When is a Hole not a Hole?

Photo by Deborah Fitchett from Flickr used under Creative Commons

At Chirp last week, there was a lot of talk about filling holes.

As background, this is the term Fred Wilson (@fredwilson), an investor in Twitter, used in a post that sent understandable shockwaves through the Twitter developer community, erm, ecosystem.

Oh, and the release of a Blackberry app and the acquisition of Atebits (@atebits), maker of Tweetie, reported to be among the best iPhone apps for Twitter and a stellar Mac OS X client, did nothing to quell those fears.

Even at Chirp, Evan Williams (@ev) added to the hole-filling by announcing, albeit begrudgingly in a Q&A session, that an Android app was in the works and that Twitter.com would eventually have its own URL shortener.

However, after Day 1 of the conference, the mood seemed to be pretty light, and developers sounded enthusiastic about what the future holds for Twitter and their apps, hole-filling notwithstanding.

The whole concept of hole-filling is alien to me, as an enterprise software guy, but as a guy who designs and builds side project web apps, like Connect, I get it.

Obviously, enterprise software aims to be fully complete in version 1.0, at least for must-have features. Compare that to a web app, which can probably afford to release in beta (i.e. not yet done) for testing and iteration.

The funny thing is that Twitter, as it stands today, has been deeply influenced by its users, who have molded it into what it is. However, what are viewed as must-haves for Twitter users now, could not have been foreseen when Twitter was in its infancy.Features like @ replies, hashtags, short URLs and search were driven into Twitter by users.

Remember when Twitter didn’t track @ replies at all? How useful would Twitter have been to you without @ replies?

I know for me, very less so.

Twitter didn’t even have search until it acquired Summize in mid-2008.

Now, imagine what Twitter would have been, had they built to the requirements that support today’s feature set?

Yeah, how “frictionless”, another word bandied about last week, would Twitter have been then?

The moral is sometimes a hole is not a hole, at least not today, but you might have to fill it someday.

Twitter’s success is highly attributable to its API and the community of developers who have filled holes (or scratched itches) in the service. Layering value on top of the core service has allowed Twitter to grow into something much different that it was at birth, which is awesome.

Although it makes sense that Twitter would roll some features under its own umbrella, there is still plenty of hole-filling to be done, not to mention all the interesting new development that exists. I know, I lost my grip on the metaphor there.

Anyway, no real point here, just an interesting take on collecting requirements, acting as the parent of your product, fostering your users and ecosystem, etc. Maybe all I need to say is that after Chirp, I’m an even bigger fan of Twitter and its posse of developers.

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AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

3 comments

  1. Twitter is the ultimate case of users driving incremental product development. The holes…features for future increments. And it's the API that has kept it all going.

  2. Totally. It's funny to hear griping about filling holes when you put Twitter's original offering into perspective. The API has carried them by spreading development across the ecosystem.

    Now, if only someone would fill the IM hole . . .

  3. Totally. It's funny to hear griping about filling holes when you put Twitter's original offering into perspective. The API has carried them by spreading development across the ecosystem.

    Now, if only someone would fill the IM hole . . .

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