Friday, May 1, 2009

Yes, I advocate user choice in how to use a tool, but this is ridiculous

I have been a firm proponent of letting the user decide how he or she wants to use a tool, rather than having the toolmaker enforce artificial restrictions on how to use the tool (for example, Twitter's dictate the auto-following is bad). As far as I'm concerned, if you want to use a screwdriver as dental floss, more power to you.

But perhaps I should rethink my position.

The Los Angeles Times recently announced that it was going to conduct an interview with Richard Branson.

Via Twitter.

Now in a way this is a splendid idea, since anyone can view the interview even if they're not a Twitter user, and Twitter users can participate in the interview.

But once you read the details, it becomes clear that this is a very weird way to conduct an interview, participate in it, or follow it.

For example:

The "Twittologue" kicked off at 8:20 a.m., and you can follow the banter live on @latimestravel and @virginamerica.

Now right here you can see a potential problem. If you're using the standard Twitter client, you have to look at two locations - the LA Times Feed, and Branson's feed. Makes it difficult to follow.


Anyone can join in on the live discussion by appending the hashtag, #vx2oc, to the end of your messages on Twitter.

I forget where I saw it, but someone recently stated that hashtags are an admission that something is broken. You have to append stuff to a conversation in order to find it, and there's always the danger that someone will use the so-called wrong hashtag.

I'll grant that I'm a FriendFeed fanboy, but FriendFeed isn't the only service that offers a better way to have a conversation.

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