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Education and Twitter – the end of a beautiful affair

March 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

It is always sad when lovers break up. especially close lovers with a growing relationship who suddenly fall out with each other. And the educational technology community has certainly has a long love in with Twitter. Twitter for teaching, Twitter for learning, Twitter for developing projects, twitter for maintaining communities and twitter just for nattering with each other. But I foresee a more tempestuous relationship ahead. Why? As the Guardian newspaper reports: “Twitter has amazed and outraged developers by warning them that it will severely curtail their ability to build apps that use its output.” The Guardian quotes Ryan Sarver, the head of platform and API at Twitter as saying:

Twitter will provide the primary mainstream consumer client experience on phones, computers, and other devices by which millions of people access Twitter content (tweets, trends, profiles, etc), and send tweets. If there are too many ways to use Twitter that are inconsistent with one another, we risk diffusing the user experience.

It was just because Twitter opened up its API to third party developers and applications which led to such rapid innovation and experimentation – in education as much as elsewhere. This looks to be over. Sarver might claim this is due to the desire to guarantee the user experience but few will believe that. fairly obviously Twitter want to make money out of their loss making application.  I suspect it is not so much apps they want to make money out of but advertising. and to control advertising they want to control the app market.

As Dave Winer (who has seen all this a few times before) says: “The Internet remains the best place to develop because it is the Platform With No Platform Vendor.” Winer goes on to say:

Facebook may have a huge installed base, but it’s dead to me. I can’t get there. The platform vendor is too active. Same with Twitter, same with Apple. Give me a void, something I can develop for, where I can follow the idea where ever it leads. Maybe there are only a few thousand users. Maybe only a few million. Hey, you can’t be friends with everyone.

And that I guess is the lesson for education. Follow our ideas. See where they lead. Don’t worry about how many users there are. And above all lets work on the platform with no vendor. Education is a public good, not a vendor platform.

But it was good whilst it lasted, Twitter.

7 Responses to “Education and Twitter – the end of a beautiful affair”

  1. Frances Bell says:

    Supplier lock-in is an old story – desired by suppliers and tolerated by lazy users/ purchasers. What is different in the Web 2.0 era is that is content rather than fees that are the price of supplier lock-in See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B7P5S-4PKFGN7-9&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1678416004&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=4eeb0c7f9fa0e3cd4ac601e9c7a6e30e&searchtype=a “costs and network effects bind customers to vendors if products are incompatible, locking customers or even markets in to early choices.” Sounds familiar?

  2. Mark Power says:

    Hmm…services will change, become less and more attractive to users (and developers) and disappear completely, as we’ve seen over the last few years and the boom of the web.

    I’m not sure that education can, though, say “don’t worry about how many users there are”. Or to be more accurate…”don’t worry where the users are”, as that’s what education would *really* have to say if it was to turn away from vendor lock-in and suchlike.

    The learners are users. Users of Facebook, of Twitter, of Flickr and YouTube and Bebo and whatever the hell else is out there in the social networking ecosystem. Their learning and education is just a part of their life and that’s where their online life is. So, imho, education has to go to where the users are. And, yes, this means that it has to be flexible and adaptable to changing networks and services and tools. Working on the platform with no vendor sounds suspiciously like attempting to create something specific to education, or to the institution or to the course…hmmm….sounds suspiciously like a VLE to me 😉

    But anyway…this headline sounds to me like a precursor to a “Twitter is Dead” debate. What next? Why, Google’s Circles of course. I’ll betcha this time next year that will be the Big Thing in education. 🙂

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