Now that Twitter has received a purported $15 million round to right the floundering service, the truth can be told. Nothing that has been said on or about Twitter for the last six months has any degree of veracity in the real world. Those of us in the blogosphere who have known the truth have been self-sworn to secrecy; those in the mainstream media who knew the sad story all along have been reluctant to discount the possibility that Twitter was the next Google. Google doesn’t care.
Most responsible for this conspiracy of hope are those like myself who continue to operate under the delusion that computers are magic. We see these machines as transcending the dirty details of jobs, responsibilities, the laws of gravity, space, and time — all that shit. We’re of the ’60s, that stupid era where poetry shut down the Thruway, where we went to the moon, where some suggest we never returned. We stuck flowers in the barrels of rifles, levitated the Pentagon (so high we couldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t), drove Nixon from office, stopped the War.
We were spoiled by this time, with all the music, the technology that the space race turned us on and in to, the continued illusion that we could invent the future during our lifetimes. Warhol was possible, the anti-artist, graffiti, the marketing (have it your way), the packaged tragedies, the Elvis impersonators. Soon (30 years) we became numb to the rush of time, sequenced into special reports, George Carlin monologues, backwards movies, the dot boom, the housing crash. Obama came, Hillary went. We hardly blinked.
Now it’s over. Twitter has arrived and it is so fragile it can’t keep its own heartbeat going. Twitter executives finally admit it: they don’t know what’s wrong. They’ve got it on heart bypass right now, all innocent and sweet, lying there in intensive care with wires and monitors beeping and platform vendors scuttling in and out with phony looks of concern, taking quick side glances at their iPhones as they wolf down sandwiches in the cafeteria.
Now the doctors come down the hall, their faces frozen in ineptitude and practiced grief. “Sorry,” they begin as an intern laughs inappropriately in the back. “Computers suck, they can’t really do anything. There’s no such thing as real time. We can’t keep more than 30 conversations going simultaneously. Why do you think we invented FriendFeed anyway, except to get Scoble out of the system long enough to find the Off switch?”
Twitter is a Ponzi scheme, a cruel hoax that threatens to revive the industry in the wake of the anti-trust settlement that destroyed Microsoft’s steady firm hand on the notion we could each have a computer on our desk. Apple made a valiant attempt to keep the game going with the iPod, preserving the inability to talk machine to machine under the guise of DRM and saving the record business, and Microsoft’s Zune seemed to prove Jobs was right to stop where he did.
But then Techcrunch came along and one maniac with a dog took over the industry and restored hope when all was gone. Suddenly the impossible became plausible once again, as media companies collapsed into blubbering pools of Gatorade-like sweat, sales people wandering Second Street panhandling to get their cars out of 4-hour parking. Live blogging spread like a cancer down 101 as startup zombies abandoned PowerPoint for Qik, Ustream, and a parade of corporate Foo Camp replicas.
Doc Searls moved to Harvard, Dave Winer became Harry Reasoner, the Gillmor Gang broke its solemn promise and came back again and again and again. Twitter.
The truth is computers and networks became fast enough to let us realize our dreams. Bad business, that. We’ve survived the ’60′s because of the myth that it couldn’t work, that we would never catch up, never achieve a velocity necessary to reach orbit. But we’re there now and Twitter represents the triumph of that spirit, the instant connection possible between us at any moment, in any number, at no cost. Information is free – uh oh. If all you need is love, and you get it – now what?
Perhaps the true beauty of Twitter is to leave it perpetually and confoundingly almost working. Let it go weeks, months, minutes up without a glitch, and then, randomly, with no discernible or measurable rationale, crash and burn, only to restart again minutes later without any fix possible in the interval. Only then can we get on with the magic, secure in our insecurity that Murphy lives, and with it, our aspirations, humor, and paychecks. Thanks, Twitter. We need you more than ever.