1. How to get a job at a startup if you aren’t a developer

    Recently, I’ve received an increasing number of emails from “business people” looking for advice on how to get a job at a startup. Most have the same story, “I could go work at a big company, but want to join a startup. One problem: I don’t know where to start the process.” Everyone knows how to get their foot in the door at an investment bank - just apply online. At least when I was at Duke, there were hundreds of people each year applying to big banks so everyone knew what to expect. Less clear is the path to joining a startup, especially for those lacking technical skills. 

    What I usually tell people is that it’s not as scary as it sounds, and it is not as difficult provided you are passionate about your goal. A few pieces of advice on how to get a job at a startup if you aren’t a developer:

    1. Know the tech landscape better than anybody else - Pick a few verticals and drill down. Know the names and histories of companies in that space and be up to date on what they do and why they do it. A good place to start is here. Separate yourself by also learning tech history - macro trends are more clear in retrospect. There are a bunch of good tech history books in this list. For me, twitter is the best source of news and information. Follow people who are respected in the startup world, and read what they are reading. I’ve found that Twitter is a bit like Wikipedia in the way it  pulls you in. If you follow an interesting person you are bound to find 50 more solely by seeing who they interact with. 

    2. Form an opinion and start a blog - Knowing the facts is a requisite to forming an opinion. Just memorizing the details and not being able to articulate an opinion is pretty worthless. So, make sure you know not only that a prominent startup recently released a new feature, but be able to comment on whether, given the market, this release was a good strategic move. Product-wise, what did you like about the new feature? What did you hate? How will the new feature affect the direction of the company? Write these thoughts down on twitter and on your blog (even if nobody is listening now, it will give you something to point to when you do reach out to a company).

    3. Be familiar with the startup culture - Each sport, industry, or college has a unique culture, with its own lingo, success stories, and taboos. Startup culture is no different. Be familiar with all of these elements. A nice place to start is Paul Graham’s Hackers and Painters. Aside from being a thought-provoking book, it offers deep insights into the startup / hacker culture.  I’d also recommend hanging out on tech-heavy communities like Hacker News or Reddit. Observe how people interact. Pay close attention to which articles and comments get voted up or down. It will go a long way in figuring out what the startup culture sees as valuable. Decide if these values mesh with what you see as important.

    4. Offer a concrete skill - I remember during my first interview with a startup, I described myself as someone who was “willing to do anything.” I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the right way to pitch myself. Though flexibility is a great quality, it is assumed of all good candidates. Ditto for an “eagerness to learn.” To set yourself apart, do some research into the position and talk about the specifics of why you’d be good for that role. If it is an analytics role, read some books on online analytics. If it’s more of a product role, build something! If it’s a business development role, come in with a list of the top 10 companies you think would be promising partners for company. I learned to be proficient in photoshop so that I could create quick mockups that would inspire potential partners. Whatever that skill is, go learn it (hint: you’ll likely have to teach it to yourself). My point is to put some thought into how you can prove passion and commitment.

    5. Take an internship - I wasn’t aware of this when I was looking for a job, but startups will often bring on someone as a consultant or intern before hiring them. It’s kind of like a test drive. I’d say the hardest part is getting your foot in the door. Once you do that, it’s up to you to prove your value. Check your ego at the door and don’t worry about how all your friends are full-time employees and you are a lowly intern. (Note: I started out as a summer intern at hunch, which lead to a full-time job.)

    6. Send cold emails - Contrary to popular belief, they work. I sent dozens off emails during my job search inquiring about jobs and heard back from a handful of companies. That’s a handful more than I would have heard from otherwise. (Of course, try to make these emails meaningful, not just templates). The best piece of advice I can give is to get the conversation started early. 

    I’d start by emailing a few entry-level employees at some of the companies you find most interesting. Find their email addresses online and send them a quick note along with your resume - you’d be surprised how few people looking for jobs in startups even take the time to do this. If you can’t find their email then send them a note on twitter or comment on their blog.

    The reason most startups will be respond to your inquiry is that although they aren’t always hiring, startups are always looking to meet exceptional people. In a fast-growing company, hiring needs pop up quickly and the faster they can fill the job, the less time they spend away from product-building. Getting to know potential employees before the need arises is key to finding the best people and filling roles fast. 

    I’ve heard of this referred to as a “bench” of potential hires (hat tip to Brian Chesky of Airbnb who is the first person I heard this term from). It describes people the company knows and would love to hire given the need. When the need arises, the company calls on its “bench.” Your goal should be to get on the “bench” of several startups, so that when an opportunity opens, they will think of you. This is particularly true for college seniors.

