Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twitter...oh Twitter...

Now, I know there are people reading this who are fans of Twitter. They love Twitter, they are on there, twittering or tweeting, or whatever the correct term is, day and night. I know that millions are now using Twitter...but I must confess...I just do not get it's appeal.

Now I can hear the cries, I can hear the shouts of disagreement. And I will admit, maybe it does have some use. Certainly, if you want to link to a post, or an article somewhere, or make a quick comment on some issue, or publicize something, it may be useful. Because there are those millions, all linked together in some loosely tied network of 'followers' to 'followers'. But as a form of conversation, I suggest there are far better ways online..does anyone remember IMing. Now, it is not public, but to me that is a plus. It is clear and easily followed. People are not reading some Tweet in the middle of a conversation wondering what the heck are they talking about. Oh, I can hear some saying, you need to download something like TweetDeck or TwitterFox. Well, why do I want an application that is so flawed that I need to download another application to make it really usable? And it is SUCH a draw on your time if you try to pay attention to it, a distraction to my already distracted mind. Then there is the supposedly growing issue of companies and vendors searching your tweets for keywords and then sending you spam after spam based on what you said. Well, it is ALL public there on Twitter, but I for one don't need anymore spam.

OK, maybe I am just not a social person. I admit I am an introvert. Maybe Twitter is just not for me. I could accept that happily. No Facebook, no Myspace, no Twitter.

But...something happen a couple of weeks ago that I just can't get out of my mind and it involves Twitter and what I suggest is possibly a real negative aspect that goes to the very heart of what Twitter is. It is fast. It is brief. It is, by it's very nature, superfical.

It was Easter Sunday. Somewhere, I think on cable news, they were discussing a Big Hoop-De-Doo controversy being 'discussed' on Twitter, starting on Saturday. It seems there was an issue with Amazon. Some authors, who happened to be gay, found that their books were no longer showing a ranking on Amazon. They had before...they did not now, making them also very difficult to search for. Amazon was out to somehow censor LGBT authors!
Now it was Sunday, and I am sure the headquarters of Amazon, as most businesses, were closed for the weekend, and the only representative of Amazon anyone seems to have talked to was a lowly customer service rep who gave an inadequate and poorly informed answer that just riled people up even more.

But no need to wait for evidence, no need to look into the suggestion that this was part of a large computer issue perhaps. No, the thousands and thousands and thousands of tweeters were decided. It was an Evil Conspiracy. Boycotts of Amazon were pledged and as the day wore on, it got more and more angry, more unreasonable, nastier and nastier. The few lone tweets that calls for pause, to wait for the facts, who pointed out it was perhaps illogical to think that Amazon, for some unknown reason, would want to alienate there LGBT readers, were ignored in the sea of angry tweets, all feeding off each other. It was a mob mentality of tweets. If Amazon was the Monster in the castle, the tweeters would have been storming the gate with pitchforks and burning torches.

But the problem was it was all based on almost no known facts. Call it the 24 Hour News mentality. All facts must be know instantly and all problems resolved by the next commercial. We are overwhelmed with material to process, and the more there is and the faster it comes at us, the poorer job we do with it. What actually happened to those rating is still being discussed. It seems it was far more widespread than just a number of LGBT books. Some claim it was the work of a hacker. Personally, I have no idea, but I really don't think that we need another medium that allows us to think even less, and consider issues even less carefully, and to not acquire the facts before we make a decision but instead just react emotionally, just as quickly as we possibly can. The damage is done. Consequences be damned!

Now, ok, it was not all Twitter's fault. It might have happened on another medium..but it didn't as far as I know. Twitter by it's very nature made it possible.
You know the really funny thing? One of the big investors in Twitter (and can someone explain to me how Twitter makes any money?) is none other than Amazon founder, Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos. I guess he better not take weekends off anymore!

P.S. Of course, maybe it will all be moot at some point. I just read an article that says Twitter has low user loyalty. A lot of people sign up, maybe because of the famous people they hear on it, but "more than 60 percent of Twitter users have stopped using the micro-blogging service a month after joining, according to Nielsen Online research released on Tuesday."

