The Simple Reason Twitter Will Win the Sharing War…

…is that most of what people share is terrible. That picture of Fluffy might be meaningful to my random college friend Jim, but it’s boring to me. 

I am extremely skeptical of “Zuckerberg’s law” (i.e. that the amount people share will double every year) because I just don’t believe that my life (or yours) generates that quantity of interesting content.

Now there are certainly plenty of great things being shared; almost every day I read an article or listen to a song recommended by a friend. But an unscientific poll of my Facebook feed shows that as much as I do care about my friends, I’m only interested in what they share at best 25% of the time. Google+ (where I maintain an account out of morbid curiosity) is even worse. Visiting either site has become for me an exercise in flicking the scroll wheel and hoping that something interesting will pop out of the literal blur of long status updates and giant filtered photos.[1]

My experience with Twitter is completely different. I follow nearly 200 people, but I read (or at least skim) every tweet.

What’s different?

1)   The “follow” relationship on Twitter is fundamentally different. “Follow” expresses “I am interested in what you have to share,” and nothing else. So my Twitter feed is pre-filtered. 

2)   In most cases, a tweet is not a share per se[2] but rather a bid for attention. Yes, some tweets bask in triviality.But most of the time, you get 140 characters to explain to me why I should click your link. Most bids fail; Buffer has shown me that my followers click only about 10% of my links. While it’s frustrating that you all aren’t more interested in spider helicopters or  how to build a Hadoop/Hbase cluster in an hour, it’s great that you get to very quickly move on.

So far, Twitter is the only sharing service I’ve seen that respects my time. Attention is only going to get scarcer as science develops more and more dancing robots.

The service that maximizes information per unit attention is going to win.[3]

[1] An obvious objection is that many people read Facebook for entertainment rather than information. But there are better sources of entertainment.

[2] Grammar nerd pet peeve alert! “Per se” is Latin for “through itself,” not for “exactly”. So this is the correct usage.

[3] At least at feed-style sharing. We’re going to start seeing interesting data magic with the aggregate data about viewing/sharing behavior.