    7. Understand that most people get non-technical jobs at startups through their network, not job postings - When I was searching for a startup job I got some good advice: “Any startup job you find on a job board will be one you don’t want.” Many startups won’t business development roles because they generate overwhelming inbound interest, often from unqualified candidates. Rather, they’ll let people in their professional network know they are looking for someone, and rely on referrals to drive high quality candidates. Again, get to know people by reaching out via email, twitter, or by commenting on their blog. If someone you contact tells you they aren’t hiring, ask if they’d mind referring you to a startup they know that is.

    Final thought: I don’t aim to convince people to choose a startup over Wall Street - only to let those interested know that the option is there and it is not as daunting as it may appear. Hopefully the above pointers will help demystify the process for those eager to get into the startup world.

  2. What is your product’s burst mode?

    The board game Carcassonne has become a bit of an obsession at Hunch HQ these days. Though we do play the physical board game, many of us also play the iPhone version. In a discussion of why Carcassonne is such an enjoyable iPhone game, Chris offered one explanation: “it’s bursty.” You can make a quick move, go away for a while, come back, quickly make sense of the board, and repeat. It lends itself well to popping in and popping out without skipping a beat.

    Conventional product wisdom is that consumer facing products should have at least 2 modes: single-player mode and multi-player mode. Single-player mode means the user can get value out of the application even when using it by themselves. In this case, we assume none of the user’s friends are using the app. For example, single-player mode on Foursquare involves checking in, getting badges and mayorships, and seeing stats on where you’ve been in the past weeks. You can do all of these things by yourself. Multi-player mode is valuable once your friends are using the service. On Foursquare, you can see where they are, “shout” to them, post pictures, and see comments they’ve made. 
     
    I’d like to propose a third mode that consumer products should offer: burst mode. Also known as “waiting for coffee” mode or “early to a business meeting” mode, burst mode applies to use on a mobile device. The user most appreciates burst mode when bored with a few moments to fill. We’ve all been in this situation, and burst mode allows you to capitalize on these moments of boredom. We are not looking to accomplish anything in particular; we just want to be entertained. I wouldn’t equate burst mode with any interaction on a mobile device, because there are often times when I have 10 or 20 minutes to spare. Burst mode is all about interactions that are measured in seconds, not minutes.

    So what are some general rules for making an application bursty?

    1. Loading is lightning fast. If I’m waiting in line for coffee and have 25 seconds, I can’t wait 15 seconds for the app to load (I’m looking at you, ESPN Scorecenter).

    2. Discovery is simple. I shouldn’t have to dig for content. If more than three clicks are required to get to the bursty content, I won’t think about interacting with the app when I’m waiting for the elevator. If it takes one click, I can deal with that.

    3. Passive consumption as opposed to active consumption. Again, assume the user has no neat thought, no photo to add, no restaurant to search for. The user is just plain bored and wants to be entertained. Don’t set the barrier for interaction higher by making the user think about what they want.

    4. Short content is better than long. I find my attention span is about half of what it normally is when I am on my phone. Moreover, I could be interrupted at any point. If I am pulled away, I want to be able to get back into burst mode quickly and at any time. This is why, for example, a long blog post or detailed response on Quora would not be suitable for burst mode; I can’t pop in and pop out easily without losing my train of thought, whereas Twitter is ideal for burst mode. 

    5. Content is refreshed frequently. Although I have about 50 apps on my Android, I regularly use only a handful. Frequently updating bursty content is key to getting me to come back and keeping it at the top of my mind. 

    6. Low cost of interruption. Ask, what would be the limitations of the product if someone used it in bits of 30 seconds, spread over the course of a day?

    Every application can and should offer a burst mode of their product if it is not already built into the product itself. True, some products lend themselves better to burst mode than others, but I believe strongly that these “20 seconds of interaction” will be increasingly important to the success of products.

    A good example of an app that was not inherently bursty,  but found a way to be is the Airbnb iPhone app. How can finding a place to stay be bursty? Isn’t that something that requires much scrutiny, research, and time? Well, it can take time. But people also like just looking at cool places, and thinking about how nice it would be to travel and stay in that cool place. Even if I am not in the market for a vacation spot, I still enjoy looking at the “Top 40” section showcasing awesome Airbnb properties while I wait at the dentist’s office. In this sense, the Airbnb burst mode is aspirational in nature and can turn a browser into a buyer.

