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Re: [twitter-dev] Some thoughts leading up to Chirp

Abraham Williams Apr 12, 2010 12:19 PM
Posted in group: Twitter Development Talk
I have much to do before my flight tomorrow so this is rough and should be read as such.

Even in light of recent events Chirp is looking to be a good time that will hopefully result in fruitful dialog from all. Considering the magnitude of the issue it would have been, in my mind, pertinent to have had this email ready to go on Friday for what must have been expected pushback. Leaving the overactive imaginations of netizens to fester is rarely helpful. I think many of us understand the reasons but are now feeling threatened because space previously understood to be of little direct interest from Twitter is now very much squarely in Twitter's targets. 

Usability is always a concern and the explanation of Twitter has always been difficult at best, but I think there were better ways to handle this they would have resulted in less developer duress. I find it slightly ironic that some of the blame is Twitter's restrictions on the use of trademark design and terms, though I realized Twitter has it's interests to protect and so I won't fault you on that. Suddenly announcing stepping into the developer space seems like the easy fix for you. But at what cost? I've been developing on the Twitter platform for a long time and I'm not going to think twice about future projects where before I didn't. Many other new and experienced developers are along the same thought process. Maybe you should have worked with developers to smooth over the onboarding process instead. A good start would have been design documentation to present users with a more consistent experience. Here is the text you should present new users, here is the icon you should use for retweets, etc. Much could have been done without impeding the creativity of developers while still making it easier for users. Would users still get lost looking for an Official app? Probably, but I would argue it would have been a better result than the distrust now implanted in all developers thoughts. The loss of a user is the loss of a single user but the loss of a developer could be the loss of thousands of users.

The communication between Twitter and developers has look more and more like this:

Twitter: We are rolling out this change.
Devs: Wait! What?
Twitter: ...
Devs: Wait! What?
Twitter: ...
Devs: Wait! What?
Twitter: Ok. we took your feed back and will tweak it a little.
Devs: But what about this?
Twitter: ...

Yes this is an exaggeration but the idea holds true. There has been less of an ongoing dialog and more of Twitter dictating changes. Is it Twitter's right? Yes. Is it our right to bitch and move to other platforms? Yes. Smaller issues seem to have much better dialog between individual Twitter developers working on the specific subsystem which is great but the small issues also screws less developers when things change.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the platform team (who are all true hackers at heart) for being stuck between the business side of Twitter and the third-party developers. We can't seed the business side telling you no the the nifty features I'm sure you would love to developer for us. All we just see you saying no. There is a level of transparency that I want from Twitter which is understandably not an option for the majority of startups. (*cough* *cough* @dacort) That dream of transparency is reminiscent of a time when the API group felt more like an open source project where the platform team seemed more like overworked committers then employees of an multi-million dollar corporation. 

I would also like to point you to @funkatron's heartfelt blog post much of which holds true for me:

Many of you will see me at Chirp of which I am looking forward to, but Chirp no longer has the shiny luster it once had and as Twitter overshadows the community more and more I too will look more and more to other platform and other communities.

I hope we didn't use up all your minutes Ryan. :-P

On Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 17:22, Ryan Sarver <> wrote:
I wanted to email everyone and share my thoughts on the acquisition
from Friday, the communication around it and where we are going from
here. We're incredibly excited about Chirp, and I think an open
dialogue going into it is important. I look forward to meeting many of
you there and continuing the discussion.

We love the Twitter ecosystem and work hard every day to help support
you and make the platform you are building on as successful as it can
be for everyone involved. We love the variety that developers have
built around the Twitter experience and it's a big part of the success
we've seen. However when we dug in a little bit we realized that it
was causing massive confusion among user's who had an iPhone and were
looking to use Twitter for the first time. They would head to the App
Store, search for Twitter and would see results that included a lot of
apps that had nothing to do with Twitter and a few that did, but a new
user wouldn't find what they were looking for and give up. That is a
lost user for all of us. This means that we were missing out an
opportunity to grow the userbase which is beneficial for the health of
the entire ecosystem. Focus on growing and serving the userbase is
beneficial to everyone in the ecosystem and more opportunities become
available with a larger audience. We believe strongly that the
ecosystem is critical to our success and this move doesn't change
that. We have analytics that show our most engaged users are ones that
use SMS, AND a 3rd-party application. It further proves
that there are different audiences and needs that we can never meet on
our own and we all need to work together to provide what is best for
the users. Once I understood the long-term view I strongly believed it
was not only the right thing to do for users, but the right thing to
do for the ecosystem as a whole.

To be clear, we are going to work hard to improve our product, add new
functionality, make acquisitions when it's in the best interest of
users and the whole ecosystem at large. Each one of those things has
the potential to upset a company or developer that may have been
building in that space and they then have to look for new ways to
create value for users. My promise is that we will be consistent in
always focusing on what's best for the user and the ecosystem as a
whole and we will be sincere and honest in our communication with you.
To the point that we can, we will try to give more certainty about the
areas where we think we can maximize benefit to users. We will
continue to focus on what is best for users and we will work together
to make sure that we are creating more opportunities for the ecosystem
on the whole. We will also admit our mistakes when they are made and
the Blackberry client should never have been labeled "official". It
has since been changed and you won't see that language used with
Twitter clients in the future.

This week will hopefully show that we are focused on building a
platform that no longer just mirrors functionality, but
offers you raw utility that provides much greater opportunities to
innovate and build durable, valuable businesses. I also want this week
to be an opportunity for us to get together and discuss the future of
the platform and how we can improve our communication, responsiveness
and clarity. We have an open office hours at 10:15am on Thursday at
the Hack Day and I invite all of you to come by for a discussion to
talk about the future of the platform and help us craft a working
relationship that is beneficial for both of us. I will provide a free
ticket to anyone from this list that is unable to afford the current
price so that they can be part of that discussion. Just email me
directly. For those of you who can't make it to Chirp, it will be live
streamed so you can tune in from home -- where ever home might be.

As always, you can reach me by email or by phone, 617 763 9904. I am
here to listen and provide clarity when possible and you should know
we are committed to working with you on this.

Best, Ryan

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