Something happened this weekend in the tech community that leaves me scratching my head and wondering where maturity and professionalism have gone.
Over the last several weeks I’ve been addicted to Twitter, the latest craze in “mini-blogging”, where you basically tell people what you’re doing at that moment. I like it because it’s easy, convenient and fun to see what everyone’s doing. Although I heard about it months ago from Paul Boag and his web design podcast, it really took off these last few weeks and has spread throughout the tech community. A driving part of the popularity was that it was featured on many podcasts, including This Week in Tech or (TWiT). Leo Laporte, the host of TWiT joined the craze a few weeks back and quickly rose to become the most followed person on Twitter. He made multiple posts each day and was an active part in the community – up until Friday.
In a sudden change in reversal, Leo didn’t want to play on Twitter anymore, took his ball and went home. Why? It’s what’s in a name. He thought that Twitter sounded too much like TWiT (potentially infringing on his trademark) and Laporte thought it made things too confusing. In 24 hours, Laporte went from being the most popular person on Twitter, to going to a competing service Jaiku.
I like Leo Laporte, and I love the TWiT podcast/netscast. I think he does really great work, but I’m not really quite sure what happened in the case of Twitter. This would make sense if he never used the service or protested it from the start, but how do you from promoting it on many of your podcasts for weeks, actively using it daily and drawing thousands of users – to deciding that you can’t deal with it and moving over to another service simply because their name doesn’t sound like yours. What is Laporte trying to do here, simply make a point? “Because you didn’t change your name, I’m not going to use your service”. That’s not exactly a classy way to go about it.
Maybe there’s something going on behind the scenes here, but looking at this weekend’s events this just looks shady. I do believe that Laporte and the TWiT podcasts carry a lot of influence, but this is overstretching their power. I’m not a sheep that was told to use Twitter – I use it because it’s something interesting and it’s fun to connect with different people. To think that I’m going to start using another service simply because someone famous told me to do it is an insult to my intelligence. This is especially trivial when you consider the word “twit”, which is a slang term that was around long before podcasts came about. I could see where if Twitter was named AIM-MER or GOOGLER – but come on!
I went over to check out Jaiku this afternoon. It looks ok, but it doesn’t have the simplicity of Twitter, nor the mature API support. I run Twiteroo on my laptop throughout the day, and I use TreoTwit for my phone – it’s convenient and exciting to watch this unravel throughout the web. Twitter built a community which includes my friends and various columnists, contributors and tech gurus.
Bottom line, I think this fiasco is going to damage Laporte and TWiT more than any similar name could ever do. This is going to puzzle and annoy people like me, and this whole situation is just disappointing.