What does the death of Twitter mean to online enterprise tech communities?

Posted by gminks in community building | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

You probably have heard about the changes Twitter is planning so the timeline can be more “user friendly“. Twitter wants to take the noise out of your timeline, by determining what you should see, much like Facebook does.

I think this marks the end of an era. And I’m not alone.

In the blog post something is rotten in the state of…Twitter  @bonstewart discusses the ways social is just not what it used to be (the article is full of amazing commentary and links – be sure to click through and read it!). She discusses how the changes in Twitter have marked the end of networked communications and participatory culture. She also talks about the take-over of these communal spaces by the old guard:

Some of this is overt hostile takeover – a trifecta of monetization and algorithmic thinking and status quo interests like big brands and big institutions and big privilege pecking away at participatory practices since at least 2008.

Let’s stop here and define some terms:

Participatory Culture: A culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, members care about others’ opinions of what they have created).
– Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

Secondary Orality: This new orality has striking resemblances to the old in its participatory mystique, its fostering a communal sense, its concentration in the present moment, and even its use of formulas.
Orality and Literacy

I found Stewart’s discussion of participatory culture and secondary orality very interesting. Right now we have this literate platform (one that records thoughts, and makes them permanent AND searchable), that at the same time allows us to act as ginormous communities of practice. Have we been using Twitter not only as a new way of sharing information…but maybe even a new way of knowing? Contemplating the ways organizations monitor and control all of this is truly fascinating. I love when Stewart talks about twitter rot:

The rot we’re seeing in Twitter is the rot of participatory media devolved into competitive spheres where the collective “we” treats conversational contributions as fixed print-like identity claims.

Let’s bring this back to the enterprise tech industry. Many of us in enterprise tech picked up the mantle of social media six or seven years ago. We saw the promise of participatory culture, between ourselves as experts and n00bs, and as folks who worked at vendors and our customers. But the tools we use to participate in our community are changing in ways that will make it harder to see anything except what the algorithms say we *should* see.

Even marketing departments are focusing more on numbers. Fixed, print-like content can be measured and manipulated. It is still much harder to measure and manipulate real interactions (the ones between humans). But you can take cultured pieces of content and SEO-ize them, build a report on them, and declare victory in the name of ROI.

The work many of us have done building communities doesn’t seem relevant in this new world. The private conversations, the relationship building, there’s not an automated tool to quantify or “qualitatively” measure the emotional work of fostering a communal sense.

So does this mean we are doomed? I don’t think so. I think we need to acknowledge what we are working with – and finally admit that our organizations truly have no way to compartmentalize and incorporate participatory culture, if we are honest they probably don’t even have the vocabulary to work with the concept of secondary orality. I’m not sure what we do after that though. Anyone have any ideas? 🙂

One Response to What does the death of Twitter mean to online enterprise tech communities?

  1. With corporate contexts and clients, I use the typical measurements of ROI, but I also try to include sections where I show some of the things you are talking about. It can feel a little bit awkward sometimes, but sometimes the results are so clear that they can’t be argued with. “Look, this famous Stanford professor followed your startup right I wrote and tweeted this blog post!” “Look, I trained your VP of product on Twitter, and he tweeted at a famous tech writer, and the writer followed us!”

    Lately I have been expanding my skills into user research, as well, and that has helped me find some ways to show “ROI from relationships.” User research is (sometimes) seen as important enough that people can recognize the value of having those relationships in place.

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