TWITTERS PROBLEM IS NOT THE SAME AS THE MOBILE TELEPHONE NETWORK PROBLEM
Twitter seems to be using a inappropriate solution that is very similar to the mobile telephone network solution (circa 2010 technology at least—in case this article hangs around for a technological while and the young ones (currently 5 years old in 2010) think this article’s mentioned technology is a dinosaur)…
In that system you are charged a lot of money to use the mobile telephone during peak hours for example. Twitters attempt at controlling communication “traffic” use is a little more complex.
Twitter is not charging us, but they are directly trying to control our behavior and that is a bad engineering solution in this case!
TWITTERS PROBLEM SHOULD NOT INVOLVE DIRECT RULE BASED CONTROL OF OUR BEHAVIOR
From a engineering standpoint, twitters control of users is similar to traffic control that uses things like road speed-bumps, concrete Islands forcing cars to slow and go around a winding track, traffic police, traffic lights (often at intersections, rail cross overs and pedestrian crossings) and of course road signs. What twitter is trying to do is modify your behavior so that it reduces the stress on the communications system in this case however. These sort of controls are not appropriate in a digital system and they can be solved in many other ways that we might not even notice.
THE INTERNET ALREADY HAS INBUILT USER TRAFFIC CONTROL AND IT’S CALLED LAG (I SUSPECT A SOFTWARE TIME OUT USED TO CAUSES THE FAIL WHALE IN TWITTER)
The truth is: we are use to lag (it also tells the countries engineers that the internet needs to be improved).
Traffic control of our messages and data in a communications system is of course something that many of us never notice. Well we do (lag for example), but we just don’t know it because we think it is part of the way things just work.
Engineers divide the communication system into layers. The layers are abstract and hard to understand so I will simplify it for you (I can’t use numbers because the real model uses this and it might cause confusion, so I will use point form here instead):
- Top Layer: belongs to people or software (automation that includes software, bots, AI, and even NASA robots) that use a communications system.
- Interface Layer: This is the physical connection to the communications system. For us humans it may be the mouse and keyboard of a computer, or the keys on a mobile telephone for example. Automation and things like the NASA robot have several other options to interface with the communications system.
- Local Hardware and Software Layer: messages and information destined to go to others or be received by us are sent to an area of a computer (or electronic circuit board in a mobile telephone) where it is processed and changed into a form ready to be sent out to the digital network we call the internet or received by our device as data, or sound and pictures.
- The Communications Network (includes the Internet): A rather complex place that often has exotic and costly software and very high speed hardware that work at extreme high speeds with huge amounts of data that many of us might find hard to imagine. We often pay for this system through taxes and possibly direct (or indirect—via private mobile service provider companies) bills from the public “utility” company that maintains and/or oversees the enormous communications infrastructure that exists in a country.
TWITTER BELONGS ON THE SAME LEVEL AS US ON THE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM BUT IT TRIES TO BE A MINIATURE TELEPHONE NETWORK ALSO
In this model, Twitter sits at the top layer with us. The problem with Twitter is that it attempts to act like a miniature telephone system with tragic consequences if it’s not designed with extreme care when it’s growth rapidly expands forcing it to need to consider more complex matters involving the two lower layers (here we call it “the local hardware and software layer,” and the network layer).
What this all comes down to is a criticism of Twitter because the physical control of users behavior (by a written rule based system that is enforced by software) is not the best method of solving a digital communication problem.
If the engineers at twitter (or the consultants they used) actually looked at how twitter users communicated they would have been able to solve the problem in what we called the two lower levels of the communications system here.
To us, the lower level of the communications system is like the plumbing, electrical power and telephone infrastructure in our homes—they are there, but we don’t understand how they work, see them, or have to step over them in most cases because they are hidden away in the air (wireless) or our walls, roof, floor and underground.
To find a true solution twitter using our house as a example, Twitter should have done the equivalent of the more complex (and possibly costly route) of working directly on the plumbing, electrical and communications systems of our home.
In more technical language, Twitter should have dealt with the two lower levels (here, in our above model we call it “the local hardware and software layer,” and the network layer) instead of a annoying and non-elegant engineering a solution that depended on the forced behavior of human beings that use Twitter.
A ELEGANT SOLUTION MIGHT HAVE TO CONSIDER TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS THAT WILL OCCUR IN THE FUTURE
If Twitter did decide to solve the problem using the two lower levels (here, in our above model we call it “the local hardware and software layer,” and the network layer) then it might also have to consider future technological changes to the mobile telephone network and Internet. The reason for this is that the future does decide what we design today in engineering terms. Here in this section is a sample scenario of how this consideration might work.
In the lower levels of the communications system there is a mixture of software and hardware (physical stuff that is often made with very high speed electronics). The 5 year old kids of 2010 Might in the future see better mobile and internet performance as electronics moves into nanotechnology—that may use light instead of electrons for example. But right now we are here in circa 2010 and face the technological problems of this time frame.
The end result of this technological changes might be hard for us to imagine today.
As a rough crystal ball guess, the mobile telephones of the future will have the following properties :
- the cost to use them for direct communications (one to one communications) or to use the internet will become much cheaper then it is in circa 2010 (very important if world wide use is to become common)
- cost less to buy
- become very similar to computers (standardization) and the displays will be out of this world with possibly displays that expand (via a roll out screen or holographic light show) into a PC sized screen or 3D image equivalent.
