scoble needs some backtalk

Yesterday morning, Robert Scoble was chastising someone for sending him a DM on Twitter. The strength of his dislike caught me off guard, especially since just hours earlier I had found out that I had won one of the HP Magic contests, and I was crediting a large portion of it to the power of a DM. I had to ask why he hated them so and he pointed me to an article he had written on why DMs suck. Although he has some reasonable points, I think for the most part, he is missing the point of DMs. If Twitter is the back channel discussion of real life, DMs are the back channel discussion on Twitter. If Twitter is a meeting room, DMs are the equivalent of sitting in a meeting, leaning over to the guy sitting next to you and quietly talking under your hand to him. If Twitter is a cocktail party, DMs are the equivalent of walking up to your lover in the middle of the crowded room and whispering something suggestive in their ear. I think that private one on one communication remains a powerful force, even on the internet, so I am presenting some counter arguments to Scoble’s 10 reasons, reproduced below. I am interested in your thoughts… how and why do you use DMs?

Robert Says:
1. I can’t delete them all. So I ignore them all.

I say:
1. This seems like an incredibly binary reaction to the world. And honestly, it misses what was at first the most disconcerting “feature” of DMs for me- if the sender deletes their DM to you, your version of it disappears as well. This feature should give us a huge clue that DMs are meant to be transient. They are whispers, quiets jokes or a poke in the ribs from a friend.

Robert Says:
2. I can’t put them into folders. So, no way to prioritize them. Or, if you are a Gmail addict, no way to tag messages.

I say:
2. Why would you want to tag, file and sort transient information? And how is that useful if something you spent lots of time classifying could randomly disappear when the sender cleans out their DM drawer?

Robert Says:
3. No way to resort them. No way to see old messages. Or messages from someone specific. Email has those features.

I say:
3. DMs are not email. This is like saying that apples are not a good because banana skins are easier to peel. It would be more useful to discuss the features we would like them to have to make them even more useful, rather than just griping about how they are different from something they are not.

Robert Says:
4. No way to forward messages. That means they are useless for business. If you ask me a business question I MUST forward the question and get approvals. No way to do that on Twitter.

I say:
4. Thank God. The whole reason you whisper something is that you do not want everyone else to know about it. The real complaint here is that people are misusing DMs. Why would you mutter a business proposal to someone in real life without also handing them a business card that they can take with them and has more permanence? The opportunity here would be to educate people. Don’t ridicule them for sending you DMs. If you like the proposal, respond by asking for a follow up email. If you don’t like it, politely ignore it.

Robert Says:
5. No way to BCC messages. In email I can copy my boss blindly so you can’t see that I’m doing that. That’s a way that I can keep him involved in my life and up to date on all the wild promises I’m making to people. That’s why I don’t make promises on Twitter or Facebook.

I say:
5. You are right, don’t make business deals in the wrong venue. But does the fact that you cannot BCC a cocktail conversation mean that you should not talk to anyone at a party? Not everything in life is a business deal, not everything on Twitter is meant to be productive.

Robert Says:
6. You ask me a question that requires a 500 word response but you ask it in a place that limits me to 140 characters. Thanks for frustrating me.

I say:
6. This would piss me off too. But get mad at the sender, not the medium.

Robert Says:
7. I can’t respond to your own DM’s unless you follow me. Seriously. The design of Twitter’s DM’s +is+ that lame.

I Say:
7. On this point I completely agree. It would be more useful to have a method that lets the receiver block an annoying incoming DM, rather than requiring a bidirectional relationship to start a DM.

Robert Says:
8. I can’t put an auto answer onto DM’s so that I can tell you to get a clue and to send me email instead.

I say:
8. I know I should say something astute here, but I am struggling with a mental image of Robert walking around a cocktail party with a sandwich board sign strapped to him reading ” Just email me”.

Robert says:
9. I can’t CC, or copy other people, or send a message to a group. Things that email has been able to do for years.

I say:

9. See Number 3 above.

Robert Says:
10. I can’t move my DM’s out of Twitter and into other systems. That’s something that I’ve been able to do with email for years and it’s served me well. Even Hotmail lets me forward emails to Gmail.

I say:
10. Again, with the mental images.. this time Robert is at a cocktail party with an MP3 recorder so he can record, resort and archive his conversations. Wait. he does this, only it is a cell phone.

Robert Says:
11. UPDATE, this just came in via Twitter from @TraciKnoppe: “@Scobleizer Use your great influence for good & get Twitter to chng the DM req. & API limits. Make it so number one. :P”

I say:
11. I hope that if I am ever as famous as Robert, I remember to occasionally use my power for good, and to listen to the requests of the “little folks”, rather than just being annoyed by them. Ya’ll make me famous and I promise to try.

10 thoughts on “scoble needs some backtalk

  1. Interesting post.Perry Belcher makes a very good point that Twitter is a party, you go out to meet people and if you like that person you can invite the person back round to your house (blog).Put another spin on this but using a business scenario.I see Twitter as a conference or a trade show.You have your stand on twitter which is your profile, you say to that business on twitter, I’m interested in what you have to offer, let me have your business card.Then you go away from the trade show to have a deep discussion on how to take the relationship forward.Twitter is a matchmaker, it gets people together, you can talk turkey via email.I agree with Rogue that a DM is like a note slipped to you during a meeting that you and the other party don’t want others to see.Use Twitter to make a connection, then go away and get down to business.Twitter is one big party/conference to make that initial contact.You don’t need to forward DMs to anyone, that isn’t their purpose in my opinion.

  2. @richard do you have a link to the blog you reference?Twitter is a great place for interchanges of all kinds- business, social, personal, causes and events. I love hearing other people’s perspective and experiences in this somewhat nebulous space

  3. It’s actually pretty simple, the DM’s go to email, and I keep them organized there. A really clever person would create a secondary gmail account and use their tasks feature.In fact, I got this article and read it without even logging into Twitter.If this had just been posted into the stream, guess what: I would have missed it.Some conversations are not meant for everyone, that is just common sense.

  4. @zaphodd I get DMs via email as well.. just because I have access to that form of connectivity more than any other. ( I am still an email dinosaur– more thoughts on that later). I have NOT had time to play with tasks since it was released… liking it??

  5. @claire I am sorry to hear that you are having so many troubles. Feel free to tweet me or find me on facebook if you need a shoulder or just want to talk. One of the hardest points for me to learn in my personal balance was that it is important to take care of myself as well or better than I take care of everyone else. For many years I would push and give and end up feeling bankrupt and empty. It was only when I gave my self permission to take care of myself and sometimes saying NO to people that I felt stronger and richer. If it is not too overwhleming, please keep coming back here to watch the saga unwind..

  6. I’d have to agree with Rogue. I was just able to send a DM last week saying, “I know of this neat thing you might like if you want more info email me here.” Not something I want to send to the whole world.And I also have my DM’s set to go to my email. It’s an easy way to keep track.

  7. Okay, so I guess I have been pushed over the edge by this post, and resolve to investigate twitter more seriously. If it won you the HP giveaway then I need to check it out. 🙂 I am so out of it, that I am having to decipher what a DM is based on the content. LOLSee, I needed to connect with you so you could teach me the ways of the latest and greatest technology in cyberland.

  8. And Scoble’s disciples wonder why I don’t follow him.It’s not the lack of reciprocation, it’s the haughty attitude and arrogance.People like that provide all the fodder I need to inform my annoying Personal Brand character.

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