The best comment on Twitter and architecture I’ve seen

It’s the comment left by Michael Kowalchik, aka “MikePK” in response to Matthew Ingram’s post about Twitter’s architecture (or the lack thereof). He’s the CTO of Grazr and makes an important point that every entrepreneur should read. So should every pundit who is giving Twitter crap about being down right now. It is the most important comment I’ve seen in weeks in another blog.

This one comment made me look at Grazr yet again. In the comment Mike seemed disappointed about why the market didn’t show up to enjoy his great architecture. Got me thinking about why Grazr doesn’t have many users and, therefore, doesn’t have Twitter’s scaling problems. Either way, read the comment that Michael left over on Ingram’s blog. The rest of this is just a rant, with a bonus rant about why FriendFeed isn’t going to be Twitter either.


Here’s why Grazr is no Twitter:

1. Grazr’s name sucks. I HATE HATE HATE “Flickr” copy names. Er, Web 2.0 names. It’s so hard to tell other people about things when you introduce misspellings into them. Here, what’s easier to tell someone else about “FriendFeed” or “Grazr.”
2. Grazr solves a problem normal people don’t have. I think Dare Obasanjo is right, too many companies are trying to solve a problem only the weirdos in society (like me) are having. I explained this on the Gillmor Gang on Friday: I’m a noise junkie. Only one out of 100,000,000 people will be like me. If you think you can build a business just on those weirdos like me or Mike Arrington or Louis Gray will ever use, then go for it. But you don’t need an enterprise-level architecture to keep the two of us happy. Look at Grazr: how many people have too many feeds or want access to more? Only a very small percentage. Who wants to tell their friends what they are eating for lunch? A whole lot more people.
3. Grazr’s UI is too confusing. Look at all the hottest services lately. They are simple, simple, simple. Easy to get into and easy to use. Way too much use of color, too. Why? Put this sucker in front of an eye tracking research project and you’ll see why: you don’t know where to look so your eye gets confused and when it does that the next thing that happens is I look for the “back” button to get the hell out of there.
4. Grazr has a focus on A-list blogs. Who wants to read those things? I’d rather read the blogs from my friends. Those A-list assh***s? I already see too much of them in other places.
5. Grazr’s language is cold. No personality. At least Twitter has the “Fail Whale” with lots of little birds. It has a personality. Grazr? Look at the terms they use for their categories. Business. Celebrity. Gaming. Health. Music. Yahh, yahhh, yahhh, boring!
6. Nothing is moving on Grazr’s home page. I’ve been staring at this for five minutes and nothing has moved. Compare to Twitter Vision — which is more inviting? I even refreshed and nothing on the home page changed. Now go to Twitter or FriendFeed or Jaiku or Pownce. Click on the “everyone” feeds on FriendFeed. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Do you see new stuff? I do. It makes me feel like something is happening on those services and that there’s tons of users. Oh, wait, there are.
7. Grazr has UI that looks like Microsoft’s Windows. Enough said. I know what they are trying to do, but look at FriendFeed’s widget on my blog. Does it look like Windows? No, it’s customized so it fits into my blog’s design.

But, go back to the comment that Michael left. That’s exactly true. I’d rather have Twitter with all of its scalability troubles than a perfect system without any users.


That’s why we’re all staying with Twitter. Now, if someone can figure out how to build a perfect system AND get the users to move, then we’ll talk again. FriendFeed is close, but isn’t going to be it. Why? Four reasons:

1. No realtime yet. When I can participate in FriendFeed by using an instant messaging client like Google Talk, then we’ll have realtime. Right now it’s pseudo real time and not wholly satisfying.
2. No SMS compatibility. Can I post to FriendFeed and get messages out of FriendFeed via a cell phone’s SMS feature? Not yet. How many cell phones are being sold everyday? In China alone they are selling six million new ones a month! Now THAT is a market Dare Obasanjo could get excited about!
3. No ability to see a river of noise. Everything on FriendFeed gets reordered based on participation. I want to see just a strict reverse-chronological view.
4. Poor querying abilities. I can’t tell the search to just show me every item that has “n” likes. For instance, I want to see only the popular items sometimes. I can’t do that. Same with comments. I want to see only those items that have lots of community engagement. I can’t. Steve Gillmor asks for this feature another way: he loved Twitter’s track feature. I can’t do that in FriendFeed either.

Oh, well, I’m off on a FriendFeed rant. Enough of that. Thanks Michael for making me think in a different way. What a great comment.


Walking around Paris with Dave Sifry

Doc Searls, Christian Lindholm, Dave Sifry

I was sworn to secrecy about what we were doing in Paris last December. You thought I was there to attend and speak at the LeWeb conference. I was. But we also were testing out Dave Sifry’s new business idea, which he now calls Offbeat Guides. Several people have blogged about them overnight. TechCrunch has a further writeup about the guides.

So, what is it? It’s a paper book. Horrors! Paper? Travel guides? How old school. Heheh.

But, from the moment I saw it I wanted it. Why? It was a paper guide customized to Dave’s agenda. His hotel was right on the cover. Inside everything he needed to know was there. His schedule. The restaurants within walking distance of his hotel (and other ones he wanted to visit). Weather. Transit stations. A list of cool tourist destinations we wanted to get to, and info that he needed to know about them. (When we tested his guide out we were standing in front of the Louvre in Paris).

Even things like key phrases in the language of the region (good for finding a bathroom, or buying a beer), plus exchange rates, tipping guides, that kind of thing.

But why are these so great? Because they are up to date to when you actually travel.

Think about if you are in San Francisco this afternoon as a tourist. Your regular tourist guide has no idea what’s on, but imagine you are right now looking for something fun to do and you’ve already been to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Why not come to the Cupcake Camp this afternoon? If you had Offbeat Guides, you’d have your favorite events listed inside.

I travel a lot and this kind of guide is very helpful. Why paper? It’s a good backup. I have all my travel information stuck inside my computer, but what if my computer dies, or is stolen, or has a dead battery? Plus, I don’t always want to carry my geek devices everywhere, particularly when I’m on vacation and trying to get away from it all.

Brilliant idea. Can’t wait to use it on my next major trip to an unfamiliar place (which will be to Washington DC on June 22).

Thanks Dave for giving me an early look last December. In the photo that I shot in Paris’ shopping district that’s Dave Sifry with Doc Searls (co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto) and Christian Lindholm (one of the key guys behind the Nokia Series 60 phone). Our little tour was a lot more fun thanks to Dave’s new idea.