Over the last month or so I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my online behavior. For some time now I’ve been a regular Google Reader user. I’ve set up the RSS feeds from all the excellent blogs and newspapers on the subjects that I am interested in and the bloggers I’ve come to expect quality content from. I had the feeds organized by categories like “work”, “books”, “news” and “tech”. My usual pattern was to log in Google Reader scan the different feeds and catch up on what was going.
I’ve also started paying more attention to the people in my Google Reader social network. I actually have no clue how these people got in there, since I definitely don’t remember adding them by hand. I think what Google did was to add people I’ve exchanged emails with and who had a Google Reader “profile” automatically. Actually, if someone can shed some light on this, I would appreciate it.
Anyways the people were good sources of interesting articles that they read and starred. These would appear in their “inboxes” on my Google Reader page. Since I had at some point a conversation with them (or was friends with them) we naturally shared some interests, and I enjoyed reading what they enjoyed reading.
The main problem with Google Reader was that I was always way way behind, literally thousands of items behind, and that depressed me. Every time I logged in, I saw how far behind I was, and I chastised myself for not logging in more and spending more time reading this great content that was just sitting there waiting for me.
Enter twitter. I actually joined twitter some time ago, and I really hated it at first. The thing I hated the most was the artificially imposed 140 character barrier. I hated the internal lingo of RT, @, # and whatever other weirdness that imposed itself on all its users. It was yet another jargon to get used to, and I am not a big fan of jargons. So I was quiet for a few months on twitter, not really getting what it was all about.
My first two tweets were:
- Still trying to figure out why I only have 140 letters to express myself. Wtf is this, some kind of joke? Livejournal? I repeat myself
- Haiku: another social network // what do i care? // i’ll just use it for bitching
And these are very indicative of the user experience I was having at the time.
So at this point you are probably asking yourself: is there a point to this post? Yes, in fact, I was about to make one. The point is that I finally got the value of twitter about a month ago, and the value is that I get quality content only from people that have a history of delivering — not from a site that’s hit or miss but from a live person who has a consistent set of interests and acts as a screen, a filter over many different sources of information. If the person is proven, so is their content, and the more interests you share with them the better.
The particular subject that I became interested in was startups. I wanted to get some insights into what the startup community was talking about and what things were trending, and in span of several weeks I read more quality pieces than I could have ever spotted if I simply signed up for the RSS feeds of a handful of happening startup blogs. The signal to noise ration is insanely high when you have the power of collective human filtering at your fingertips.And that IS the value of twitter to me.
Oh yeah, someone’s been talking too much about his girlfriend and not so much about startups? Bam! – just unfollow him/her. It’s that simple. That’s the learning/pruning part of the algorithm, and it yields immediate results.
So here I am telling you about all this stuff. I made a point (sort of), but is that somehow related to the app we are building? Incredibly it is. No, I mean the twitter switch was not pre-meditated, it just happened naturally after we decided we were going to build something. But the point is that the core assumption of our future product is that people are fundamentally more interesting to watch than sites and that people are far better sources of content than RSS or content editors.
Everyone has already done their homework and built their network of connections in real life. Whether we consciously control the process or not we pick the people who are like us and who share our values and beliefs. More importantly, they often share our interests. The only thing we need to facilitate is delivering relevant social content from your network to you, also making it easier for your network to create this content. And that’s effectively what we are doing.
So coincidence or not, but I do feel we are onto something here..