Monthly Archives: August 2008

Note: this is a response to my previous article, It’s Oh So Quiet.

In my last post I wrote about my disappointment with Twitter’s cancellation of outgoing SMS updates. I received a comment from my brother, raising an interesting question:

Some good points, bro.

What I can’t understand is why the major networks haven’t started a joint initiative that allows broadcast conversations like Twitter had over SMS. Users could send broadcast texts for the price of a single text (given that it must cost the network the tiniest fraction of 10p to send a message) to a group of up to their friends. I reckon it’d be a good way to increase SMS usage.

I suppose the reason they haven’t is that all of this will be changing over the next few years as people email better integrated into their phones. With the mobile phone networks just be happy to take money for data usage instead of SMS.

I must say I agree, the migration of voice calls to VoIP too, is as (if not more) inevitable in the long run as mobile phones become even more seamlessly integrated as ubiquitous computers.

But a ReadWriteWeb article today about the launch of another new ‘pay-to-tweet’ service from 3jam, suggests possibly the best solution to fill the Twitter SMS-void, they believe, because they already offer a service that does almost exactly that.

‘Supertext’ is group text messaging from the web on an credited account basis. But as Sarah Perez points out, 3jam already operate on a large scale and with huge volumes of SMS, so surely they should be in a great place to to negotiate a good, i.e. cheap, deal.

Could it be so ‘good’ that it’s worth paying for a previously free service? Maybe. As she asks, is there enough worldwide demand for Twitter via SMS for any of these pay-for-Twitter services to make it?

Pretty gutted about Twitter’s changes to their SMS service. They’re no longer delivering outbound SMS over their UK number, so although UK users can still use it to update, they will no longer receive remote device notifications.

When Twitter introduced a limit of 250 international device updates per month last November, I could deal with it – I myself not afflicted with what Mike Butcher diagnoses as ‘Twitarrhoea’ – and could see the reasoning. Twitter support concedes the issue to expense and cost effectiveness, presumably the volume of international traffic can still be handled stably, I guess they just can’t strike the right deal with UK providers. Michael Arrington reports that cost to be $1,000 per UK user, per year – a staggering figure.

But Butcher also questions two interesting outcomes. Whether:

“UK users may start unsubscribing from people who tweet incessantly.”
“Or they will cut down the number of Twitterers they follow.”

Whilst I find the first almost motivating, that a community moves to prune and better itself, solving to enrich a collective exchange, the latter troubles me – that an established, relied on service (albeit reluctantly) makes changes to their business model, directly effecting, by way of forced change, our social behaviour online – clipping our activity and way of interaction.

I’d be interested to see how, or even whether, the behaviour of Twitter users and usage changes with geo-location. I am part of a community of Twitterers of around 15 who each closely follow and are followed by each other, internally. We’re very aware that we believe our use of Twitter to be quite different from most others – or at least it was in the very beginning when we first joined. For us, far from a micro-blogging platform, it is a mechanism almost purely for group social communication. Although due to our careers, sparks of debate are often tech-centered – it’s by and large far more recreational than at all serious.

I’m not alone in expressing my feelings, and it’s not pretty. Hopefully the effects of this change will be prolonged and result in either a celebrated reversion or at least some kind of solution – like the Facebook group earnestly campaigning to cut Twitter a decent deal, rather than opportunists gaining from the downtime.

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?