In a thought-provoking post entitled “Twipocalypse Now: Warnings of a Twitter Bubble“, Neal Wiser wonders about the impact of Twitter’s amorphous, distributed, open [e.g. lack of a] busness model, on your [and my] data and services, and the third-party applications that “feed” off it.
I like Neal’s focus on bubbles as drivers of growth. He argues that:
- Bubbles drive Innovation generating new technologies and processes
- Bubbles add value to existing products
- Bubbles put people to work in good jobs (if the enterprise is funded)
- Bubbles give people the opportunity to hone and develop new skills
He also argues that a Twitter bubble gets 100s of developers to extend the service through user-apps, which may well add value to the service.
However, Neal also counters that a bubble carries risks.
- Drive risky and irrational speculation by unqualified investors
- Cause prices to rise to unsustainable levels
- Expose companies and individuals to considerable and unnecessary risk
- Provide fertile ground for swindlers and other predators
Twitter’s large, recent growth and increased media coverage, its potential link-up/buy-out by Facebook based on valuations in a fluctuating market, a growing number of third-party services that are undergoing market predation, each prompt Neal to highlight possible irrational exuberance that will lead to speculation and a desparate search for capitalisation/profit.
I think that we perhaps need more thought on the impact of social rather than financial capital on the development of social media, or at least the balance and tensions between the two, in the development of social media. I am particlarly interested in the impact of [in no real order]:
- the impact on the development 3rd party apps of a friable development model;
- the [positive?] lack of a Twitter business model. Did YouTube or MySpace have one before they were bought out? I don’t know. What were the implications of a buy-out for service users? Aren’t these effectively monopolies that have maintained a “public service” rationale/utility?
- the open source/standards ethos of many users and their search for meaningful social networks;
- an influx of “Twitter marketeers” or those trying to advertise their e-business throughTwitter. How will that affect any [no] business model?
- the development of social capital and social justice through Twitter. It is the use of social media for social justice [c.f. http://twitter.com/amnesty] and educational gain that drives me.
These issues are more pertinent for me because current economic models in the western world are broken. How social media like Twitter can be used to lever social gains in a time of crisis mean that I will probably not do the first of Neal’s recommendations and back up my Tweets. I’m not sure that much that I say is relevant or useful. However, the follows I have made are – so I need to do the second thing he recommends and back-up my networks, or aggregate the feeds from their blogs
Perhaps the key is to distribute yourself across personal networks that you have mapped cognitively, so that your identity, and traces of your place in certain networks can be recaptured or secured. Or so that where services disappear, traces of your networks can be recaptured. It is the risk of the fragility of these networks rather than my content that I want to reduce, because so much of my social capital is based in them. Securing knowledge about, and then mapping, the locations of these nascent networks will certainly lead savvy social media types to manage Neal’s third recommendation, namely paying attention to developments in the Twitterverse, as a matter of course.
For me, the Twitter bubble offers social positives up to the point at which we talk about capitalisation. At that point I want to run.