Prelude to BearHug Camp

by francine Hardaway on August 18, 2008

This is a tough post for me to write. Here I will reveal the fact that i am “just” a power user of microblogging sites like Twitter, or as Steve Gillmor would say, Tw*tter.

And here I reveal that. although I now understand the pressure being put on the microblogging community by a few brilliant people to make the services better for the user, I don’t care enough to keep switching.

So here I will also reveal the fatal flaw in the efforts to make microblogging perfect. Nobody cares. Once the “quick and dirty” version is up, and works, the great mass of people adopt it and move on. Like they did with Windows, or Office. There’s a point where a service crosses the chasm, and the switching costs for the average user become a big “not worth it.”

This is not to say that microblogging services have not become a huge part of my life. I spend hours with five Twhirl windows open on Space 2 of my desktop. Space 1 is my browser, and by default all my apps, which are now in the cloud. Space 3 is ITunes. Space 4 is up for grabs. My Twhirl windows monitor conversations on Seesmic, Twitter under the user name hardaway, Twitter user name Earth911,, and Friendfeed. And when I can’t be with Twhirl, I follow Twitter and through track with Twitterspy and Laconicaspy using Gchat.

I started with Twitter when it started, thanks to my friendship with Scoble, and I was very happy with it. I grew an entire community of friends through Twitter. They are all over the world, and when I meet them face to face, they are like long lost relatives. After all, we spend part of EVERY day together. What RL friends can you say that about?

But then everyone else discovered Twitter, and it became unreliable. So I switched most of my attention off it and adopted Friendfeed. And then, when an open source alternative came along, I switched to, mainly because it immediately had “track,” a feature that allows me to follow conversations in real time. Twitter had it for a while, and then it mysteriously vanished during an outage, never to return.

But in two weeks, I go back to Phoenix. There are about a thousand people in Phoenix, a city of 4 million, on Twitter. Fewer on Friendfeed, and maybe no one else on All this will fade to black for me as I sink back into the local Phoenix bad real estate economy and nothing is important anymore except housing prices.

I understand that the people trying to make and Twitter better are like the political candidates trying to change America. I understand it’s a hard job to make business or government more responsive to its customers. And someone has to hold their feet to the fire, both corporations and governments.

But I can also see from following the American elections that producing change is not easy, because most people just do not care. Their horizon is so narrow that it doesn’t encompass change, even for the better, and they don’t care from one day to the next what happens even in their own country, much less on Twitter or

That being said, I fully intend to be at Bear Hug Camp.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Roy August 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Francine –
I agree with your post.
That being said please (oh please) do not be so black/white about Phoenix. I worked for a Technology Company (not to be named) on Coast Ave. in Mountain View for 6 years. Phoenix is my home.

I’ve met many, many very bright people in Phoenix – it is not a technology dead zone any more than San Diego, Denver or Austin.

I’ve committed to helping make Phoenix and Arizona better for tech… and work hard through ASU Poly and AZ Tech Council toward that end.

When someone like you says what you said about Phoenix imagine what it puts in the head of VCs and Angels who might consider funding my (or any other) AZ based startup.

So as a Phonecian, Silicon Valley Alum and Arizona Tech Startup founder – I’m begging you – keep it balanced.


Brian Roy

francine hardaway August 18, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Brian, I’ve lived in Phoenix for 40 years. I started the Enterprise Network, the Arizona Technology Council (which was ASA) and just about every other tech group, including the Stealthmode dinners, the Fasttrac program, the Entrepreneurship Conferences, Social Media Club, …blah…blah…blah. I can only tell you the majority of Phoenix wouldn’t know how to evaluate a good tech company if it landed in their soup. I know that from experience. I’m not going to stop trying, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a land developer.

Brian Roy August 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Exactly my point – 40 years in your opinion matters to those who matter.

I’m not so worried about the quality of those who evaluate a good tech company in PHX (which does, however, create a huge access to capital issue)… as much as I’m concerned about the general perception that if you are doing a startup in PHX either:

1) You couldn’t cut it in “the valley”
2) You have no idea what you are doing because you aren’t starting it in “the valley”.

You point about a capital issue (lack of access to, quality of). I refer to a perception of talent issue.

The good news is I know we will both keep trying.

