August 15, 2008 |
I think we have already discussed the issue of Twitter cancelling SMS notifications to all but three countries – US, Canada, India – virtually from all possible points but we mostly focus on the users and how those users are hurt by absence of this service now. My own point here is that Twitter should have given the users a chance to compensate for the expensive (as we now know) service – either by paying directly or by agreeing to receive some advertising by sms and keep the service free.
What’s more, Twitter has proven not to be able to communicate such poor decisions in any decent manner: I have already bumped into a a post today from a user asking questions like “why am I not receiving Twitter notifications any more?”. I believe the team expected everyone to be reading either its own blog or one of those hundreds technology blogs that have chosen to cover the event. But it proves that when you reach any volume of mainstream usage, you need to realize that not all of your users will be reading either source and you should come up with a better way of communicating your decisions to everyone – either by email or with a direct message. After all, any bad decision should be handled as carefully as possible and how you communicate it may be even more important than what exactly you communicate.
But I have finally come to realization that end users are not the only ones hurt by this decision – it is well-known that Twitter has become home to many brands that have chosen to make Twitter updates or direct messages a core part of their own services and these services are the ones that are hurt the most.
I have understood this after reading an explanation post on the Remember The Milk blog. The task management solution has a very interesting integration with Twitter where users of the service can link their accounts on Twitter with those on Remember The Milk to send the bot tasks to schedule and receive notifications of upcoming tasks and events. And I believe that for many users the key functionality of this integration used to be mobile updates where you could easily keep track of your tasks or meetings on the go by getting the notifications from Remember The Milk bot on Twitter via direct messages right to your cell phone. Unfortunately it is this key service that has been disabled.
The mind mapping tool Mindmeister is now in a very similar situation as the service also relied on Twitter to send out SMS notifications. They seem to be quite optimistic as they try to focus on the fact that it is still possible to track updates via Twitter timeline and email. But still at the same time they also invite everyone to suggest other ideas on how SMS notifications could be arranged in another manner.
And while I still believe Twitter was supposed to give its users a chance to arrange for compensation of the huge amounts they pay to deliver all those text messages to us, this is an even huger issue. Here we see companies that relied on Twitter as a part of their own service. And now that this key feature is disabled for the majority of countries of the world, the level of service these companies deliver to their users is damaged. And Twitter did not even bother to suggest some alternative arrangement to these companies for them to be able to pay for the SMS delivery to their users themselves if they deemed this crucial enough. That’s what bothers me: whenever Twitter makes some decision, the company seems to be totally oblivious to everything and everyone around but its own understanding what should be the easiest thing to do – this is obvious from how often they simply make a decision to disable a service or a feature.
But the main question is: if a service is known to introduce multiple limitations and disabling some features from time to time if they seem to involve too heavy load on the system, is it really worth the time and money for development of such integrations only to look cool in the eyes of those web 2.0-savvy early adopters?
I think that making a decision to rely an important part of your own service on a third-party service may be very dangerous and can lead to unexpected results. So even if you have to rely on third-party services, at least choose those that are known to be stable. Better yet, try to rely on companies that offer what you need as a paid service – at least when they make money off it, they will hardly be as irresponsible when cancelling the service.
Photo by fazen used under Creative Commons