I have yet to toot my first tweet. Most of social networking has been lost on me. Too much noise, not enough signal.
Which, I suppose, means that there's an unmet need out there. The problem with most of the social networking systems is that they rapidly try to get big or to at least appear big by getting lots of people involved as quickly and easily as possible.
That's not what I want. I want something that doesn't try to suck up all my time with as much frivolous detritus as it can generate. I want something that's really, truly only going to connect me to friends I actually care about, not everyone on the planet who has ever heard of me. And I want the UI to be roughly the same as Craigslist (which should make the implementation easier). I just want to read the text that real friends write; I don't need lots of bells and whistles.
I would also like layers. One layer would be people here in Crested Butte, so if someone says "Going to the Princess at 8pm" it will be interesting to me. At the other extreme, people worldwide in the Python community, so if I'm traveling I can mention it to them (somehow localizing it to where I actually am, so only the people within driving distance will pick it up) as in "anyone up for dinner tomorrow night?"
The problem I have with Facebook and Twitter is that I don't see it serving me that well. The next big thing in social networking will serve my needs first and foremost and make me see it as all upside, no downside.
(The most unpleasant social networking experience was the first: LinkedIn, which allows you to easily sign up but apparently you have to CALL THEM ON THE PHONE to get off! Which only serves LinkedIn by keeping their so-called numbers high. Definitely not serving me. When someone starts thinking of ONLY serving the customer, then I'm interested).
You're absolutely right about the signal/noise ration on Twitter. It is probably one of the easiest services to get turned off from immediately. Anyone who values his time is unlikely to give an in depth look at Twitter.
I was the same way initially, but was so curious as to what all the hype was about that I did stick half-heartedly to using it for the first year.
Then came the San Diego fires.
It turns out that unless you live in one of the rich areas of San Diego, you're unlikely to find news coverage easily for your part of town. It is during events like this that quick and easy news is extremely important. It would be nice to know if your block is going to be engulfed in flames in 30 minutes. And you cannot rely on officials or traditional news sources for this kind of information.
Using twitter, I was able to get up to the second updates about the fires. Before going to bed one night, I made one last check of Twitter and learned that the fire was within 2 miles of my house. I didn't believe it because I'd been outside about an hour before and the coast was clear.
I stepped out onto my porch and could see flames coming down the hill about 1.5 miles away. Family, who had 'evacuated' to my house, and I got up and evacuated.
Sure, this is a pretty extreme example, but there are actually lots of day to day uses of Twitter as well that aren't obvious at first.
- Getting the attention of companies who would otherwise ignore you (I had an Intuit software issue resolved after twittering about it and having a rep contact me).
- Getting otherwise unavailable info at large events, like "session 3 cancelled, we're meeting outside to goof off instead".
- Getting word of your favorite blogger about his upcoming post about something important to you.
But things like this are not obvious to a new Twitter user. It truly is a potential goldmine of relevant data if you know how to find it. If you don't, you're extremely likely to get turned off by all of the noise.