I am a huge fan. You are two good guys. Twitter is the most addictive thing I've experienced since I quit smoking in 1987, and it's so much better for my health. I have built a multinational circle of friends because of Twitter. We care about each other even if many times we have never met.
I could extol your virtues at length. In fact, I often have. As a writer, I love the Twitter story.
Late one night, while an exhausted, enthusiastic team slaves away, one absent founder uses the SMS hack to send a photo link of himself gloating over a glass of wine. That photo spawns an epiphany. The hack is more valuable than the company. They give investors their money back and start over again. Twitter is born. The team shares it with a few friends who share it...you've heard this part before... .
We're up to the part where Twitter goes viral, where growth accelerates, where most users have never met you and many have never even heard of you. We'e at the part where servers are straining and those who do know and like and respect and appreciate what you have done are getting frustrated with crashes and glitches and lost tweets and unexplained weirdities.
You two are on a fast track, moving at a breath taking pace, but you've just come around a sharp turn and discovered you've hit a tough patch of mud. It can slow you down, cause you to slip and fall on your butts or even get you stuck. The patch is more dangerous than you think and it requires your immediate attention.
Social media people are a fickle lot. We are more loyal t each other than we are to the sites we visit. If some of us leave and find somewhere else to hang out there can be unexpected stampedes of friends. The good news, is that will ease the obvious strain on your current system. The bad news is you can very rapidly become yesterday's news
Ev/Biz, people are talking. This last "scheduled maintenance schedule for prime time i your prime market, got moved and when you finally did it, the end result was that things were more of a mess than they were before. Tweeters are talking mostly about Twitter and they are not singing praise. Some folks say you should be bought, bring in adult supervisors to manage things or that maybe a circle of friends should go give Pownce a try. I do know of such a case, but I'll wager that somewhere this week a couple of young entrepreneurs started working on a business plan to replace you.
I hope not. I'm still hopeful and joyful about Twitter. I like it there. I have a wish list a mile long for Twitter, but before I start gushing about that stuff, I need to feel confident that Twitter can walk solidly for a while without limping or stumbling.
Here are just a few ideas, you might want to mull over:
- Fix what's broken. OK, Twitter is a hack built on thin Rails. It was neat for a few dozen people, but you have gone viral and can be potentially huge very quickly. You need to rebuild the whole thing. My technical friends say you should use PHP, not as a patch in a few places, but you need to build the foundation so that it is solid and scalable and you need to do it fast because you have fallen behind. How do you do this in transition? You talk with your userbase. You keep them informed. You kill yourselves to do what you say you will do.
- Reveal monetization plan. If you have it, share it. We users need to understand how it will impact us. Biz, I loved the time we shared in Spain, but it disturbed me when you smiled and said, "there's so many things that we can do." Silicon Valley graveyards are filled with startup corpses, whose founders uttered the same words. My 25 years of consulting companies taught me the #1 cause of death is not lack of financing. Its lack of focus. I have heard so many gushes of what a startup COULD do. The trick is to figure out what you SHOULD do.
- Share your data. Like Facebook, Twitter seems to be a bit squirrelly with its numbers. A little more transparency might help you. It is useful to a great many people to know how many users you have, how often the average Tweeter posts, what the average number of followers a Tweeter has, how many messages a day, geographic distribution, etc. I simply do not understand why you are not willing to share such data. How can sharing it hurt you? Sharing it will allow the crowd to share wisdom with you on what it means.
- Don't sell while broken. You'll suffer the same loss of return that you woud selling a Mercedes with a bashed in fender.
- Start a Twitter blog. You both have decent blogs but you need one that is focused on talking to Twitterville. Hell Evan, you of all people do not need advice on the value of blogging. But there is a need for conversations deeper than 140 characters allows. Share a few aspirations and fears. We are a passionate and knowledgeable community. But neither of you appear to me to be particularly interested in having an ongoing dialogue with customers and that is a bit disappointing from my perspective.
I believe that the two of you have an opportunity of a lifetime and right now you are at a crossroads, one direction puts you on an interactive superhighway and the other will give you an ending like Thelma & Louise.