Didn't work Wednesday: Friendstat.us

One of my earliest hacks on top of the Twitter API was a thing called friendstat.us - which I called a ‘people based view’ into your Twitter stream.

Really it was just a very basic Twitter client (though prob. one of the earliest/first), and the whole idea was that instead of looking at things in the default timeline view Twitter offered (time based) I offered you a way to look at your stream person-by-person.

The main advantage to this approach was that the quiet people had just as much chance to stand out as the noisy people (who over-share/over-post and clutter up my stream).

So - what were the mistakes on this one?

1. Twitter, and it’s users, were still trying to figure themselves out. It wasn’t nearly a stable enough system for most people to be ready to think of it in new and interesting ways. Trying to get them to understand 'people based’ vs. 'time based’ was too difficult a task (for me) at that point in time.

2. I had no real reach or influence into the Twitter audience (and no budget to buy my way in). This meant that even if it was the coolest thing since sliced bread (it probably was), *very* few people were ever actually exposed to it – and the only way it would spread is if it hit upon that (ever elusive) viral magic.

BTW - this #2 mistake is pretty much a textbook reason not to go into a given market or purse a given idea…if you don’t have a really unique and valuable hook into your market, and you don’t have the budget to buy your way in…then *you* are probably not the right person to be doing the thing. It doesn’t mean your idea or even your execution are bad, it just means you need to find a partner who can really plug you in.

3. I didn’t really think of it as a business, and once again, had no real idea about if/how it could make money (besides the lame default of “at scale we can do advertising”).

Ultimately this was one of many Twitter hacks that I really built more for myself, and as a reason to play around with the Twitter API (and data), and so I never really approached it as a business or an idea that I thought would blow up huge…so many of the mistakes weren’t really 'mistakes’ this time around (there were more like consequences of my decisions).

Eventually, I think after Twitter made the “don’t biuld clients” statement, I closed down the service (though I still squat on the domain of course)…and since I’m still a big believer in “over time is more interesting and important than real time”.

BTW - I do have a modern version of the 'people based view’ concept baked into the latest version of knowabout.it (in fact you should auth with Twitter and check it out!)

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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