Twitter Heading Towards the Trough of Disillusionment?

April 15th, 2009
Author: John Ratcliffe-Lee

While Twitter basks in the glow of a huge, front-page NYT Biz section article – are the villagers gathering, getting ready to “storm the castle”?  John Brissenden points to an interesting post by Andrew Davis @ TippingPoint Labs about Tumblr being the heir-apparent to all the buzz that got Twitter rolling off your parent’s tounges in the first place.  

Mmmm, hockey sticks!


  1. A quick search on Google Trends for the phrase “Twitter Sucks” shows a HUGE spike starting in February of this year (10X more searches in March than in February.)
  2. The recent explosion of a ‘vrial video’ about a fictional new nano-blogging site called Flutter has almost half a million views in the last week. (Or this video from a month ago with over 1.5 MM views.)
  3. Last week, Twitter users were hit with the first ‘Twitter Spam Hack Attack.
  4. People are quickly realizing that the more people you follow the less value you get out of the people you follow. I call this the Diminishing Tweet Value Theorem, which states that the value of your own twitter stream is inversely proportional to the number of people you follow.
  5. The mainstream media has grasped a firm hold on pushing their @ user names (a sure sign it’s nearing the top of it’s escalation phase.)
  6. Rumors are rampant about a potential Google acquisition and the debate about how exactly to monetize Twitter continues to escalate (another sure sign it’s heading towards the monetization phase of the Tippingpoint Labs New Media Life Cycle.)


While he admits that the evidence cited above is “fairly circumstansial,” taking a look at Gartner’s hype cycle below – it lines up with the general early adopter consensus I’ve seen going around the web and even in conversations with colleagues at MWW.  They’re conviced of some shark jumping going on when they get follow requests from their parents.



So, is Tumblr really next?  I think it’s too early to tell.  I have it run but while Andrew goes over some great background of the service in his post and looks at some interesting adoption rates (definitely click-through, it’s a great read) – Tumblr can be a lot of things to different people.

Twitter hit the scene by being one thing and having a concise purpose.  Although, being so concise might be what is taking Twitter towards the “trough” to begin with.  Andrew makes a great point towards the end of his post:

If Twitter is a babbling four year old, going on and on about nothing important, Tumblr is a smart yound adult digesting content, commenting on it and contextualizing it for their audience. That’s far more valuable.

Only time will tell on this one.

UPDATE:  Sarah Lacy joins the party, calling foul.  Her points make sense from a company existence but, sometimes, I wish TechCrunch would just think a bit more about how people actually use these tools instead of just the dollars and cents.

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  • i've never gotten into twitter. To me it seems like it will eventually just be business tweeting about their updates. people will get sick of always updating tweets. Its kind of like how I get excited to start writing in a journal and then just stop cuz i'm bored with it.

  • Absolutely agree John. I no longer use twollo to add followers based on keywords. I follow people try to follow people that i gain value from and look to do more of this myself, that people follow me.

  • I have come up with the same result my self John. I had a twollo account which automatically added followers based on set keywords. I will be writing an article on this too and referencing your article

  • I don't see Tumblr as the next big thing ... rather, as the concept of microblogging becomes more mainstream, it will have to embrace the OpenMicroblogging protocol and allow multiple services to swap messages with one another (much like how you can email Hotmail users from Gmail, and instant message someone on AIM from GTalk). Services like -- which, incidentally, is a microblogging service with a business plan and that's making money from real clients -- can install "local" Twitters for communities or workplaces, and we wouldn't be at the mercy of one single service to make all our decisions for us.

  • I agree with you on this. Tumblr has done a great job of focusing a new form. Through a combination of great design and mastering the technology involved w/ the concept. It's ease-of-use and lowered design threshold is the whole reason I switched from WordPress. No longer do I have tons of drafts sitting around half-finished. I now post what is on my mind when I want to.

    While the Tumblr community itself still might be closed, they still function - outwardly - as proper blogs. I'm pretty sure there is a "Pro" version at some point coming where it will let anyone, a registered Tumblr user or not, post to a group blog. More info here: No timeline yet, to my knowledge.

    Being bullish on hyperlocal and this technology benefiting real-time information exchange in existing communities in the physical world, it'll be interesting to see where we stand when the dust settles. Thanks for your comment!

  • John,
    Thanks so much for reading the post and really appreciate your insight. I'd love to know what your colleagues are discussing when it comes to the 'jump the shark' factors on Twitter.
    I'll be reading more of your stuff. It's great.
    Thanks again.

  • I'd say, like almost everywhere, there are two different groups: early adopters and mainstream users. The majority of MWW has joined Twitter or is beginning to get acquainted with it. However, the few of us that have been on for a while now are seeing the trend of new users hit because of the massive media attention it's getting. Not only are people's parents on Facebook, they're now on Twitter as well.

    In general, your examples and my observed general sentiment match-up and make sense in terms of a hype cycle for the service. Especially in regards to point #4. I follow ~400 people and it's increasingly becoming a chore to keep tabs on everyone. I'm using TweetDeck to break-down people into groups and the utility of Twitter, on a daily-basis, is becoming a lot more broad. However, at the same time, the efforr it takes to achieve that same level of utility as before has increased exponentially with the noise. Case-in-Point: the CNN & Ashton thing. How does this make Twitter better? I'm still searching for an answer on that one.

    Glad you enjoy OTD! Thanks for commenting.

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