Twitter vs. Jaiku and the MySpace problem
Twitter is like standing in a room with all your friends in it, screaming out what you’re doing every now and then so everyone can hear it. Sometimes it’s useful, as in “Beer, anyone?” and sometimes it’s annoying, as in “I just fed my cat!”.
You can also hear your friends’ side of conversations they are having with other friends, which is like sitting beside someone while they talk on the phone. So in addition to the above, you get messages like “Wednesday is fine” with no context, or even “Beer, anyone?” not directed at you, but still landing in your SMS inbox.
This falls into a category my friend calls social noise. Like zoning out in a crowded restaurant, you hear lots of people talking, but without context it’s just buzz. You might as well be at home alone–it doesn’t make me feel connected, it makes me feel like I’m missing things all the time. Compound this with the fact that each above message represents an SMS to be deleted, and it quickly becomes a chore.
Twitter SMS messages all have the same level of importance, and they are relentless. You can’t tell from the beep in your pocket whether it’s your girlfriend asking you to pick up some milk before you come home(useful), or Joe telling some stranger he’ll be “there” soon(pointless). And the beeps just keep coming.
My text message inbox also serves as a loose to-do list, so general statements of la-la are somewhat unwelcome in bulk quantities. I like knowing what my friends are up to though. What next?
Enter Jaiku. Jaiku is developing passive presence. I only see what my friends are doing if I feel like it. And I don’t have to tell them what I’m doing all the time–my phone does that for me, automatically reporting my general location as I move around. My friends can go look at my “presence” in a kind of address book on my phone, but my status reports won’t be filling their inbox.
If I want to add something more specific, like “I’m going for a beer,” I can. But I don’t have to. This has already come in useful, though mainly on the domestic front–my schedule is not fixed, so during the day I move around between certain specific locations quite a bit. By checking my Jaiku presence, my girlfriend can tell, for example, if a meeting is going on forever without having to SMS me, and can plan accordingly. She is also saved an inbox full of “still at work” status reports. She only receives the information if she’s looking for it(she might not care when I’m coming home), and I don’t need to bother her unnecessarily.
You’re also spared listening in on your friends’ comments to their friends(which some people like), thanks to the Jaiku commenting system, which lets you comment on a specific jaiku. This comment is only seen by the original poster, or by others who comment on the same post.
You can choose to get your Jaikus via SMS, but seeing them on Jaiku mobile is what brings in the value for me. At the moment you can’t see your “overview” on your mobile, but apparently this feature is on its way. The overview (or post feed) is also nice because you can add other feeds to it, so I can see links to my friends’ new blog posts, or new Flickr photos, or even their posts to Twitter.
I’ve heard several times now that Jaiku has “better” features than Twitter, but “all my friends are on Twitter.” Which is how we get to the MySpace problem:
MySpace is hardly the best, or even semi-best social networking site out there. In fact, the platform itself hasn’t seen many changes since the 90’s when it began. Compare it to imeem or even Friendster, and it looks like a tabloid disaster area. Changing your MySpace page’s background image can confuse even seasoned coders, because it’s a gum-and-toothpicks affair that MySpace wasn’t initially designed for, and they haven’t updated their code since then.
Yet at the moment it’s the most popular and well-known social networking site, probably because the mainstream media, (who seem only barely aware of the fringes of what’s going on on the web) picked it up as a poster child for “connectedness” and put it on/used it with shows like the L Word. So throngs of rubes filled it up, and now because your cousin Bob who can barely handle email has a MySpace page, you have to have one too, because he won’t join imeem because he hasn’t seen it on TV. I’ve had friends admit to me that they HATE MySpace, but have a MySpace page only because it seemed inevitable. I am hearing the same comments about Twitter.
Now Twitter is not MySpace–it’s simple and relatively uncluttered, and it does what it does as it’s supposed to. It is nice to be able to have a “anyone for a beer?” app. I just think it isn’t doing it well enough. And it’s frustrating to see Twitter growing as a result of a mood of social inevitability instead of the strength of its features. If more people stuck to what they thought was better, Jaiku could do well indeed.
It occurs to me that the two services could also combine nicely–Twitter reserved for grand announcement-type messages, and Jaiku for random thoughts and status reports that everyone doesn’t HAVE to hear immediately(which is most of the time.) Immediate vs. passive info. Twitter doesn’t work for me currently as an announcement thing, because there is so much data coming in I can’t put in the time to sift through it all. I often end up reading Twitters about doing something several hours after they were posted.
Another possibility might be being able to sometimes post specifically TO Twitter through Jaiku while receiving Twitters as SMS and Jaikus in your Jaiku Overview stream. Your Overview could also include your Twitter feed.
It is already possible to receive every Jaiku as an SMS, but that would turn it into Twitter. The day has only so many hours and I only have so much attention. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
Next post will probably be about the privacy question–and what else Jaiku is good for. I’m collecting a list.