Twitter’s traffic in trouble?

I see over on Mashable that Twitter’s traffic is flat. Is Twitter in trouble?

Based on my watching of more than 16,000 accounts, no. Usage is better than ever. But, keep in mind I only care about geeks and tech talk. I don’t track how many people are talking about cat photos or celebrities or all the other dreck that’s on Twitter.

But these reports and charts have two major flaws:

1. They potentially undercount overseas users.
2. They potentially severely undercount users who use clients like Tweetdeck or Seesmic.

Last week I spoke to two groups at CES, mostly marketers. Most of those audiences raised their hands when I asked them whether they used clients like Tweetie, Tweetdeck, and Seesmic desktop. So, if and quantcast are undercounting those who use clients, or aren’t counting them at all, then we’re all arguing about nothing.

But, let’s say that these charts are right. Does that matter? It does to Twitter. After all, it’s easier to get hype and get advertising if the charts head up.

Why might these numbers be right?

1. New users get shoved into celebrity land immediately. That hardly is very satisfying. Come on, have you looked at what Oprah or Ashton are tweeting about? How about all the other celebrities. Here, go check it out (I’ve embedded a preview of this celebrity list from Mashable here):

new TWTR.Widget({
version: 2,
type: ‘list’,
rpp: 30,
interval: 6000,
title: ‘Picked by Mashable’,
subject: ‘Inane celebrities’,
width: 250,
height: 300,
theme: {
shell: {
background: ‘#9d96ff’,
color: ‘#ffffff’
tweets: {
background: ‘#ffffff’,
color: ‘#444444’,
links: ‘#030303’
features: {
scrollbar: true,
loop: false,
live: true,
hashtags: true,
timestamp: true,
avatars: true,
behavior: ‘all’
}).render().setList(‘Mashable’, ‘celebrity’).start();

2. Text in 2010 is boring. In an age when YouTube is growing nicely (here’s a comparison of Twitter’s growth to Youtube’s) it’s time to add some nicer displays to Twitter. When Twitter is looking as boring as my black and white Kindle you know something is wrong.

But, anyway, this is all a way to say that there’s a good amount of room for improvement on Twitter. I can see many many areas that Twitter could improve its service to make its service more engaging. Here’s some:

1. Get rid of the 140-character text-only limit. Facebook is a lot more fun to use than Twitter because you can see photos and videos right inline in the feed and you can actually communicate something more than the metaphorical equivalent of a grunt.
2. Greatly improve the list feature. The idea that it’s limited to 500 accounts is really stupid and the fact that I can’t create more than 20 lists per account is equally stupid. It means you can’t create lists of things that are complete. For instance, I already know of more than 500 tech startups. Let us create lists of lists, which would dramatically increase their usage.
3. Come out with a “supertweet.” Or, a new display surface for each tweet that can display all sorts of metadata. That would make each tweet more useful.
4. Add comments to each tweet.
5. Make the new retweet feature more useful by showing much more information about each retweet.
6. Improve search so that it has some usefulness.
7. Integrate a game into Tweeting, like Foursquare has. Give out badges for good behavior.
8. Greatly expand the bio. Or, just scrap the bio and make a deal with Google to integrate Google Profiles (here’s mine) into Twitter. Make it easier to search for people and companies.
9. Get rid of the follower counts. They are a game that increases noise. Everyone knows, like Anil Dash reported, that they don’t mean anything anyway. They just reinforce bad behavior.
10. Get rid of the suggested user list and, instead, point people to Listorious or something like it, which would let people find groupings of people using Twitter (with a preview).
11. Give us a private Twitter that we can share just with our friends (and make it easy to choose where Tweets go).
12. Give us a much better direct messaging capability. Right now that’s very lame, even compared with the very lame Facebook capability.
13. Give us a major UI update. Time to take Twitter into 2010 and stop making it try to fit into a 2006 mindset.
14. Make it easier to create and manage multiple accounts. Why do I need to use tools like Seesmic to tweet to my three accounts? Why can’t Twitter itself hook them together? This would let me create accounts with a lot less noise and a lot more purpose, which would help new users a lot.

Just some ideas.

But, anyway, how real are these numbers? Is Twitter’s traffic in trouble?


The best of the best and the worst of the worst of 2010 CES

I’ve been watching Twitter for the best of CES lists, and since I went last week I’ve got my own perspective on it too. First, the coolest display I found was the Intel infoscan touch monitor. That’s the video that’s above.

Let’s head through the best of the best of CES.

Fast Company: What to Take Away from CES. My favorite of the group, keys in on the real trends (which were hard to find at CES). While everyone else was ooohhhiiing and aaahhhhiiiinnnnggg over 3D TV Fast Company found the mobile and interface trends that will really matter.

