Twitter’s product ideas funnel

Since its founding, Twitter has made a religion of listening to users. After all, they came up with some of the company’s best ideas — including the hashtag, reply and retweet. After the flow of good ideas from users stopped, Twitter was hard-pressed to come up with its own.

Bloomberg: Why Twitter Can’t Pull the Trigger on New Products

The first part of that quote is a fact – users came up with hashtag, reply, and retweet, and Twitter (the company) adopted them.

However…

Continue reading Twitter’s product ideas funnel

Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

The other day my wife complained, like many of us Twitter users have often done:

Why do people write these long tweetstorms, instead of writing a blogpost?

I blog. And I write tweetstorms. And the answer to that question, for me, is in three factors – reach, effort, and ephemerality. Continue reading Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

Star vs Heart – Twitter update

What Twitter got right:

‘Star’ is used for a variety of reasons, most with nothing to do than to mark a tweet as favourite.

What they missed:

‘Star’ is also used as read notifier, a bookmark, and a reply-later reminder.

Heart’ just doesn’t cut it for these uses.
Like’ doesn’t work either.
Star’, by accident, was almost perfect.

Update: Using bright, colourful hearts, may be a good start to bringing back some positivity to Twitter.

Text screenshots on Twitter are a desire path across the wall gardens around content in apps and platforms, and Twitter’s text-dominant streams.

Twitter cards, though a handicap on pure, free sharing of content, provide a way through the content wall gardens. But even the cards don’t provide the break through text clutter that images do. Specially, on 3rd party Twitter clients.

Tagging – Only Follow, No Filter

For consumers of content tags, or #tags, serve two primary functions:

  1. The Follow function: To follow news of interest (e.g. a column with #lbl tweets showing latest updates from the race without me having to follow it live on TV), and
  2. The Filter function: To filter out specific content from the stream for various reasons, such as
    1. to either avoid listening news before we want to (match scores, movie spoilers), or
    2. to avoid getting drowned in updates during big events (SXSW, Google IO, WWDC, IPL, SuperBowl tweets taking over the timeline for brief periods), or
    3. to remove news from the timeline that we’re not at all uninterested in.

Content & platform companies all love the follow function, and have tried to make it as easy as possible for users to access it.

It’s understandable. Apart from allowing easy search, this also presents a straightforward way of targeting advertising to users based on interests. This ability to show relevant advertising – Specialized Shivs to users following IronMan world championships, and the latest BAAS to developers following Google IO – is extremely valuable to these companies.

The filter function, on the other hand, is almost universally neglected. None of the content consumption platforms that I use –  Twitter, Google+, WordPress and Pocket – offer any easy built-in way of filtering out content. All of them make it trivially easy to follow specifically-tagged content using tags or #tags.

A large number of popular 3rd party Twitter clients have the feature to filter out specific content, indicating the strength of user demand for the filter function. That 3rd party clients have this feature, also indicates that technical complexity isn’t the reason holding back content platforms themselves from providing this function.

Users want to cut out noise & irrelevant info from their content streams, yet none of the content serving companies make it easy for them.

Are there any technical, UX, business, or legal reasons for most content companies not providing filtering functions, or is it just a conscious, unfortunate, neglect of end user needs?

I’d really like to know.

What does $3.2 Billion buy you?

Motorola – a Google company, no more.

What?

In August 2011, Google bought Motorola Mobility for a reported price of USD 12.5 Billion. This included cash and credits of about USD 4 Billion. Net price paid: USD 8.5 Billion.

After a year and a half of shedding employees and departments, and putting some of its own execs in-charge, Google sold the home equipment business of Motorola to ARRIS in December 2012, for USD 2.35 Billion.

Finally, on 29 Jan 2014, Google sold the remaining operations of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for USD 2.91 Billion. Except the patents. It kept the patents for itself.

Why?

So, after all the buying and selling ended, Google ended up picking a bill of about USD 3.2 Billion. What did they get for that not-so-insignificant amount?