22 comments:

  1. I do enjoy twitter because of its possibilities for conversing with a large number of people at once. It's fun to go on and have a whole lot of book bloggers ready to respond to me, and it's easier than giving out my email address or IM screenname so that I can have a one-on-one conversation that way. I really love this community but I'm not likely to have all that much to discuss with a single blogger in an IM conversation. Maybe a chat, but twitter makes it so that there is no need for coordinating and you can respond hours later if necessary. News is instantaneous and if it's doubtful, it can be checked.

    You're of course completely, 100% right about the panic possibilities of twitter. Outrage grows from virtually no facts very quickly. I read an article which blamed the panic over swine flu on twitter. It's human nature to panic, though, so twitter is enabling us, but is not itself at fault. And about the Amazon thing, it started with blog posts. Twitter just made it worse, but isn't entirely at fault.

    I can also totally understand the need to disconnect sometimes. I know I turn it off when I have to get things done. It's just like facebook was when I started college. Brand new, everyone I know is on it, and perfect time-waster. Similarly, facebook protests were organized and non-factual situations were blown up. At some point, we're just going to have to start blaming the internet for giving us news quickly without opportunity to check the facts properly, and then perhaps TV and radio because the media is at fault for inciting panic to begin with. I think it's human nature. I think the worst thing about twitter is that it allows our attention spans to get shorter and shorter, which is never good.

    I don't think twitter makes all that much money. I read an article about ways they're considering making it more profitable, like making "premium" accounts and stuff.

    Does any of that makes sense? Twitter is an enabler but I think most of the fault lies with people panicking and/or reacting too quickly without checking the facts for themselves.

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  2. I'm not a Tweeter. I'm resisting. I do Facebook, once every couple of days. I am hoping it blows over. I loathe people that have their heads over a device to the point you can't even have a conversation with them! I may give in at some point, but for now, I'll just stick to my obsession with blogging!

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  3. Twitter makes my head spin. I do participate somewhat, but it's really hard to pick up threads of conversation when there are so many people tweeting about different things...

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  4. I have a Twitter acct, but maybe sign it twice a month...I don't get the attration either. Like Lenore said, it can be awfully hard to try to keep track of conversations. I have Facebook too, but hardly use it either.

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  5. yes Meghan, I think you make perfect sense. Sure, the medium is not to blame, but I thing it just plays to people's worst instincts...the difference with say a blog, is that a blog post takes some time to right and with time you are forced to thing a bit, to explain yourself. Not true of Twitter.
    we are just so overrun with information and most of it is of a very poor, incomplete nature...

    Sandy, you are right. one obsession is enough...lol

    Lenore, I am glad I am not the only one whose head is spinning there.

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  6. I'm with you on the "No Facebook, no Myspace, no Twitter." Frankly, I already spend too much time online!

    I am curious to know what really happened with Amazon!

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  7. I don't Tweet myself, though I occasionally follow other people's accounts (Thomas Peters of AmericanPapist, for instance). Mostly, I just don't think anything I do is particularly tweet-worthy. It seems like an exercise in "look at me! look at me!" Kind of like the AIM away message of this generation.

    You also make a good point about the rat race of 24 news, exacerbated by Twitter and blogosphere. Journalism in its true form- a commitment to fact-checking, source-clearing, and actual accuracy, is long dead, replaced for the most part by info-tainment chasing ratings and hype.

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  8. I don't yet Twitter but have been wondering if I should ... I mean "everyone is doing it so shouldn't I?" But I barely have time to blog. The only use I can see is that I could easily get extra entries for giveaways ... perhaps that alone would be worth it.

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  9. Okay first of all...you know i love Twitter. I'm not really on there 24/7 just like to keep up the appearance that I am. ;)

    But the second part of your post? I wrote and rewrote and just didn't have the courage to post. I was so sure that I would get hate mail for daring to say the reaction to Amazonfail was absurd. And whenever I post controversial things no one seems to agree with me. :)

    But you said it so well. Well done.

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  10. It was rather interesting, and more than a bit frightening, to see how the whole #amazonfail thing played out on Twitter. Even more interesting to see how it just...died when the facts finally came to light. It was definitely a mob mentality, and a very good exercise in the danger of jumping to conclusions.

    I do like Twitter, quite a bit. It's fun to check in and see what's going on with other book bloggers throughout the day. I can definitely see how it could become a real time stealer, though. Like most good things, I think less is more.

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  11. Your point about Twitter being a distraction and a time-drain is very valid. I do have TweetDeck, and *stops typing to check TweetDeck* can get sucked into it easily if I have it running. I blame Twitter for why I didn't get more read for the Read-a-Thon.