                          

    Key takeaway here: the burst mode need not be the core product, but rather can be an ancillary product that naturally leads into the app. It can be a powerful gateway.

  3. New Facebook Friends Sidebar Subtly Guides Users to Create Lists

    Facebook recently released their redesign of the profile page. The details of the new design can be found here. To me, the most interesting piece of the redesign is the tweaked display of your friends, which amounts to little more than a bait to get users to indicate the strength of their relationships through lists (which Facebook has been trying to get users to do for some time, to no avail). Let me explain.

    The old Facebook design displayed a list of a few friends that truly appeared to be random. I never saw a high density of friends that I was particularly close to. However, a user could click on the pencil icon in the upper right corner to control exactly who appeared in this section and how many friends were displayed (see below).

            

    The new Friends Display is quite different. The display now pops more than it used to. This is in part because the left sidebar is more streamlined, there is more white space around the displayed friends, and their full names and networks are shown. It also isn’t constrained by a blue header, and is no longer underneath basic information like birthday and current city.

                                  

    What’s fascinating is who Facebook has chosen to display. Like the old design, each time I reload the page, I have a different set of friends displayed in the space. Right? Well, almost.

    What initially caught my attention was the high density of friends displayed that really were my closest friends (my sister, girlfriend, college roommate, and high school best friends, to be exact). It seems that as I reload the page, it persistently shows me (or any of my friends who view my profile page) about 4-5 friends that I am actually very close with along with 4-5 friends whom I haven’t communicated with in years, if I really ever knew them at all. The latter group is made up of people who I never see in my newsfeed, have never communicated with on Facebook and with whom I have few mutual friends. I can assume with fairly high confidence that Facebook knows I have a low strength of relationship with these people. 

    Which brings me to my hypothesis: in the UI for this new “friends” sidebar, Facebook intentionally is sprinkling in among people you do care about, people who you don’t care about. In essence, they are taking your top 5 strongest relationships and putting them next to your 5 weakest connections. 

    When I continually see people that are my real-life best friends in this space, I am pushed to believe that this is the where people I am closest to should appear. It is reinforced by the fact that the person you are in a relationship with has a dedicated space in this sidebar, as does your siblings. However, when I see a mixture of people I am very close to positioned next to people I hardly know, the juxtaposition triggers a subtle voice in my head tells me something isn’t right - and I feel a nudge to correct the mistake. And this is exactly what Facebook is trying to get the users to do, click that little pencil icon in the upper right hand corner to edit this section.

    Users would be forgiven to believe that clicking the icon will allow them to edit who is displayed here. This would be too easy, right? I’d just make a few quick adjustments, remove friends I don’t care about, add friends that I do, and be done with it.

                         

    Alas, this is not the case. There is no way to alter the people that are displayed in this space. Yes, the same icon does a different thing in the new version than in the old. But wait, there is a consolation prize! When I click this icon, I am prompted to make new lists! Classic bait-and-switch.

    So how am I to get rid of the visual prominence given to these “hardly-knows” on my profile? Well, I can create new lists that trump the auto-generated list “friends.” The more I make, the further down on my page these people go. And that is exactly what I am driven to do - create relationship lists.

                                      

    So part of what this redesign is about is baiting users to create priority lists. From this, they can solve a number of problems, including determining the context in which certain people are important to you and others are not, as well as solving the whole “I have 800 Facebook friends, but I dont care about 700 of them” problem. 

    It seems in this design Facebook has employed the best tactic known to compel a user to action: display something publicly about a user that is incorrect (or in this case, slightly off, but enough to be unsettling). I see 5 people I barely know position next to my 5 best friends in my featured friends list, and I want to do something about it. It is quite clear that Facebook knows who my top friends are, but they choose not to display it to me all at once! Likewise, they have a sense for whom I am least connected to, and they do choose to display these people. 

    This also highlights the idea that the best way to get a user to do something is to make it prominent in the UI. Though not a particularly novel idea, it is one that many web services seem to forget. If featured relationships are prominent, I’ll update them. If my job, current location and hometown are prominent, I’ll keep those up to date. Heck, I don’t know of anyone who initially indicated on Facebook the languages they speak, but I’d bet a large portion will now.

    —-

    If you thought this was interesting, you may want to follow me on twitter.

