Twitter and Self-organization – Don’t Mess with Success

twitterantThe recent news by Twitter of it’s intention to legitimize the RT nudged me back to a subject I’ve been meaning to write about for some time, self organization and emergent behavior as evidenced in Twitter.  In fact, the Twitter blog announcing this actually used the word emergent.  Do you think Twitter demonstrates this?

Self organization exists in all types of ways, crystals and biology and urban growth.  It’s the tendency towards order exhibited by various discrete elements with no central guiding mechanism.  Probably one of the commonest examples everyone is familiar with is the ant colony.  Ants don’t cooperate according to some vast plan, or at the direction of some ruling queen (except in a few popular animated movies!).  Their activity and seeming complexity exists primarily from the interaction of various sensory cues.  Cities, before urban planning, didn’t say “Let’s have a slum here, a market district here, wealthy residences there”, the pattern would just emerge implicit from the nature of the activities.

Twitter being composed of millions of tiny tweets offers an interesting study of this phenomena.  There are few rules, and the simple interactions have evolved an increasing complexity to it.  Retweets are a perfect example, or the hash tags, or followfridays.  These weren’t designed into the system, they evolved out of necessity by the users.  All the application programs for twitter were designed outside of twitter, feeding off the simple API feed.

Twitter has been criticized for not being more innovative, and for not designing more structure to it instead of letting others do it.  But this is twitter’s greatest strength, it’s extreme simplicity makes it flexible and adaptive in ways no one originally conceived of.  In fact, one sees a tendency now for other forms of social media to simplify, as with the new Facebook Lite.  I hope Twitter doesn’t get too carried away with complicating it’s basic structure, I think it would be a mistake.  Do you think Twitter should remain simple and let nature take it’s course?  What do you think?

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4 Responses to Twitter and Self-organization – Don’t Mess with Success

  1. CTK1 says:

    “Do you think Twitter should remain simple and let nature take it’s course?”

    Ha, well, I prefer to use Twitter’s web version so you can guess my answer. But I’m glad the web version has added a few new features. I regret that they don’t have an FAQ listed above the Trending Topics. Something right there for new users to click and get the gist of what Twitter is all about. Fast and simple.

    I think a fast click right there would keep more people around if they could grasp the concept faster. One of my friends had no idea how to “add” a follower from the “followers view” He couldn’t see the tiny + sign and simply didn’t get what the hell was going on! Yet he’s intelligent… so imagine how many else get befuddled and give up. Especially your average dunderhead! But smarties and dunderheads …come one come all, hey Twitter get your shizz together!

    There isn’t anything to click in the footer either that tells a person what the deal is. It’d be so easy to explain the RT and # and all that for new users, bam, come on, why isn’t it there? ON THE PAGE, not on some other website, ON THE PAGE where it is most needed.

    But I’m veering. Yes, let’s keep it kinda simple.
    Viva la Tweetdeck and Seesmic and Tweetie and all that jazz, but me, I love the web version.

  2. CTK1 says:

    OH and that ant on the keyboard? ;=}

  3. Steve Dodd says:

    Do you think Twitter should remain simple and let nature take it’s course?

    Yes, it is a platform and its value is being defined by its users daily. What better business model could there be?

  4. David says:

    There should have been an army of ants on the key board seemingly doing their own thing but simply creating the master piece…Twitter.

    Yes, remain simple
    David

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