Android and Me: Best of CES 2010: Android Edition. Android was all over the show floor and these guys found it all.

CNN: Best new toys from CES 2010. Yeah they got most of my favorites. The Parrot AR.Drone is mondo cool. But where’s Boxee? CNN was asleep during that demo, I guess (Boxee Box was named by CNET as “Last Gadget Standing” for best of CES, which concurs with my opinion).

TechRepublic got your favorite geeks to speak out about what they found interesting at CES. Yes, I’m on there.

TechCocktail: best of 2010 CES. An even better list than CNN has, includes Boxee and Ford, both things that impressed me.

Engadget: Crapgadget Crapdown, CES 2010: the best of the worst. Engadget is the official blog of CES, and was everywhere you didn’t want to be (honest, do you really want to sit through 50 boring press conferences instead of watching Cirque du Soleil?) and found the worst gadgets of 2010.

Appboy blog found three cool videos that captured CES.

Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision 3, found the Seven Weirdest, Wackiest, and Dumbest products from the show for the Huffington Post.

VentureBeat made a bunch of photos that capture the CES experience.

Ars Technica went further with the picture theme on a post titled: CES in pictures: the good, the bad, the Elvis.

CrunchGear did a postmortem. There’s that Intel screen again (yes, it really was the coolest thing I saw at CES). Crunchgear was all over the show floor (we met them inside the Canon booth) and they wrote up their favorite gadgets here.

ZDNet found an Android-powered microwave. That’s what happens when you take a platform approach. Weird gadgets come out.

Aging in Place Technology Watch wrote up their top-ten technologies from CES, which includes more wellness gadgets than other writeups.

G4’s writeups include a ton of video games, which I didn’t pay much attention to, other than to check out the very cool 3D Avatar game. 3D games are gonna be hot this year. 3DTVs? Not so hot due to lack of content.

iPhone Life found a few services that turn your iPhone into a Universal Remote control. I gotta test those out.

VentureBeat wrote up their favorites from CES. I loved that NVidia tablet, but asked the CEO if their technology was going to be in the Apple Tablet. Let’s be honest, Apple is the one we’re all waiting for. His answer? “I can’t comment on our partner’s plans.” Hmmm.

The Telegraph keyed in on Ford’s plans to introduce a “tweeting car.” I want this in my car.

Engadget, again, had a series of podcasts from CES, but here’s their final one where they wrap up what they saw.

Tekzilla uploaded a TON of video from the show floor.

My favorite product of the show was the Boxee Box and eGuiders got a video demo of it from their CEO. CNN also wrote it up after it won “last gadget standing” at CES.

The Washington Post made some cool photos of CES.

Oh Gizmo found that the RCA Airnergy captures energy from the wifi signals going through the air. Incredible if it works as promised.

Ben Parr, in discusses why 3D became the dominant trend at this year’s CES. My favorite? The Sony OLED 3D TV. You had to wear glasses, but damn it was sharp and fun to watch. I can’t see buying one, though. Wearing glasses for more than one movie or sporting event a week would make my head hurt and even if I got over that hump there just isn’t much content and no affordable camcorders (the cheapest 3D camcorder I saw was $22,000).

PC World looked at all the in-car technology and put together a video.

Seagate showed me USB 3.0 and their new thin hard drives. USB 3.0 makes your hard drives a lot faster.

Macworld wrapped up a bunch of the HDTV news that came out of CES.

Wired’s Gadget Lab has a ton of gadgets, including the Que eBook reader. eBooks were all over the place, but I just don’t think they will do well when compared with Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Distribution is key here, not cool gadgets. Speaking of which, Engadget has the e-reader story of CES 2010 where they look at all the cool new ereaders.

Gizmodo has the best “best of CES” writeup I’ve seen so far. Or, at least, it’s the most complete.

Entrepreneur focused in on the best trends to come out of CES, including portable projectors. I am building a studio and am thinking of how I can use these small pico projectors to shine people and images on the walls here.

At Friday nights’ blogger party I got a chance to see the Parrot AR.Drone and thought it was the coolest thing (not the most useful, but the kind of thing that will keep the kids busy for hours). Anyway, toucharcade has a hands-on report about the AR.Drone.

James Kendrick is a guy I know from the time I used to sell tablets for NEC (yes, there WERE slates back in 2002 that were a quarter-inch thick!!! We forget so soon). Anyway, he put his hands on all the slates he could find and writes them up.

The TV I thought was coolest was the LG ones that have Skype built in. I can see these becoming a staple in conference rooms, especially at startups. I have a video of the screen.

Ubergizmo just posted a good list of neat stuff they found. Very complete and agrees with my own list.

Finally, Ryan Block and Pete Rojas over at GDGT did a great job of covering CES. You’d expect that. Pete started Engadget and Ryan used to run Engadget.