POSSIBLE SOLUTION THAT TWITTER SHOULD HAVE USED
Twitters place—as I mentioned above—is not the same as a telephone network (even if it seems to act in a similar way to one), it’s place is at the top of our model as a user of the communications system, the very same level we live on in the model produced above.
Specifically, Twitter is like a top level intelligent device when considered in the communications model. For Twitter to work out a elegant solution to the communication traffic problems it faces it would need to understand the communications system in total.
This total understanding of the communications network is not common to the human user who often is unaware of a lot of things that actually occur for when one communicates over the internet for example. So the solution is not obvious either, but users are aware that the communications network does not normally try and tell them when and how much they must use their communications devices (I have already explained why mobile telephones using internet will probably be a non issue in the future in a section above).
My best guess at how Twitter could solve this communications problem in general terms would be divided into the following procedures:
- recognize that product called Twitter is no longer appropriate as it’s customer base is set to expand by a staggering amount
- understand that a elegant solution to communications problems can only be provided by understanding the communications system (national level/world level) in total
- since twitter is the equivalent of a intelligent app (application) that resides on the user level of the communications system, a big part of solving the communications problem will come first from intelligently dividing up how different users make use of Twitter and then applying a priority (speed) to each communication package. To us users this may seem easy, but it may in fact also involve asking 3 parties to comply with the decisions that twitter makes and that is far from easy!
- it is quite likely that major and costly changes to how Twitter software works (new products or upgrades to the common user) will be required.
If Twitter were re-designed in light of these points (and some of the stuff I point out below) I would imagine twitter might have the following features:
- List feature is retained to allow large numbers of users that follow back to be divided up. This allows one to build some character and commitment to as many people on Twitter as possible.
- Twitter will have two tabs on its main page; the new twitter has already done this but my suggested design is different.
- Targeted Use Side: This is where all those non-time sensitive messages go along with messages that are aimed at all the follower rather then.
- direct messages or Responding to a existing messages will initiate the chat mode on the other side.
- The Chat side times out after a certain time or when you log out.
- The software required for the chat side is complex as it may include compression of bulk messages and storing them for later use.
- Chat Side: this will have rapid communications that occur between users.
- Twitter would now focus on only the users involved in direct communication as having fast access times.
- The other users messages will get variable arrival times since the arrival of their messages is less time critical.
- You can flip side two so that it show details about a particular user tweets; as the case with the new design of twitter.
- Targeted Use Side: This is where all those non-time sensitive messages go along with messages that are aimed at all the follower rather then.
The advantage of this—if Twitter were to design something like this—is that users will most likely not have to worry about being told when they can use twitter or how many tweets per hour are allocated to them. I believe that communication systems should remain invisible to the user and I think the system I suggest above might be a improvement over the attempt to control user behavior that will only result in bad feelings in the long run.
The straight out divisions of users that affect the communications system are:
- peak use would be holiday periods, weekends and times around when people are home before and after work or school.
- advertisers and others from all over the world using automated software to take advantage of peak periods of Twitter use to gain media exposure (advertising results).
- peak periods that slow the internet that is not due to Twitter but may occur at certain times of the day or year. A good example of this might be the software down load on a national scale of a software patch to a common type of software such as “Word” or a the finals of soccer game where the internet and telephone network are already under the stress of a massive load of communications.
Possible Twitter Solution: While not a perfect solution, twitter could allow users to have a simple instrument on their panel that indicated when traffic on the internet was heavy or light.
Non automated users individual tweets might also be subdivided:
- direct communications with another user in a response and reply fashion
- non time critical communications where a certain time delay of a message would not be considered serious
- Some users may even not care if some of their messages were posted in a 12 hour period for example
Possible Twitter Solution: Twitter might need a total re-design along with a intelligent device that can sense when each of these three types of communications occur. I believe a simple but elegant solution for this Twitter-intelligent-device is to let the user ask for a peak time to display their message an d this will also indicate that such a request will not be instantly acted on.
Direct time critical communication versus non time critical communications
My current (very rough guess) is that around 10% to 20% of current Twitter users are in direct communications with another user. The problem is that this post, reply (comment on post) and respond (to reply) does not exclude from either party from Tweeting about stuff that has nothing to do with the communications.
I would say around 70% to 80% of Twitter users are interested in reaching the maximum number of people they can. To achieve this they need their message to appear at peak times of Twitter use. These groups can be subdivided into further subgroups:
- reach a local area’s population
- reach a countries population
- reach a world wide population
Possible Twitter Solution: If the user is allowed to specify the peak time and what region they would like the message to go out to, then as mentioned above this could help sort out what type of tweet the message is and if time is of critical importance. Since I think around 80% to 100% of non one to one communications fit in this category, the net affect traffic reduction on (a newer improved design of) Twitter could be significant. Such users would have to accept a large time delay (possibly 12 to 48 hours).
The List Features
Twitters list feature is invaluable in handling large large numbers of people. This will become more important if the numbers of people that are members of Twitter expands by a huge amount.
I also think Twitter should integrate a translator into it’s console to help people connect to other people all over the world.
Shortened link to this article: Twitter’s Possible Future Directions [article]: http://bit.ly/mgXGaH