think Twitter is doing just the right thing to stay very laissez-faire on this concept of „harassment“. What these thin-skinned prima donnas call „harassment“ is often merely being followed and spammed and called a few names — it simply isn’t worth creating the police state they wish for themselves and their little friends and thereby destroy the potential of a free Twitter.

    It’s like the long drawn-out debate on Get Satisfaction

    There is no one „community“. There are many. And „community“ is something that geeks and coders and people in power on the A-list often invoke merely as a wall to keep others they don’t like out, who are less than thrilled with them and critical of them like a RL gated community.

    Twitter has to be many things to many people. The makers of it should not cave to persistent little e-mommies and micro-blogging ninnies who can’t handle some bad language. As in SL, there are tools to control your experience. You don’t follow someone, and you block people which deters them from following you in real time.

    People who still persist seeing things about themselves after that are indulging in what is called „reading the vanity feed“ — commanding Twitter in real time to track all posts with their name in them, or searching themselvse on or other services. That’s all well and good, but you can’t do that, and then bitch that someone is getting to you — you are allowing them to get to you by obsessing about what is said about you.

    People go to amazing lengths to justify their perfectly natural vanity-feed reading, telling you stories of vital missed tweets, phone bills, etc. etc. I’m not buying it. It’s a simple service. Crude, but effective. Don’t put yourself and your delicate little thoughts out on the Internet if you wilt at the slightest criticism or even griefing. Talk in private IMs.

  2. Absolutely disagree with you Prokofy Nevaor . The Twitter API makes the seemingly ephemeral nature of Twitter a more permanent one and one with punch.

    Think of the effect this does to your credibility when a potential searches you online and finds 100s of results about you being a cunt…pretty sobering thought I would think.

  3. Correction (as I can’t edit my comment):

    ‚As to twitter, they seem to be guilty of having adapted a hazy, value laden (as opposed to law based) and inadequate TOS without really having thought the consequences through.‘

  4. I forgot to address the community issue of your post completely. Let me rectify that.

    I do not see twitter as a community. I can’t for the life of me picture the twitter service – or any other piece of software as a ‚community‘. Twitter is an enabler, not a community. It’s an outlet, a channel.

    The community is up to me and you. It’s a figment of our imaginations. It’s the collection of our choices and interactions. – The service just enables.

    I’m free to use it or leave it.

  5. IANAL, but regarding the allegations from Ariel Waldman – CAVEAT: I do not know the exact content of the alleged breaches – that twitter is not enforcing their TOS, I gather that the one thing that twitter seems to have gotten completely wrong from the outset is to have copied the broad, willy-nilly and value laden TOS from flickr, a service known for issues of conspicuous self- policing and censorship in the past.

    Freedom of speech is one thing. Harassment is another. One is a human right; the other is a serious crime in most countries.

    For speech that crosses the line of what may arguably be a serious crime, we already have the channels and institutions to deal with it, e.g. law, police, lawyers, prosecutors, courts and what not.

    It cannot be the responsibility of a service / communications / content / provider / facilitator / mediator / etc. to decide and pass judgment on what is free speech and what illegal harassment or say illegal slander. That would be the beginning of the end.

    In the real world, if there are any alleged acts of unlawfulness, one can file an official complaint with local authorities and [hope that] the service in question will be served a notice to comply with local laws. To the best of my knowledge, twitter is not exempt from the real world.

    As to twitter, they seem to be guilty of having adapted a hazy, value laden as opposed to law based and inadequate TOS without really having thought the consequences through. They should have realized – and openly confessed to – this as the issues arose and it became obvious that they are unenforceable and arbitrary. They should have accepted the fact and changed the TOS to something more like the lines of maybe youtube and moved on.

    As to Ariel Waldman, if she's being stalked and harassed it's a serious police (criminal courts) issue – not a twitter TOS (civil courts) issue.

    As to a TOS in itself, I would suspect that one could sue (civil courts) for breaches – if the TOS in itself does not exclude such an avenue.

  6. I know there is a legal side to it and of course you can keep this out of the TOS. But as far as I can see most services have some clause like this in their TOS to make sure they have some means to keep the form of communication on their platform in good shape.

    In the end the question is of most of the users are happy and that's my whole point. If the atmosphere on that service is a bad one people will leave it (and they won't care about asking the police to help I guess).

    Regarding the community maybe it depends on how you define it. See it as the group of your users. But then again Twitter also has a fan community, it's not just a medium. And they seem to care a lot about Twitter's uptime and the atmosphere on that service.

    And yes, we are free to use or leave it and I'd say Twitter rather likes us to stay.

  7. Well, twitter is not a special interest group forum in need of additional protection and moderation as I see it. It was never initiated or curated that way.

    It's an enabler. There's no moderator – and there should never be a moderator.

    Its a self moderating system where individual and corporate interests and rights are protected by law.

  8. I just belatedly read this article at mashable about the youtube vs Viacom and it struck me that it is pretty much describing how I see the issue about twitter/community/policing issue.

    “Media companies still look on the internet as a content platform. That is, they think of it as a new broadcast medium. Most other folks recognize that the internet is a communications medium, and the focus should be on the ease of communication….When it comes to communication,” goes the article’s argument, “the idea of using copyright to restrict content gets weird in a hurry.“

    Just replace “Media companies still look on the internet as a content platform.“ with „some special interest groups and individuals“ and „the idea of using copyright to restrict content gets weird in a hurry“ with „the idea of using ‚community values‘ to restrict content gets weird in a hurry“ and you have the essence of my opinion about the (non-) issue. :)

  9. To clarify what I think of a TOS (for a service like twitter) – they should reflect on – and refer to – law, not try to invent new value-laden rules, open for anyone and their grandma to interpret.