Tag Archives: twitter

Has Silicon Valley Stopped Solving Problems?

That is the claim of Dan Lyons in the recent Newsweek, wherein he claims that the trend of consumer internet companies (Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, etc.) making gobs of money by doing essentially shallow things will draw engineers and entrepreneurs away from solving the hard problems that have traditionally driven Silicon Valley.

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch disagrees, saying that Facebook and its ilk aren’t shallow and are also technically hard, since they have to scale to support so many users.  Most of Schonfeld’s article is, quite frankly, dumb (I mean seriously, using anti-virus software, which solves a real and burdensome problem, to show that internet companies are useful too, is nuts. And saying that Twitter’s many-to-many communication is a bigger tech achievement than the telephone network…dude, do you even know anything about technology?), but I appreciate his viewpoint and that of the many comments his article generated (as usual with comments, they are split between wisdom and inanity).

It won’t surprise regular readers of Thoughtbasket to learn that I come down somewhere between these two poles. I wrote a post on this very topic recently, riffing off a former Gartner analyst who said pretty much exactly what Gross said. Yes, Facebook makes people happy, and some of the technology required to build it to scale might help build other products. But it’s basically a toy, and the technology isn’t that innovative. More importantly, it sure isn’t curing cancer or solving the energy problem.

It’s OK for fun products to do well; Facebook and Zynga make tons of money because people love using them. But Lyons makes a good point: the wealth and attention being lavished on these fun products could lead smart people to build ever-shallower products (hello Foursquare) instead of solving big and important problems. Silicon Valley is a big place, and there seem to be a lot of entrepreneurs attacking all sorts of problems, but the tendency of the press (particularly TechCrunch) to focus on consumer internet companies as if they were the only things of note in Silicon Valley adds to the problem Lyons describes.

Is Twitter Destroying Civilization?

Vanity Fair recently ran an article about “tweethearts,” who are women leveraging their popularity on Twitter (and their looks) into more popularity, and potentially business opportunities. Apparently the article is somewhat controversial, since it makes the women appear to be twits more than twilebrities, but given how the women posed for the article photo (see below), I’m not sure they can complain.

But I want to focus on how these women emphasis the speed and brevity of Twitter. Read these two quotes:

  • “Facebook is just way too slow,” says Stefanie Michaels, a twilebrity from Brentwood, California. “I can’t deal with that kind of deep engagement.”
  • “Sometimes,” says Julia Roy, a 26-year-old New York social strategist turned twilebrity, scrunching her face, “when you’re Twittering all the time, you even start to think in 140 characters.”

Um, hello? Facebook is too deep? You think in 140 characters? That sounds like the brain of a Golden Retriever, not a businessperson. So using Twitter makes you shallow and unable to think complex thoughts? If constant Tweeting turns people into vapid soundbites, making us a nation of Tila Tequilas instead of George Wills, then we are on the road to ruin. There are serious challenges facing this country, and they won’t be solved through discussions made up of 140 character Tweets. We need more depth, not less.

Tweethearts, courtesy of Vanity Fair