How could I have been so head shakingly, gobsmackingly wrong? In a post last January about how NOT to use Twitter I excoriated the use of the @ symbol to converse with friends proclaiming the service was not for discussion but rather for status updates! I was only parroting the company line but Emmet Connolly set me straight -
"In general, I don't think software (especially on the web) should try to impose its predetermined usage model on the user at all. If someone finds an innovative way of using a tool, why tell them they're not allowed, or worse, prevent them from being able to? If I were one of the Twitter guys, I'd be thanking these "@username" guys for the idea and looking for ways to adapt the software in order to *empower* these users to do what they want to without getting in everyone else's way."
Emmet hit the nail on the head. And probably without realizing it tied down the reason why Twitter beats Jaiku despite the latter's superior set of features. Steve Gilmor provided another clue in his essay about the Gesturesphere -
"We take it a lot more seriously than we let on, but like high school we pretend that it doesn’t hurt when we’re insulted, passed by, snickered at, or worst of all, not noticed."
When Alex Hofsteede told me he was leaving New Zealand next September to come to Ireland for a few months I advised him to join Twitter where I introduced him to my social circle with a public message directed @ him. A number of my online friends subsequently advanced open welcomes to Alex by addressing him similarly, in public.
Ironically Twitter fosters social inclusion by virtue of what it makes difficult - replying to a message (there's no 'comment' link) and directly addressing a response (it's much easier to type '@name' than use the direct messaging system).
Jaiku on the other hand encourages siloed conversation threads simply by providing a convenient comment link at the foot of each message. It's amazing to think that such a minor difference in design could engender such a major different in usage pattern. But it does.
Twitter fosters social grooming, Jaiku kills it. Nobody direct messages Robert Scoble on Twitter right? It doesn't help elevate your standing amongst the tribe to groom the alpha-blogger in private. The gesture must be made openly. And you'd better pray the reciprocation, if it comes, is made in public. Bonus brownie points. Tribal envy.
It's all about fle@s you see, digital fleas, those well known objects of social grooming -
"Many social animals groom each other, an activity known as social grooming, mutual grooming, or allo-grooming. Items removed during social grooming are identical to those removed by personal grooming. Social grooming also takes the form of stroking, scratching, and massaging."
I was very impressed with the recent presentation made by Jaiku's Jyri Engeström's, a sociologist, outlining the future of social media and networking, primarily due to the emphasis he placed on the core social object, the device that brings people together online. But something didn't feel quite right. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
Now I can. Isn't Jaiku itself missing the most basic social object of all, the grooming object, the digital fle@? How can you be socially inclusive when the culture of the service imposes private grooming?