You need to use social services to understand them

I don’t know if Malcolm Gladwell is right when he claims “the revolution will not be tweeted,” but I can say with certainty that the Twitter he describes is not the Twitter I know. Gladwell’s central argument is that Twitter creates weak ties but social movements require strong ties. I’ve made more strong ties through Twitter (and blogging) than I have through any communications medium I’ve ever used before. The relationships start off weak – a retweet, @ reply, or blog comment – but often strengthen through further discussions and eventually become new friendships and business relationships.

I can see why Gladwell gets this wrong – he doesn’t seem to really use Twitter (he does blog occasionally). I barely tweeted or blogged for a long time too. I read blogs basically since their advent, but social services are fundamentally participatory: reading blogs/tweets is to social services as watching TV is to a real life conversations. I finally relented at the insistence of Caterina, who had the foresight to insist that everyone at Hunch blog, tweet, contribute to open source projects, etc. I now get some of my best ideas from responses to tweets and blog posts, and have developed dozens of strong relationships through the experience.

I made some jokes on Twitter the past few days about Kleiner Perkins’ new social fund.  These were meant to be lighthearted: I only know one person at KP and from everything I’ve seen they seem to be smart, friendly people. But underneath the jokes lies a real issue: the partners there don’t seem to really participate in social services (something they only underscored by announcing their new fund at a press conference that targeted traditional media outlets).

I’d love to engage in a debate with smart people like Gladwell about the impact of the social web on culture, politics, activism and so on. I also think it’s great to see savvy investors like KP allocate significant resources to the next wave of social web innovation. But it’s hard for me to take them seriously when they don’t seem to take their subject matter seriously.

One thought on “You need to use social services to understand them

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