I don’t care if you were on Twitter before Oprah2009-04-22
If you stick around long enough, you get to see history repeat itself. Since history repeats itself when nobody learned from it the first time around, it’s usually not a pretty sight.
The latest example of this is all the righteous indignation by users of Twitter over the surge of newcomers to the service joining in order to follow celebrities like Shaq, Ashton Kutcher, and Oprah Winfrey. With her media power, Oprah has motivated more than 1.5 million people, by some estimates, to sign onto Twitter just since she mentioned on her TV show that she has started to use the service, all before she sent her first tweet. The day she referenced Twitter on the show, 37% of visits to Twitter.com were from first-time visitors and overall traffic surged 43%, according to a USA Today article.
Buzzfeed actually proclaimed that all dates after April 17 shall forever be known as TAO—Twitter After Oprah. Somehow, I doubt that. But of all the ego-boosting nonsense surrounding the objection to the mainstream public joining Twitter, the “Here Before Oprah” website is the most pathetic. Seriously, just how desperately do you need to stand out? (Besides, why isn’t the same crowd whining about Sony’s use of Twitter as the platform for a game in support of its new “Terminator” movie? Could it be because they’re all playing the game?)
Incidentally, you can also use the “Here Before Oprah” site to see if your Twitter account predates anybody else you know, which might, I suppose, possibly have some minor uses.
I do not care who was here before Oprah. I do not care whom I beat to Twitter, or who beat me. It does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether your tweets are interesting or valuable. If they’re not—at least to me—I will not follow you. If they are, I will. Whether you were here on the day of Twitter’s launch or joined yesterday is irrelevant. Only the quality of your content matters. Period.
(Please don’t be offended if I’m not following you. I’m about 1,500 new followers behind in my should-I-or-shouldn’t-I assessment, and I don’t foresee catching up any time soon.)
I can’t possibly be the only person who remembers the same angst-ridden chest-thumping that took place when AOL users began migrating to the Web. “It’s all over,” the early adopters sobbed. “The unwashed masses will forever ruin our pristine geek clubhouse.”
Of course, what the influx of all those AOL newbies really did was create the critical mass that enabled the growth of ecommerce, online communication, and even (dare I say it?) social media. But even that wasn’t the first time the early adopters resisted opening the doors of their cherished private domain to outsiders. When Canadian online expert Michael Strangelove began publishing his (print) “Internet Business Journal” back around 1990, he actually received death threats. That’s right, people would rather send death threats than acknowledge that the Internet might someday play host to anything so base and undignified as business.
These are history lessons from which today’s generation of early adopters clearly have learned nothing. While nobody will ever commemorate the day the first banner ad appeared, business and the mainstream public both proved to be boons for the Net. Many of the online innovations we take for granted were developed to support business’ efforts to reach consumers, after all.
So here’s my advice to everyone wringing their hands over the intrusion by Joe Beercan into the Twitterspace: If you don’t like it, don’t follow them. Other than that, take a deep breath and crack open a history book. Maybe you’ll learn something.