The Twitter Effect: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Jason and I have been having fun back and forth with our respective live streams (and he’s a quick study, let me tell ya). My money would be on Jason to win because, well… he’s just a genius when it comes to building businesses and he has a solid team of people around him at all times. I have great people around me, but my on-site team consists of Ponzi and my two dogs – which beat Jason’s dogs in terms of fluffiness.

I do, however, wish to assert that Jason’s accuracy in respect to what happened at Gnomedex last year is a bit misdirected. I didn’t (and couldn’t) have full perspective on this until what happened with Sara Lacy at SXSW.

At Gnomedex 2007, Dave was merely a messenger for a percentage of the crowd, and while he may have delivered this message differently than anybody else would have… I don’t think he did anything inherently wrong. He’s passionate, he cares about you (and a LOT of people), and he attempted to bring the session back to where the audience’s expectations were meeting the message that was being delivered on-stage.

I suggested then, as I suggest now, that Twitter amplified and exacerbated the emotions of the crowd – making it easier for one negative comment to spring into two to spring into four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Indeed, if you followed some of the people who made negative comments about Jason’s presentation at the time it was happening… they came back around to Mahalo, checked out the Firefox extension, etc.

The exact same thing happened at SXSW, where the expectations of the crowd did not match what was happening on stage. The first person (name?) to say something that resonated with a good portion of the crowd wasn’t to blame for what a portion of the crowd was thinking. Positive or negative, Twitter fuels groupthink. People who watched this Zuckerberg “interview” didn’t find half as much controversy surrounding it as was indicated by the firestorm of digital outbursts that preceded its availability to the general Web.

It wasn’t Dave’s fault – it just wasn’t. Expectations were off, and if anybody’s to blame in this thing – it’s me, and nobody else. I didn’t set expectations properly, and for that I apologize. Inevitably, these things happen – from Scoble’s wonderfully suspiring impromptu announcement at the tail end of Derek’s webcast, to the public admission that someone who was to speak to open information wound up asserting that he believed in UFOs.

Handling 350+ special interest groups simultaneously when they have a direct line to the rest of the world is a completely new challenge. Oh, I love every single one of those special interests (including the ones who label me “ha-ha-serious” publicly). I’m guessing that Gnomedex seats will fill up quickly this year – and Twitter will be all the vehicle it needs to sell out.

Speaking of, Ponzi tells me that August 20 – 23 are looking like the best dates for us. I know it’s getting kinda late, but we’re doing our best over here (and we wear several hats to keep our costs low). Stuart Maxwell will be helping us again, too – thank goodness. Stay tuned, and I would like to pre-apologize for any outbursts that may occur this year. :)

In all seriousness, again – to both Dave and Jason, I’m sorry.

16 thoughts on “The Twitter Effect: Don’t Shoot the Messenger”

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  6. Twitter’s like a magnifying glass or a feedback loop for issues. There could be some great psychological studies on the effect. Real time critiques are new to almost everything but sports. So someone goes into a room and reads people saying “this sucks” or whatever and preconceptions are formed and it gets magnified as it spreads.

    I’ve noticed this affect with ratings. I’m more likely to rate something higher if I noticed other people are rating it higher and vice versa, like on Netflix, Amazon, or blog polling. It’s an interesting effect, social proof.

  7. From the audience last year as my first Gnomedex that attack was kind of a shock, but it solidified two things for me. 1. Dave Weiner is very strong willed and direct, and 2. Jason has a fantastic capacity to deal with attacks, and strong willed people.

    Gnomedex is a venue where it’s ok to be strong willed, or opinionated, unlike SXSW it seems.

    Twitter made it feel like we were all involved, engaged, and I’m looking foreword to twittering from Gnomedex again.

    See ya there.


  8. I believe it was Aaron Brazell (@technosailor) who pulled first heckle on Zuck — “Beacon Sucks!” But not sure who first heckled SL.

  9. Chris, I totally agree with you that Dave Winer’s behavior at Gnomedex 2007 was fine and dandy.

    However I disagree that it was your fault, Chris.

    Jason simply is not flexible at all in thinking and for example he keeps lies about me on his blog although I totally sorted out the misunderstanding with Russell. I think that instead of being angry, Jason should hire Dave Winer as consultant/adviser for Mahalo ;-)

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