Twitter is not a Conversation Platform

Insightful post from O’Reilly about the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter, which echo very basic thoughts I’ve had about the service. Mark Drapeau goes into much more depth than i’ve thought about the topic. He starts out saying:

Perhaps the most common reason given for joining the microsharing site Twitter is “participating in the conversation” or some version of that. I myself am guilty ofusing this explanation. But is Twitter truly a conversational platform? Here I argue that the underlying mechanics of Twitter more closely resemble the knowledge co-creation seen in wikis than the dynamics seen with conversational tools like instant messaging and interactions within online social networks.

What makes for a good conversation? There are obviously many different kinds of conversations, but I think what most people would consider a conversation has a number of key elements:


  • A narrative thread that is flexible and changeable, but follows a familiar pattern. Twitter lacks that (or rather, the way that Twitter threads are typically represented make the narrative very difficult to follow unless you spend some time learning the lingo
  • A coherent, relatively stable, and acknowledged set of participants. Twitter conversations jump around between participants, you never really know who you’re talking with, and random people can jump in at any point
  • Shared contribution. Twitter obviously allows anyone to participate, however, Drapeau notes that 90% of Twitter content is produced by 10% of participants. This is more like someone holding court at a party with people standing around saying “hell yeah” or “ditto” rather than a real conversation.

Twitter is supposedly breaking more into the mainstream, but for me it is far from certain that the attributes that have served it well in its niche pioneer audience of techies will translate into a mass medium. The lack of ability to define what Twitter does has made it part of the fun so far, but will hinder its broader adoption.

Read Mark’s full article >