UPDATE: Melissa Jun Rowley of NBC in San Francisco, got some video about the dark side of CES (she interviewed me at the blogger party on Friday night).

UPDATE2: CNN poked into the Internet trends that were apparent at CES. Tom’s Guide looked into the 3DTV’s that didn’t need glasses. I checked those out, but they didn’t work for me off to the side and seemed blurry compared to the others. They will work in advertising signs, but I seriously doubt you’ll want one of those at home.

Popular Science picked its favorite gadgets of the show. Gizmag has even more gadgets that the other reviews didn’t share with us.

Jeremy Toeman, who launches companies at CES (they’ve won “best of CES” several times) knows CES better than most people I know and here’s his report of what he saw when he walked the show floor.

Penquin Six looked into power monitors at CES and has a nice roundup of those (which aren’t covered in most of the other reports).

Engadget’s headline? “All the stuff.” Well, they got most of it, but if you read all these links you’ll get a more complete picture.

Now, I’m sure I missed a few reports or videos or whatnot. After all, there were thousands of tech journalists and press there roaming the halls looking for stories. So, if you have a good wrap up, please post it in my comments here.

Whew, after visiting all these links I’m almost as tired as I was last week walking the show floor!

Is the mobile tech press wrong in positioning Apple vs. Google?

When I got back from CES I’ve been seeing an increasing number of stories, like this one on Techmeme, that are comparing Apple’s mobile strategy and products to Google’s mobile strategy and products.

Oh, we do love a good fight, don’t we, where two great competitors bloody each other to a pulp before one comes out victorious.

The thing is, I don’t see Google and Apple as beating themselves up. At least not yet and probably not until 2011 or maybe even 2012.

“OK, Scoble smarty pants, what’s going on then?”

There are two competitors, don’t get me wrong, but instead of Apple vs. Google it’s Web-and-app-friendly devices vs. non-web-and-app-friendly devices.

Apple and Google’s devices are all web friendly. They are easy to use to pull up information from the web. But most of the world’s phones aren’t that way. Go to any cell phone store and try pulling up a web browser on them. Google and Apple’s products make it simple. Most of the others make it very hard, and even if you succeed you probably have trouble navigating the web, or are faced with a dinky small screen.

It’s worse than that if you compare app platforms. At CES last week I met an exec at Research In Motion, the folks that make the Blackberry. He bragged to me that they were building their own Twitter and Facebook clients. I didn’t get the bragging and asked him “so I guess you aren’t trying to build a platform, then?” I explained to him that if you build your own apps that signals to your third-party developers that you want them to go away and work on something else because you’re demonstrating that you’re very willing to take the best opportunities away from them.

Ever since then I’ve been asking developers what they think and on Saturday the guy (Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie) who built the Golden Globes’ iPhone app (and the LeWeb iPhone app) was over my house and I asked him. He told me that he’s working on building for the Blackberry platform too, because there’s so many users there but he said that the Blackberry is very difficult to build for. You really should listen to this interview, because in it you encapsulated what is happening to the entire mobile market.

Schneider didn’t hold anything back against Nokia or Microsoft, either. He just sees confusion and instability on those platforms.

Let’s break down the marketplace:

Apple: best of breed web-and-app-friendly mobile device.
Google: very close to Apple. Because my iPhone didn’t work very well at CES I gave the Google Nexus One and the Droid a good amount of usage last week. While the Droid isn’t as easy in a number of areas (search expert Danny Sullivan outlined most of the ones that bug me too) its apps, like Google Maps, are dramatically better than those that exist on other platforms and the web was mostly enjoyable to use too.
Nokia: confused. Multiple app stores. Just introduced a new platform with the N900 that’s different from their phones that have most of the market share.
Palm: is with Google and Apple in that they have a web-and-app-friendly phone, but they put it on a device with a small screen that ruins the experience for me.
Microsoft: struggling to get a strategy that works. Paul Thurrott, Microsoft expert, just this morning wrote up the troubles that Microsoft has right now and how it might dig out this year.
RIM: Difficult to develop for, most of its devices have very small screens that are hard to use on the web. Great keyboards, though, and great email integration.

Anyway, we can see a clear demarcation now in the industry between those who make web-and-app-friendly devices and those that do not.

It is my thesis that this year those who do will steal market share from those that do not and a confused strategy, like Nokia has, is going to look mixed because consumers will go with a company like Apple or Google who has said “we’re all in.”

So, is it right for the tech press to keep pitching Apple vs. Google like a couple of boxers who are going at it?

Or, do we need a new metaphor? I keep thinking that Apple and Google are like tigers and lions and all the old phones are like zebras or antelope and we all know what happens there.