    There are pros and cons to the idea of the open conversation that Twitter provides. It's 140 characters, so you have to say it and send it, which does limit the depth of the content. And you do come in in the middle of it all, and have ot back track the Tweets to know what's going on. But, unlike IMing, everyone who's on can participate in the conversation, and with TweetDeck, the app can run while you do other things, and alert you when someone Tweets. You can develop a commraderie (comment thingy has no spell checker) that you can't in emails, IMs or blog posts.

    I hadn't heard anything about the Amazon-LGBT rumble, so thanks for that :-)

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  12. Maggie, you are right about a real truth seeking media being dead...if Twitter or twitter like media is the replacement in these very complicated times...we are in trouble.
    I too am a fan of Peters...but i follow him on his blog. Actually I follow him on Twitter and rarely ever read it.

    Jenners, I do suffer from a bit of a feeling that I am missing ...something....but I guess I will have to live with it.

    Amy...you, scared...sorry, I just don't buy that...lol
    It was absurd...and see, we agree! ;-)

    Ruth, it was absurd and yes, a bit scary. and yes, so amazing how it just died when some fact were known. You know, Amazon is huge and while they might suffer some long term damage, because some people will always see a conspiracy or something there, they will survive.
    but what if that happen to an individual or a smaller business...it could do real damage.

    koolaidmom....I could jump in, in theory...if I could ever get the thread of what the heck they were talking about...lol

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  13. As a writer and as someone who knows many of the NONgay writers who were affected by the derankings of their books on Amazon, I take a different view of what happened.

    Word got out that books with certain content (erotic scenes, not merely same-sex -- and even some withOUT erotic scenes) had been deranked. Authors rushed to check if they'd been affected. When they realized that their books were no longer easily found by an interested audience, they raised a stink. After all, this is their income being affected. This is the small business being affected, caite. If an author doesn't reach a certain threshold of sales, they will not get a new contract for more books. An author's career hinges on sales.

    The bru-ha-ha fell silent when the rankings were restored, NOT when the excuses were made. The excuses were poor, at best. The action was deplorable, especially because while you couldn't find a certain book by Lauren Dane (for example), Playboy remained on the front page of the site.

    You have a point about mob mentality, caite. In this case, however, the mob was correct: their books had been unfairly removed from parts of Amazon's search engines. No one can buy a book that they can't find. Which means that authors were in danger of losing their careers.

    Who is Amazon to make the call of who should be published and who isn't? If they'd like to censor their offerings, fine. But then they shouldn't brag about how if it's in print, it's on Amazon.

    And telling the authors what's going on would be nice, too. Many of them have buy links on their sites that connect directly to Amazon. Or... they did.

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  14. Gwen...by Twitter..or my post? :-)

    Susan, first of all, let me thank you for posting your point of view.

    I am not great fan of Amazon. As regular reader here might know, Evil Amazon (as I like to call it) and I have a love/hate relationship. I am not happy with one Giant Company having so much control of an industry with a product that I love, books. On the other hand, I love the cheap prices, the excellent service, the unlimited selection.

    And if Amazon intentionally choose to single out and 'punish' a group of books, or a group of writers, any group, that is a matter that it's customers will have to consider if they want to continue to do business with them. BUT...I have not seen that evidence. In fact, evidence seems to point to that not being true. And that is my point. I want discussion...like this one...and I want people to make decisions based on facts and not just hot-headed feelings, riled up to a frenzy by thousands and thousands of tweets.
    You see excuses...I see explanations...you say they were 'removed', I think, in all likelihood, it was a huge error based on metasearch functions. And see here or in a forum like this, we are able to present the facts that back up our opinion and make rational, informed decisions. And I am all about rational, informed decisions.

    If that decision is to never shop at Amazon again ..or whatever...I am fine with that. But I hate people, a mob, feeding off a lack of information and making decisions based on that and I think Twitter makes that very easy to do.

    As to damage done, to you, or any writer and compare that to the damage done to Amazon....Amazon is one source. Yes, one HUGE source but if an author can not easily be search for there will it ruin their career? Maybe..maybe not. Personally, I think not. If Amazon disappeared tomorrow, I suspect the publishing world would survive.
    If you, as an author, are not getting what you or your publisher have agreed to with Amazon, you have a legitimate beef to take up with them.
    But there is a way to do that.

