Twitter is Stupid

You read it right. Twitter is stupid.

I’m not talking about the product. I think the product is brilliant. The idea of being able to follow interesting people and interact with people who find you interesting is powerful. I’m inspired and educated daily by people like Nanogirl (@medickinson), Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson), Sam Harris (@samharrisorg) and even God (@thetweetofgod) none of whom I would’ve had access to before Twitter.

Twitter even manages to make people clever by forcing them to keep their communication down to 140 characters or less. Insights are crafted into witty little works of literary art and even when they aren’t insightful, well, at least they are short.

It mostly avoids being a shrine to ego like Facebook where the narcissistic gush boring details of their least significant activities. Tweeting requires more thought and tweets alternate between making me smile, reflect and scowl. Tweets make me think because writing them makes Tweeters think. There is wisdom in brevity and when the wisdom stops, unfollowing is silent and without stigma.

So it’s not the product I find stupid. Nor the company that makes it. What is stupid is Twitter’s insistence on ignoring their value as an engine of commerce and mindlessly following the lead of Google and Facebook as an engine of advertisement. Wake up Twitter. Business is being conducted right under your nose and you are doing nothing to either assist it or profit from it. You own a river of commerce and you are raising billboards to obstruct its flow. That’s stupid.

Case in point:

Now this tweet garnered exactly zero replies (the two who favorited it are beyond my ability to rationalize) because, as I have said, Twitter is stupid. Instead of tweeting to the people who can help me, it sends the tweet to my followers who are clearly blissfully unaware of the live music scene in Boston and New York. And yet hundreds of Twitter accounts self-identify as live music venues located in these same cities. My intent to purchase tickets originated in Twitter. The venues that can resolve that intent exist in Twitter. Buyer? Check. Seller? Check. Twitter’s move? They ignore them both. Twitter is one large gathering of buyers and sellers who must go elsewhere to actual do business together! All together now … that’s stupid!

Take your business elsewhere, I can hear Twitter say, followed by the sound money makes when it flies away, which is clearly Twitter’s theme song. Ignoring user intent is stupid. Preventing commerce is stupid. Leaving money on the table is, well, you get the point.

Imagine if Twitter worked like this instead:

The code to do this is alarmingly simple: extract intent from a tweet (which is a well-studied problem, bing and google do it every time you type a search string), find accounts that would happily resolve said intent and tweet that intent in their general direction. A few left-swipes and right-swipes later, design it however you like, broker the transaction and take a cut. Twitter the product veritably gushes with intent. Twitter the company steadfastly ignores that intent in favor of taking the easy way out which is advertisement. Instead users must abandon Twitter and give their money to other third parties.

Let Google and Facebook ponder new ways to annoy their users and duck value at every opportunity. Ads are not the only way to make money. They are simply the easy way. When real value exists in your ecosystem you have the potential to become an engine of commerce, a force to help people get things done. Focusing on advertising in the face of all that value … well that’s stupid.