How early Twitter decisions led to Weiner's downfall
By Steven Levy, WIRED
June 14, 2011 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT) | Filed under: Social Media
Anthony Weiner used Twitter to establish his feisty personality with a nationwide community, but it was also his undoing.
(WIRED) -- Now that the Anthony Weiner Twitter meltdown has pretty much played out, I'm surprised that there hasn't been much discussion of the butterfly wing-flap that brought him down: Twitter's rules of engagement when it comes to "following."
The success of a social network is largely determined by its settings. In 2006, an engineer named Jack Dorsey had an idea for a way for people to share short updates on their lives with friends and family.
Working with a small team, Dorsey and his colleagues began developing and testing the product. This included determining the built-in boundaries of the service, a process which would determine the breadth and purpose of the entire project.
Twitter was a simple idea but settings had to be just right, like the proper temperature for a soufflé.
Should the rules be very restrictive, to preserve privacy and intimacy? (Too much restriction would make the service less useful.) Or should they be expansive, and invite a wide circle to share one's status reports? (Too broad a channel would mean a depersonalized cohort.)
The breakthrough that enabled Twitter to become the wildly successful service it is now came from a twist that was much more significant than even its founders knew: They made it possible to "follow" someone's messages without requiring permission.
Essentially you would take out a subscription to someone's Twitter stream. You would follow your best friend or your brother in the same way you would follow Barack Obama, DeSean Jackson or the New York Times.