  4. Zuckerberg’s “Social is Not a Layer” Comments Reveal Limits of Facebook Integration Strategy

    In an interview with TechCrunch, Mark Zuckerberg commented that most companies don’t truly understand social. He said:

    "Even the companies that are starting to come around to thinking, ‘oh maybe we should do some social stuff’’, I still think a lot of them are only thinking about it on a surface layer,” Zuckerberg says. “It’s like ‘OK, I have my product, maybe I’ll add two or three social features and we’ll check that box’,” he continues. “That’s not what social is.“

    “You have to design it in from the ground up,” [Zynga and Quora have] designed their whole product around the idea that your friends will be here with you,” he says.

    While I agree with this idea, these comments seem a bit hypocritical considering that a large part of Facebook’s strategy for extending its reach on the web has been through Social Plugins and Instant Personalization, an approach that I’d argue is merely adding a social layer to third party sites.

    To date Yelp, Pandora, RottenTomatoes, Docs.com and Scribd have implemented Instant Personalization through Facebook. This means that a user need not explicitly authorize each of these sites to use Facebook data. They need only be logged into Facebook while they are using the other site. For example, when I visit RottenTomatoes while I am also logged into Facebook, I immediately see “Movies my Friends Like,” “Movies Recommended For Me” and my Friend’s Activity on the site, based on information gleaned from my Facebook data. [1] In the past, I had to explicitly authorize the Facebook integration to view my social graph in the context of the third party website. Now the integration is automatic.

    Neat as these features are, they still don’t embed “social” into the core of the experience. Yes, they give me information based on some social relationships, but they do not turn my visit into a social experience. I can’t comment around specific movies with my friends, message my friends, see where my movie tastes overlap with my friends, invite my friends to see a movie with me, interact in any way with my friends. The features that Facebook tout so highly only add a social veneer to an otherwise non-social product. These sites are adding window-dressing in order to “check a box” rather than to enable a social experience.

    Although Zuckerberg’s comments were perhaps a jab at Google’s planned product roll-out of Google Me later this year, he was actually making the case against the value of his company’s own product, at least in its current form, as a valuable extension to other sites.

    I think the fastest path to creating a scalable way for third-parties to incorporate genuine social elements into their sites would be to make web apps that integrate into the site’s core and enable users to take action with friends as part of that experience. One of the best ways I can think to do this is through “data threesomes" that allow flexibility in how social is integrated into a third-party site.

    As Steve Cheney writes, “there is incredible power in blending silo’d data across web services.” For example, lets say in the future a group-buying site begins to incorporate into their API several discounts within a particular vertical, let’s say movies. A movie-ticket vendor like Fandango could blend the Facebook Social Graph with the API of this group-buying site to show users which of their friends haven’t seen a given movie and might like it, and offer them a discount if they buy the ticket with three or more of their friends. This would create a real social experience. This application would not simply show users their friend’s data, but allow them to interact with their friends around third party content. It would be more than a cosmetic layer, but rather a function deeply integrated into the experience and the intrinsic value that Fandango offers.

    Genuinely interactive apps would create a more flexible and constructive use of Facebook on a third party site. It would bring more value than the current method of adding a few buttons here or showing a few friends there - a method that Facebook as a company is publicly praising, but one which, it would appear, Zuckerberg personally loathes.

    Notes

    [1] Interestingly, “Movies Recommended for Me” is blank for me because I have never “liked” any movies. It would appear at this point Facebook is unable, or has not yet released the ability, to extrapolate across categories.

  5. The iPad Will Transform Online Conversations (and not in a good way)

    I love my iPad. I’ve had it for less than 72 hours, but already it’s become disruptive to my everyday routine.  Traditionally, the first thing I did when I woke up was look at email on my blackberry, then head over to my laptop to check the WSJ, Twitter, Google Reader, Hacker News, Facebook and ESPN, usually in that order. Where I used to do all of this on my laptop, I now do it all on my iPad. 

    However, to me, the iPad’s greatest weakness is exposed when I try to type. Let’s face it: the iPad really isn’t suited for writing more than a few sentences. I’m sure some will disagree, but it remains that to me (and my guess a large portion of the iPad userbase) it is a whole lot easier to type on a keyboard than a touchscreen.  In fact, I’d argue that it is much easier to type on my BlackBerry than on my iPad. Theoretically you could solve this problem by adding a keyboard via Bluetooth, but this detracts from the value of the iPad: its touchscreen, simplicity and portability.

