Tuesday was a unique day. As the 12th day of May and its second Tuesday, I had appointments to keep within civil society. While I was out and about interacting with other human beings in-person, Twitter launched a change. Download Squad reported that Twitter changed part of their core functioning. UX specialist Whitney Hess railed against the change. Gregory Pittman linked on Twitter to a blog post where Twitter explained that the change was due to engineering limitations related to system stability.
This presents a core problem in the Twitter debates. Twitter may be where people hang out. Is it structurally capable of handling the load, though? Are there reasonable assurances of consistent system behavior? Today's blog post dances around the problem of scalability somewhat by relegating it to being the 800 pound elephant in the room.
Twitter, at its core, is a fairly limited service. External bolt-ons like TwitPic, Twibes, and more were created to make the service do more than was ever intended originally. Re-tweets, "Follow Friday", and other such things are more limited now which practically prevents serendipitous discovery. Unless service was contracted by a library with Twitter, there could be no guaranteed service level which could potentially annoy patrons that might seek help via Twitter.
Twitter is not the only game in town for microblogging, though. In December 2008, LISTen talked to Evan Prodomou who is a principal designer of the Laconica software platform. Identi.ca is the flagship site for the Laconica service while others like TWiT Army and Dungeon Twitter also exist. Group functionality that Twibes provides Twitter is also integrated into Laconica itself. Twitpic, Twitterfeed, and more can now interact with Laconica-based sites just as easily as they can interact with Twitter.
It seems a technically superior choice to Twitter exists. With the weeping and gnashing of teeth observed Tuesday over changes in functionality, the question is raised as to what constitutes the bright line that has to be crossed before someone will switch services. At the least, you can control your own local Laconica installation far more readily than you can impact engineering decision-making at Twitter. With federation possible through the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, there is less of a need for the monolithic microblogging platform than before.
The biggest question seems to be, though, what the next move is for Twitter users.
On The Twitter Brouhaha by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.