PXLated August 18, 2008 at 4:03 pm

So Francine – Can you explain (in any detail) the ultimate SG goal? I followed over to identica but agree with you, most don’t care or switch. And if he switches again I’m not following until his every goal is met, whatever they are.

francine hardaway August 18, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I probably shouldn’t speak for Steve, but I believe he wants to be able to hold real time conversations (track) and not have his social graph held hostage to a single point of (potential) failure.

PXLated August 18, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Understand that part and agree with real-time. Identica has that with track (xmpp). So is the second part that he doesn’t want to help Twitter by having a 2-way bridge? Understand that also. Just don’t understand why he abandons identica when they’ve given him more than anyone else and are working hard.

francine hardaway August 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Um..not sure. But listen to Friday’s show and you will hear Evan and Steve diverging.

Karoli August 18, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Hmmm, Francine.

Should we simply surrender because people don’t get it today? People didn’t get the Internet at first, or message boards or blogs or RSS.

It seems to me that if there is a small community who does ‘get it’, the response should be to lead rather than surrender to the masses.

Yes change is hard but often necessary. My vote goes toward change.

My mom used to hammer into me that if I was going to take the time to do something I needed to get it right the first time. What Steve is trying to do is get it right the first time.

Why should we allow the ‘big boys’ to define the infrastructure of the real time web without speaking and leading where possible?

francine hardaway August 18, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Didn’t say we shouldn’t. But I do understand that not everyone will take the time to come along behind us. In fact, most won’t. 40 years of experience tells me that, although I continue to be an early adopter. I just no longer expect my friends to follow me. Instead, I make new friends.

Peter Santilli August 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm

As a new member of the Twitter community, I immediately encountered limitations & restrictions being implemented to (as Twitter put it) “inspire creativity”.

I actually started using Twitter under a different user name, and ultimately had to delete my old user name and begin with a new, all because I had exceeded by daily allotment of followers/followees. Within approximately 1 or two months before I was introduced to the NGL team, I was struggling with the very issues that I’ve been hearing Steve Gillmor rant about.

In short – speaking from as new user’s perspective who recently struggled with the existing limitations of Twitter – I made due simply because there were no alternatives.

Fortunately, I hung around long enough to stumble into the Gillmor Gang & discover that the alternatives are being engineered right before my very eyes.

I’m excited to be a guinea pig in the project, and I encourage you to recognize that there’s potentially a lot of users out there that had the same negative experience that I did. If so, as it’s built…they will come.

Loren Heiny August 18, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Francine, many local (Phoenix) people I know are still trying to figure out Twitter. I think it confuses them because of the typically small networks that they interact within.

One local person I’d really like to see join Twitter is Steve Sanghi of Microchip. I think it would be a terrific move for him with regards to reaching out to the many high school students that participate in the FIRST competitions. It would be a great way to broadcast updates about the competition from his perspective–being one of the leading proponents of the program as he is. Anyway, if you ever bump into him, give him a nudge. :-)

Izzy Video August 18, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Okay, I know this is beside the point of the post, but my favorite line is:

“Space 4 is up for grabs.”

I howled! :-)

Thanks for the great thoughts!

By the way, I have stuck with Twitter because of how much work I have put into my community there. I get exhausted thinking about trying to get everyone to migrate to anything else, and I’ve only got a few hundred followers.

Marina Martin August 18, 2008 at 11:36 pm

There is a very huge difference between Twitter and – federation. If you’re on Twitter, they own your community. You cannot go anywhere else and take your friends with you.

On, you can seamlessly follow users on other microblogging services, so you can switch services without losing your community. (This isn’t working perfectly yet, admittedly, but it’s getting close, and it’s a high-priority goal.)

Microblogging should be like email – I can email from with no problem.

Evan Prodromou August 19, 2008 at 4:44 am

Francine: I think there’s a flaw in your argument. First, people don’t just automagically flock to this or that platform. There’s something there that catches their attention.

I think for Twitter, it was the sparseness and almost ridiculous simplicity that attracted so many people. Also, the permission to talk about the trivia of one’s life without having to justify it in several paragraphs (blog) or bother one person in particular (email or other directed messages).

Second, I disagree that most people don’t mind the UI for microblogging. I hear from a lot of people that they mind it a lot. The typical answer is a lot of extra doodads and gizmos that undercut the interface’s simplicity. I think it’ll take a sharp, sharp scalpel to get this balance right.

My feeling is that there’s a lot left to do, and skilled UI designers are in short supply. So: looking forward to seeing you at BearHug.

gregorylent September 1, 2008 at 3:57 am

i hear “phoenix” and i think no water in 20 years.

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