Illustrating why Twitter can’t replace website comments

A few months ago, I wrote an article about comments, in which I said, among others things, that Twitter can never replace comments because not only is it effectively a one-to-one communication channel, Twitter messages are also far too short to foster any form of coherent conversation. Over the weekend, a silly link-bait story illustrated my point perfectly.

I won’t rehash the entire article about comments, so in a nutshell: a discussion between several prominent bloggers and authors erupted a few months ago about whether or not to enable comments on websites. One of the arguments against having comments was that Twitter was a perfectly adequate replacement; something I think is complete nonsense. Not only is Twitter effectively one-to-one communication (it’s very easy to just ignore tweets you disagree with; none of your other readers will ever see them), Twitter messages also simply far too short to be able to sustain a coherent conversation.

In other words, as a blogger or web author, Twitter is convenient if you don’t want to be contradicted or worse, if you want to spread misinformation. On the other hand, for those of us who like open and public discussions, Twitter is incredibly cumbersome and counter-productive.

This past weekend, all this was illustrated quite well. A former Apple engineer, Michael Margolis, took to Twitter to state that the new Apple TV uses a UI that Steve Jobs threw out 5 years ago, and that now that Jobs has passed away, there’s nobody to say no to bad design, and a few other tidbits.

Of course, this ‘story’ exploded all over the web. It’s juicy, has stuff about Apple, Jobs, and a new Apple product, and what is sure going to be the new Apple blogosphere catchphrase: “Jobs would never have approved that”. It’s golden stuff.

TechCrunch contacted Margolis, and as it turns out, given more than 140 characters to deal with, the story becomes a whole lot less exciting. Sure, Jobs didn’t like the iOS-like design 5 years ago, but at the same time, this was pre-native applications. This was pre-iPad. This was pre-zOMG-iOS-is-more-popular-than-god. This was pre-everything.

I don’t much care for the story in and of itself – the Apple TV seems rather useless unless you’re in America – but it does illustrate ever so interestingly just how bad Twitter is at anything more than extremely light-hearted fluff. As soon as Margolis was given more characters to deal with, a more temperate, logical, and coherent story emerges.

This is exactly what’s wrong with relying on Twitter for comments: no context, no coherency, because there’s simply far too little room for it. Like I said in the original article about comments – you’re free to not want comments on your site, but suggesting that Twitter is a replacement is not just silly, it’s downright stupid.

That being said – how are you guys liking the new Apple TV? Is there any merit to the hatred the UI is receiving? I honestly have no idea – the Apple TV is rather useless here since there’s very little content in iTunes in The Netherlands. I’ve never even seen one outside of a store, so I’m not even sure how it works, exactly. Also, can you run something useful on it, like XBMC? At €99, it would be a decent XBMC box.


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