    Now, what Amazon suffered, damage to their name, their reputation, is, in my opinion, priceless..and maybe permanent. And I have yet to see the facts that any of it was deserved.

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  15. Caite, I LOATHE Amazon, but the first thing people ask when I say I'm a writer is, "Can I buy your book on Amazon?"

    So yes, damage was probably done. It'll be impossible to actually quantify how much -- just as it'll be impossible to know if these authors actually got a BOOST from having their names mentioned. "If you search for Anya Bast..." -- how many people went, tried it, got intrigued by what they eventually found, and bought? How many people ran out to their local B&N or Borders -- or indie shop -- and ordered a copy or two of the removed titles in a show of solidarity?

    It CAN go either way. And truly, we'll never know which outcome is the right one.

    I totally agree about the hazards of mob mentalities and Twitter. I'm trying Twitter out now and so far ... I'm not addicted. We'll see what the upcoming days/weeks brings with it before I make any decisions. After all, it was via Twitter that I was led here!

    Back to Amazon... if this WAS a mistake by some geek (who very well might work for the Tour Manager's ex-roommate, btw), then why were all these books de-listed, but not more generally offensive items, such as Playboy? Why was that still so available? There were other items that were not de-listed, too, items that fell (in some cases) even more within the apparent parameters of the novelists whose books were affected. After all, some of the affected authors and/or books don't contain erotic content of ANY kind.

    That inconsistency is what makes me think it wasn't a mere database error made by an overzealous coder. It didn't affect me; I'm not big enough nor sexy enough to have been a target, and thus, you can read more about the inconsistencies at the blogs of the various authors who were affected by it.

    The Tour Manager's other job is to build computer hardware. He knows more about how these things work than I do and HE thinks it smells like something other than a genuine error. I married the geek; I trust his judgment.

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  16. I applaud your courage! I've been reluctant to post anything about Twitter because so many people love it so much, and I don't want to step on any toes. And I'm really not sure what to think about the Amazon uproar. I've just been turned off by the whole minute-by-minute quality of Twitter. I can't imagine any circumstances under which I would want to post my every thought and activity on the internet. And if I did, why in the world would anyone want to read it? I guess I'm just another confirmed blogger, not a Tweeter.

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  17. ok Susan, we agree that we both have issues with Amazon. But...my problem with it be anything deliberate on there part is WHY would they want to alienate a segment, a vocal, organized segment, of their their customers and authors. It makes no sense from what I know of their company.
    If you believe them, many other segments of their inventory was effected. But "if you believe them" is the problem, isn't it?

    Personally, I see no reason not to at this point.

    Jlshall, brave or stupid...lol
    I don't get the appeal. but if others do and like it, hey, that is fine with me.
    It is just that "whole minute-by-minute quality" and how that effects a 'conversation' that concerns me.

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  18. Why would they do it? Well, because they CAN. They've probably heard lots of complaints about the subject matter seemingly at hand, and in an attempt to placate them...

    One of the problems in life is when we try to please everyone. One of my good friends says that when you do, you're not being honest somewhere along the line. He's right.

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  19. Well, you are free to think that and I am sure some people agree with you. To me, it just seems like a very bad business decision and it seems to me that Amazon is all about the business.
    True, you can't please everyone, but would they choose to anger and displease an organized and politically savvy group? I just don't see it...
    if there is some proof otherwise, believe me, I will be the first to admit I am wrong.

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  20. No argument that they're all about business, and business their way, a la the Wal-Mart model, too.

    Why antagonize this group of writers? I think because they're romance writers, at least in categorization (not everyone agrees that the steamier stuff is romance, but that's another argument). And sadly, romance writers and readers continue to be looked down on and disparaged.

    I think this was a big miscalculation. Yes, we've seen the conservative thinkers be very organized and proactive, on the political scale as well as pop culture (anyone remember how Rosie O'Donnell changed her show when people started e-mailing her and complaining?).

    I think no one expected it from a bunch of (in dismissive voice) romance fans.

    Their mistake. Big one.

    In fact, I'm intrigued by the very pro-romance movement that's in full swing right now. I think it's a great thing. Jacqueline Carey coined the fab line "Love as Thou Wilt" for her fictional world; I'd love to be part of a "Read as Thou Wilt" world.

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  21. hey...I like Wal-Mart! ;-)

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