    The iPad is fine if I want to craft a witty tweet or jot down a note. Its not fine when I want to produce a new blog post, a comprehensive response to an article I’ve read, or a long email.

    Many have noted that in its present form the iPad is a consumption, not a production, device. Most can accept this. When they want to go on a binge of information or media consumption they grab the iPad. When they really want to get something done that requires a large amount of text input they move to their laptop. The iPad is bifurcating consumption and production in a way that we haven’t really seen before, and I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

    When I read Hacker News on my iPad it is an entirely passive experience. But, isn’t the point of the Hacker News online community to read and interact? The iPad makes it incredibly unlikely that I will read an interesting article and write a thorough response. Similarly, when I read interesting articles on my laptop, I might email it to a few friends along with some commentary, or maybe respond in the comments section of the article. Again, on my iPad commentary of more than a few sentences seems like a chore. 

    Online interaction around content, I believe, will see the effects of this. In fact, we might see the “Twitterization” of online communities, comments on blog posts or articles, and email discussions with friends. Where people are much more likely to write a quick, two line response on their iPad, they are much less likely to write several paragraphs of insightful content that make Hacker News, the comments section of AVC.com, or an email thread with my friends enjoyable.

  6. The Accidental Billionaires

                                            

    I just finished reading The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, who also authored the book-turned-movie Bringing Down the House. I bought the book at the suggestion of a friend who is in Pheonix S-K, the Harvard finals club that the book describes in detail (Facebook co-founder Eduardo Severin was a member). My friend alerted me a few years ago that Mezarich was conducting research on campus and that I should look out for the book.

    So, when I saw it at Barnes & Noble I decided to pick it up. The book describes the founding and rise of Facebook, and pays significant attention to the company when it was in its nascent stages at Harvard College.

    I was looking for a behind-the-scenes look at the founding and rise of Facebook and deep insights into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg and the key players that contributed to its rise.

    To be honest I was pretty disappointed by the book. Mezrich is a fabulous storyteller, but the book really lacks substance. It is written more as a novel, paying more attention to painting a scene than giving the reader fact and insight. The book is extremely sparse on the details of the actual events and reaction from the key players. When evaluated for its ability to shed light on the development of Facebook, it’s written more from the perspective of an outsider than an insider.

    The book is also a bit misleading because a solid ½ of the book is devoted to the story of Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg after they hired Zuckerberg to complete a site similar to Facebook. When I bought the book I wasn’t ready to spend more than 2 pages on this topic. As it turns out every other chapter is devoted to their story. 

    I’ve read a few preview pages of David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect (set for release June 8). Already I can see the dramatic difference in the insight into Facebook that these two books offer. From what I can tell, in contrast to The Accidental Billionaires, Fitzpatrick’s account is heavy on the details and sparse on the fluff.

    I expect that Fitzpatrick’s book will be more of what I was expecting from Mezrich’s book. The Accidental Billionaires whet my appetite for this story, and hopefully The Facebook Effect will satisfy it.

    Grade: B-

  7. Foursquare’s Growth Dilemma

    Crossing the chasm from early adopters to the mainstream market poses significant problems for foursquare. It’s a classic Catch-22. How does foursquare engage a mainstream audience - we’ll call them “normals” - without alienating the core group of early-adopters who catapulted them to 1 million users?

    To recap, the debate so far has been around which of the following foursquare features will be most attractive to the mainstream consumer market:

    1) Discount

    2) Game Dynamics (badges, points, etc.)

    3) Tips related to location (See Chris Dixon’s post)

    Though these features are not mutually exclusive, I believe discounts are the most attractive to the mainstream market, and will be necessary for foursquare to cross the chasm. Normals may come for the novelty of the product, but eventually will want a return for their patronage; otherwise they just don’t have, or won’t make, the time to use the service. I’ve written about this previously, and a recent Dave McClure blog post echoed these sentiments. He writes:

    Without financial incentives or discounts, there is absolutely no reason on god’s green earth to “check-in” for your stoner cousin, your luddite penny-pinching aunt, and certainly not your clueless grandmother. they could give a rat’s ass about your stupid little iPhone app with the pretty pictures and clever auto-discovery that barely works while draining the hell out of the battery… that is, until you give them $5 off their next beer or 5-dollar foot long…. at which point guess what? HELLO, MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET! while there may be ways to s[t]imulate financial incentives & discounts with virtual goods, frequent flier miles, or other point-based systems & psychological motivations, nothing works better to increase conversion than a cool $5 bucks in yr digital wallet, or 20% off yr next offline purchase.

