One of the curios of Twitter is that despite how far the platform has developed since its inception in 2006, the co-founders of the network – that is, Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams – aren’t exactly de facto examples of good practices when it comes to using the product that they built.
In fact, a lot of the time, both on and off Twitter, they come across as a little awkward.
Moreover, most of the positive changes and features on the system have been user-inspired or led. And when Twitter gives us their version, it’s often ill-advised, and occasionally wildly unpopular.
So, when USA Weekend ran a photo-shoot with Biz Stone that included tips from the man himself on getting smarter with Twitter and social media in general, our instincts should tell us to take it with a pinch of salt. And they’d be right.
Biz says he spends about half of each day using social media in some way or another, and has been since he first began blogging back in 1999. For him, social networking is here to stay.
“People are social animals,” he says. “We need these tools [to] help each other become smarter and do bigger and better things. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Imagine what we might be able to do together because we’ll be in sync.”
That’s fine, if a little wishy-washy. But it’s when Stone reveals his recommendations of who to follow on Twitter that I think, once again, he comes over as a little bit out of touch with where Twitter is, and what it means, circa March 2011.
I mean – he actually recommends following @sockington. And gets enthused about it.
“There’s a guy who tweets as a cat, and it’s really funny. Anyone who has a cat is like, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect.’ ”
Other essentials on the Biz-list include Shaquille O’Neal, Conan O’Brien and Today Show anchor Ann Curry. Again, great, but why so vanilla and predictable? Okay, so this piece in USA Magazine is a way to connect Twitter with an audience who may not know an awful lot about who is using it, and these big names might trigger a few extra converts. I get that, although it still doesn’t explain @sockington.
But what I’d love to see is a just a little bit of edge. In their official releases, Twitter seems to relish in the illusion of mystery – certainly when it comes to hard data – so it’s ironic that the contributions made by many of the Twitter board (and I’m including Dick Costolo in that group, too) are the opposite of this. Mediocre. Grey. By-the-numbers.
Of course, Twitter certainly hasn’t set the precedent for the powerhouse behind a successful social community to be somewhat of an anti-social outsider himself, but that doesn’t make it good. And it doesn’t make it right, or acceptable, or inspiring.
All of which makes me wonder: does Twitter need a new (and better) public face?