Twitter: a Platform for Promotion, or a Cesspool of Spam?

I've never been hip to the latest social networks. Lurking within this astonishingly charming and modest exterior is a true introvert, so I'm as far outside the social networking target demographic as you can be.  But one thing I do like is Expensify, and I want everybody to know it.

So when my buddy and trusted advisor Travis Kalanick suggested I start tweeting away my Expensiphilia (behold the birth of a new Googlenique word!) I was initially pretty skeptical: nobody follows me, because I never post there.  And I've no interest in posting there because I don't follow anybody else.  The network effect cuts both ways, and it's kept me out of one social network after the next.

But Travis is not to be underestimated, as he had a brilliant idea: find people complaining about expense reports on search.twitter.com, and then tell them about Expensify with an @reply. It's so obvious, that couldn't actually work... or could it?

It does.  In fact, it works incredibly well.  My data is early, but I find over 90% of users given a link in an @reply will click on it.  After that it's up to the website to convert those links to users, but the @reply technique works incredibly well.

Which makes me wonder: *why* does it work that well?  I mean, I know Expensify is awesome.  And I know *I'm* awesome.  But if I could convince everybody of that in 140 characters or less with >90% success rate... well let's say I'd have done a lot more dating.

On top of this, it makes me think "OMG, this is going to be so horribly abused."  I'll admit, I'm new to the Twitter scene.  But if this keeps being as effective as it seems to be, this is going to catch on like wildfire -- opening a floodgate of spam.

So with this in mind, let me toss out some groundrules on not only how to be effective with this technique, but how to be a good citizen:

1) Keep it personal.  Only send messages from real people, to real people.  Leave the faceless boxes on Google and maintain the social foundation of Twitter.

2) Keep it timely.  A huge benefit of Twitter is you can go straight the people who are experiencing the problem at that exact moment.  Leave the huge backlog of past posters alone and stay focused on the present.

3) Keep it relevant.  The temptation is overwhelming to just blast this out to everybody.  But resist that temptation and focus on the people who are actually calling out for your thing.

Basically, if you wouldn't say it when standing next to them in line, don't say it online.

So those are my thoughts on the matter.  Granted, I'm a total newb here, so I could be way off.  But I'm also trying to learn the ropes, so help me out.  What do you think?


PS: Expensify is in closed beta now. Sign up for the mailing list to apply for your spot!

Update:: I *knew* it was too good to be true. Turns out there's a very good reason 100% of links posted to Twitter get clicked immediately: there are a host of bots that pounce on the link immediately! Ok, going to filter those guys out and see if that brings the data back into the sphere of reality.

Expensify in the news!

I know I've been quiet on the Expensify front, but not for lack of things to say: just waiting for the right time to say them.  Regardless, I'll break radio silence to share an interesting piece of news: Expensify was recommended by Inc. Magazine as the "first class" way to manage expenses over a couple other products. (Which were listed as "business class" and "coach", respectively.  Ouch!)  Check it out: January issue, page 44.  What a nice New Year's treat!

- David Barrett

Copyright as Promotion: When is enough, enough?

Having (yet another) discussion on Copyright, and I'm starting to wonder about its core value in a world of excess.  The Constitution states the goal of Copyright (and its siblings) as:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
So it's pretty clear that the whole value is promoting more of a good thing, which is only sensible based on a backdrop of not having enough of that good thing without it.  But I'm wondering, do we really not have enough?

Here are a couple musings to a private list on that topic.  First, regarding whether the notion of abolition is too extreme to even consider, versus just fixing what's there:
Totally agree about fixing before abolishing, in general.  But under what circumstances would you feel abolition is actually warranted?

We've already agreed that:

1) It doesn't accomplish its Constitutional objectives
2) It accomplishes unintended, damaging objectives

Were those alone, I agree, fixing might be in order.  But I'd also add:

3) Its original objectives have already been accomplished

This is not to say that all "science and useful arts" are done.  Rather, it's to say that they have been successfully promoted.  We're deluged with it.

Our patent office, once at risk of shutting down from a lack of applications, is overwhelmed with a multi-year backlog.  Our libraries and bookstores and iPods are full.

Nearly every US Citizen has nearly limitless access at nearly zero cost to nearly all human knowledge, 24/7, from their phone, nearly anywhere in the world.

What a luxury!  Our debate shouldn't be about encouraging the creation of more information -- you could read new books while simultaneously listening to new music and watching new movies, continuously, from birth to death, and never exhaust our supply.

Rather, we should be debating how to further expand the reach of existing information to every world citizen, in every socio-economic group.  And not just because it's so obviously the "right" thing to do, but because it will also make us even richer!

Basically, if today's reality doesn't call for the abolition of copyright, what reality *would*?  Or are you so wedded to the notion of Copyright that there is no universe in which you feel it shouldn't exist?  Do you feel it's an inviolate, human right -- so strong a right that all other rights should be discarded in its pursuit?


PS: And before I'm accused of being a socialist, let's remember the alternative: creating a global tax to centrally fund the production of all art.  Similarly, it's not a call for communism: the most successful capitalist enterprises that deal with information deal with maximizing free access to unlimited information.
Then, in response to a concern that (roughly) "it's working so well and people are lapping it up, why stop now?"
The success of past promotion doesn't imply the need for more.

Nor does acceptance of government promotion imply its necessity.

If the government secured exclusive rights to -- say -- donut flavors, I would fully expect donut makers to accept it.  It's also possible such rights would contribute to a rise in the creation and consumption of donuts in our society. **

But that doesn't mean we need more donuts in the first place.

The question is whether Copyright is a means to an end, or a universal, human right.  If it's the former, then it's important to understand when that end has been reached, and to stop.  But we discuss it generally as if it's the latter -- as if no amount of promotion is enough or, heaven forbid, too much, no matter what the cost.


** Though I wager it's more likely Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme would just put all other donut vendors out of business.

Basically, when is enough enough?  Even if it was promoting useful science and art (probable), and if if it still is (incredibly unlikely), does that goal even matter anymore?

- Jan 2014 (1) - Mar 2012 (1) - Nov 2011 (1) - Oct 2011 (1) - Apr 2011 (1) - Mar 2011 (3) - Feb 2011 (2) - Jan 2011 (9) - Nov 2010 (1) - May 2010 (1) - Mar 2010 (1) - Feb 2010 (1) - Jan 2010 (1) - Dec 2009 (1) - Nov 2009 (1) - Oct 2009 (1) - Sep 2009 (1) - Aug 2009 (2) - Jul 2009 (1) - Jun 2009 (4) - May 2009 (3) - Apr 2009 (3) - Mar 2009 (10) - Feb 2009 (5) - Jan 2009 (3) - Dec 2008 (5) - Nov 2008 (5) - Oct 2008 (5) - Sep 2008 (4) - Aug 2008 (5) - Jul 2008 (11) - Jun 2008 (8) - Feb 2008 (1) - Aug 2007 (1) -