Some, from one end of the tech divide, will tell you they got some dud patents and a hole in the pocket.

Others might differ. Martin Bryant put out one insight on Twitter:

Google keeps most patents after reviving an ailing player in the Android ecosystem: a Machiavellian scheme if it was all preplanned.

[Update] Chris Lacy had other angles in mind:

Samsung made app concessions, Google left phone hardware & there’s a S/G patent deal. Lots more to this. Reporters, go investigate & report.

[/Update]

The truth, I guess, is somewhere in the middle. Google did end up brilliantly reviving an ailing player, one with a strong existing brand, in the Android ecosystem. They still might have overpaid for the patents, though no one will ever really know unless they’re tested in a court. The sale also helped assuage any troubled feeling amongst other players in the Android ecosystem who may have started feeling threatened by a reviving Motorola owned by Google. Individually, none of them seem worth the money. Together, they start to seem like a master stroke.

The Answer

So, to answer the question in the title: USD 3.2 Billion buys you about 20,000 patents (incl pending) of some value, a vibrant market for your product (Google’s flavour of Android), cooperation of key market partners, and a stake in a fast growing but controversial market without having to directly invest there (Lenovo operates, and is HQed, in China!)

Google got a great deal, me thinks!

Twitter wins too.

In this feature war between Facebook & Google+, the consensus amongst industry followers seems to be:

Consumer is clear winner and Twitter is clear loser, everything else is still up for grabs.

Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I feel Twitter will be a winner too. And my explanation for that is that good old KISS principle works everywhere – in this feature-cluttered fight for social network dominance too. And in that space – for a ‘simple’ social network – there is still no competition for Twitter.

The feature battle between FB and G+  is developing them both into powerful, yet increasingly complex, properties. This is good for users like me and the people I read – we are all technologically adept, willing to trade simplicity & a little time for more powerful features and more control over what we see / read / do.

Yet, that is not what everyone wants. Many, if not most, people just want simplicity.

People like my girlfriend. Her primary network is Twitter – she loves its simplicity in her time-starved life – and the second one is Facebook – because it has an interface she’s familiar with and because that’s where most of her friends & family are, i.e. the network effect.

People like Om Malik, who wrote a short but insightful post earlier today about increasingly feeling social network fatigue and how increasing complexity was adding to it. Twitter should pick up this punch line from his post and use in all their advertisements:

I use Twitter all the time because it is simpler, easier, real-time and always on!

People who Mike Elgan quite nicely categorised here (read that full post, it’s good):

Most Facebook users just want to interact with family and friends. They don’t want to learn anything. They don’t want a more powerful platform. They don’t want Facebook to be more like Google+.

For these people, the increasing complexity of features and controls on Facebook is causing a dissonance.

Why Twitter wins?

Simply because for the first set of people above – like Om and my girlfriend, who are always pressed for time and attention – Twitter provides a clean, single timeline that they can read and update. No likes or +1s, no separate profiles to update, no privacy controls, no circles, groups or smart-lists for sharing, no albums, apps & games. Just one timeline – simple.

The fact that of all three social networks, it is the best integrated and easiest to use on mobile helps it even more.

My hunch is, that for these people who crave simplicity – Twitter will start taking over as their primary social network.  Yes, people will still stay on Facebook, many will even join G+ – but Twitter will become their primary network, with cross-posting apps their tool to update the other networks.

And that, will be a big win for Twitter.

Twitter will never be as big and ubiquitous as Facebook already is, or G+ wants to be. Yet, it has a community that is highly involved and committed. These, time-starved individuals, looking for an online community where they can feel comfortable – will not just join it, they’ll love it and commit to it in a manner they never did to Facebook.

Also, though their numbers might be small, these are the people who advertisers value a lot – people with short attention spans but good money to spend. They also happen to be the same people who are hardest to reach through old media TV & print advertisements.

Result: an increase in the ‘quality’ of users on twitter – both from their contribution to the interactions on the network as well as their value to the advertisers. Or in other words – a win for Twitter.

Continue reading Twitter wins too.