Twitter seems to be in the process of nothing short of a hostile takeover of a Twitter Development group in London called #devnest. It’s weird, and it is tragic.
Weird, because why would Twitter screw over a community so loyal, so talented, and one that is all about Twitter? Surely this is not a very Twitter thing to do?
Tragic, because of the way the folks of #devnest are desperately trying their utmost best, throughout this, to stay loyal to Twitter, their platform of choice. Which, to them, is more than just a development platform.
#devnest was started in February 2009 as a “fantastic community of Twitter developers in the UK“. Founded by Jonathan Markwell and organised by Angus Fox, these guys have been hosting the meetups months after month, organising speakers, Skype sessions with Twitter representatives, free pizza and beer. All in the spirit of hacking and being creative with the Twitter API. Twitter should be proud of people like this.
This Tuesday, though, at the latest #devnest meeting, Angus announced – to my own, and everyone else present’s shock – that Twitter is planning to host #devnest events of their own worldwide, including London, and that they plan to call it #devnest without involving #devnest at all. This is very confusing.
To make matters worse, they have contacted all the sponsors of #devnest. Fortunately three of the main sponsors, Amazon Web Services, The Guardian, and Multizone, have all indicated that they are 100% behind #devnest, despite whatever Twitter spoke to them about (the exact nature of these dialogues are unknown).
Throughout making the above announcement, Angus Fox defended Twitter’s side of the issue with saintly gusto. He explained how Twitter needs to make money – how they’re a business and not a charity.
He went on to say that Twitter had subsequently declined to enter into any kind of written agreement for use of the name, format or twitter account. Furthermore, they did not wish to involve the London organisers (outside of letting them continue to run their own #devnest events and continuing to let them contact Twitter representatives for Q&A sessions via Skype).
He posed the question, “what next for #devnest?” and invited participants to join the organiser discussion.
It was tragic and gut wrenching for me as an outsider to see how these good people are continuing to “do the right thing”, while their passionate efforts are being disregarded by Twitter like an old rag.
Et tu, Twitter?
What has happened here? Twitter doesn’t belong in the evil corporation category? Or does it?
In the past few months, Twitter has started baring their teeth at their development community at an alarming rate. Let’s take a look:
- March: Twitter tells their development community to stop building Twitter client apps. The idea is that apps should not attempt to do what Twitter already does, with a modified user experience. Reading between the lines, this stance could easily be extended by Twitter to other classes of tools they have also built, like URL shorteners, stats tools and Twitter search engines. Concerning.
- May: Twitter announces that apps will require a new, separate permission to access and send DMs – a move welcomed by the developer community for security reasons. At the same time though, they announced that all apps that do not run in a web browser, or cannot at least redirect a user to a web browser, will not be able to get this permission, and thus not be able to read or send DM’s. Another nail in the coffin for many desktop and mobile Twitter clients.
- May: A fun account called @towerbridge, automatically tweeting the up/down state of the London Tower Bridge (a drawbridge) gets deleted by Twitter and given to the London Tower Museum. Apparently Twitter did send a notification to the owner before they deleted his account. (Since then, they have reinstated his data under a new account, @twrbrdg_itself. Hip hip hooray.)
- May: Twitter hosts their own developer event in San Francisco, and also calls it #devnest.
- June: #devnestocalypse – they let #devnest know they’re taking #devnest worldwide, including London, without the original #devnest.
Here I think Angus is right. Twitter is just a business, and they are trying to do whatever it takes to make as much money as possible.
However, we had all hoped for more since their open, user-lead beginnings pointed to the possibility of something bigger and greater – a new way of doing business. In that sense, unfortunately, Twitter has failed us in a way that even Microsoft, at the height of its empire, did not manage to. At least Microsoft tried, and largely managed, to stay loyal to its developer community.
Does anyone else find it ironic that Social Networks tend to be guilty of the most severe antisocial behaviour?
UPDATE: Do read Angus Fox’s comment below with exact details of communication between Twitter and #devnest
Posted by Adriaan Pelzer