    While I don’t agree with everything he wrote (specifically, that rewards programs are more similar to game dynamics than to discounts) I do agree on the basic premise: that “normals” do not care about shiny badges, they care about saving money.

    However, venturing into discounts could pose a problem for foursquare. I was speaking with an analyst at a VC firm the other day who pointed out that early-adopter users often react negatively to being “given” something in return for using a product. Early-adopters use the product because of the intrinsic enjoyment it brings them. This value is diminished when they are given something tangible for using the product.

    It’s kind of like students receiving money for getting A’s in school. Though on the surface it sounds like a good idea (why not add another motivating factor!), this actually has been proven to reduce student performance, because enjoyment switches from intrinsic (or internal) motivation to extrinsic (or external) motivation. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic. When motivated by intrinsic factors, a user is willing to act irrationally, giving more than he or she receives materially from the service; the user is compensated by inherent enjoyment. They do not see usage of the product as a market transaction governed by market rules: rather, it is an emotional decision.

    However, when motivation switches to extrinsic factors, the user will adopt logical market expectations that are associated with a market transaction and expect a 1:1 correlation of what they give and what they receive. It is no longer an emotional decision. If what they receive in discounts does not compensate for the effort of checking-in, the user will not use the product.

    Giving discounts to users could prove devastating in foursquare’s efforts to keep their core users engaged. The internal motivation subsides, as it is replaced by external motivation and likely an increasingly apathetic core user base. Also, the thrill of early adoption no doubt fades as more normals become regular users. It’s not so cool to blast your locations and insights about them when you find your archeology professor or sweet aunt chatted them up some time before you.

    So, on one hand foursquare needs discounts to attract a mainstream market. How can they grow as a company and increase monetization if they stall at 1 million users? On the other, they may alienate their existing user base if they move too much in this direction. Early-stage technology companies are extremely reliant on their initial users. A striking example on point is Aardvark, acquired by Google. For the social search service, 20% of users accounted for 85% of all answers. So, which way to go? It’s a fine line, and the outcome cannot easily be predicted. But I’ll leave with one idea: the Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve (pictured below).

             Rogers

    The curve classifies users of innovative products on the basis of when they start using the product: some will adopt early, most will adopt mid-stream and others will adopt later. It is a normal distribution curve, and identifies innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards. In this model, 2.5% of users are innovators, 13.5% are early adopters, and the other 84% are what we would classify as “normals.” Right now it would appear that foursquare is just crossing the chasm between innovators and early adopters. The foursquare service is most powerful when used on a large scale. My best guess is that they will do all they can to capture the remaining ~97% of the market through discounts, but will do everything they can to keep their early adopters engaged through game dynamics. We may very well see an increasingly segmented foursquare user base; core users attracted for the game dynamics while largely ignoring discounts, and mainstream users attracted by discounts while apathetic to badges and points.

  8. Joel on Twitter

    I still have mixed feelings about Twitter, but I generally agree with the points that Joel makes. In particular I think that if you can do more listening than you do talking you can maximize its usefulness as a tool. He writes:

    Although I appreciate that many people find Twitter to be valuable, I find it a truly awful way to exchange thoughts and ideas. It creates a mentally stunted world in which the most complicated thought you can think is one sentence long. It’s a cacophony of people shouting their thoughts into the abyss without listening to what anyone else is saying. Logging on gives you a page full of little hand grenades: impossible-to-understand, context-free sentences that take five minutes of research to unravel and which then turn out to be stupid, irrelevant, or pertaining to the television series Battlestar Galactica. I would write an essay describing why Twitter gives me a headache and makes me fear for the future of humanity, but it doesn’t deserve more than 140 characters of explanation, and I’ve already spent 820.

    The other day I was having a conversation with my parents about the purpose of Twitter. I argued that it was to attain useful information. I use it to find interesting articles and conversations. I think the key here is that it helps me find them. The entirety of these conversations does not actually occur on the Twitter platform. My parents argued that it was yet another tool of my generation that provides entertainment to the ever-growing portion of the population who have a short attention span. The difference between “learning” and “empty enjoyment” may help illuminate the segmented market of Twtitter users. So, when you use Twitter, do you find yourself gaining knowledge; do you “learn” something of interest or value? Or is it just a way to pass them time; a vehicle for empty enjoyment? I think the answers to these questions are important for the impact Twitter will have on my generation.