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Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble & Building43 Visit Dogpatch Labs

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Robert Scoble of Building43.com and taking about Dogpatch Labs, entrepreneurship and Polaris Venture Partners. Scoble just posted the article, "Dogpatch Labs gives startups the room—and expertise—to thrive" and the video chat is included below.

I was first introduced to Robert at other Dogpatch Labs events - the most recently of which he gave a speech about the five companies and trends he is most excited about (if you are a Scoble follower on blog or Twitter, you know that Flipboard was absolutely in that list!). He enjoyed the space and the community of entrepreneurs, and we decided to do a piece on Dogpatch Labs:

Why Twitter Needs It's Power Users: They Play Host to Newbies

In response to Om Malik's proposal that Twitter tax it's top users with usage fees, I argued that Twitter needs power users like Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, and Loic Lemeur. Loic then shared the article via Twitter, sparking an influx of Twitter friend requests and direct messages... which lead me to a point that, in hindsight, is very obvious: Power users are essential to Twitter for more than just their content... Power users drive connections.

We all agree that there is nothing more awkward than arriving somewhere where we don't know or recognize anybody. If you come to Twitter without a close set of friends - it's an empty, useless place.

But users like Scoble and Arrington are your MCs. They play host to your experience on Twitter. Even if you don't particularly love their content, they update frequently and demonstrate that there is activity and interaction. The other critical role of a host is to make introductions - and that is precisely what these users do. Some times it's direct - like the example where Loic referred his followers to my blog post (and with a @berecruited comment). But most often the introductions are indirect. @techcruch has nearly 20,000 followers - which equates to 20,000 users who have somewhat relevant interests. That's 20,000 pivot points and 20,000 more users to act as hosts to new conversations and communities.

Update (and a future post to come) - 9:31 pst, 5/30/2008

VentureBeat has a post saying that Twitter doesn't blame Ruby's infrastructure, they blame power users like Scoble. The following quote is from Twitter developer Alex Payne. His point is accurate - but I would be *very* cautious of placing blame. If Twitter (which we should all remember is still in it's infancy) can't handle a handful of power-users, they are going to be in real trouble:

The events that hit our system the hardest are generally when “popular” users - that is, users with large numbers of followers and people they’re following - perform a number of actions in rapid succession. This usually results in a number of big queries that pile up in our database(s). Not running scripts to follow thousands of users at a time would be a help, but that’s behavior we have to limit on our side.

Twitter Needs Its Power Users and They Need Twitter's Data

Twitter and FriendFeed have sparked serious controversy over the last few weeks – and now the controversy is surrounding super users like Robert Scoble.

As Twitter searches for a business model and stability, Om Malik argued that perhaps both can be achieved by charging super users like Scoble (@scoble), Michael Arrington (@techcrunch), and Loic Lemeur (@loiclemeur).

I completely disagree. Scoble, Arrington, Loic and the countless other web 2.0 celebrities (Guy, Calacanis, etc) are Twitter evangelists and the type of free marketing that most companies pay for via traditional marketing… they are unpaid spokesmen. Why would Twitter turn around and charge them for usage?

Nearly 20,000 people follow @techcrunch – meaning that 20,000 users find Arrington’s tweets interesting and useful. Does Twitter need @techcrunch more than he needs the platform? It’s tough to argue at this point – but I can argue with certainty that Twitter needed Arrington and other powerful early adopters at launch. Turning around to selectively charge him (as a power user) not only strikes me as hypocritical - it affects 20,000 ordinary users whose first experiences with Twitter likely came from power users.

Moreover, power users on Twitter are only power users because their audience enables - dare I say demands - their frequent postings. I am a big believer that markets correct themselves. If Scoble twitters too frequently or too obnoxiously, he will lose followers.

Instead of charging users for usage, I am a firm believe that Twitter should charge users for data… and perhaps this is where the business model arrives from power users. Let’s use @techcrunch as a continued example. Arrington often pushes out new posts through his Twitter account - reaching 20,000 new potential readers. But, based on my experience on a much smaller scale, he likely has little to no understanding of what happens next. Users start coming in from so many disparate sources that measuring the impact of his Twittering is damn difficult (or even currently impossible). Would Arrington pay for more detailed information about what happens after the tweet? How about relevant on-Twitter search data? Or competition?

I know that I would.

Equally important - I believe that this sort of usage would be good for Twitter (beyond the revenue) as it makes its users more effective communicators. By understanding my usage and its impact, I am likely to use Twitter more often and more effectively. Another example of the market correcting itself.

Compete has taken an interesting step into charging per-query, but I think the solution is likely a monthly charge.