There was widespread media coverage yesterday of MP Louise Mensch’s launch of “Menshn”.
Apparently positioned as a rival to Twitter, Ms Mensch’s business partner explained their thinking behind the project:
“Twitter is just very a very random stream of chatter if you want to stick to a particular topic like politics or business,” Mr Bozier said
As well as keeping discussions relevant, Mrs Mensch and Mr Bozier hope Menshn’s more controlled environment will also discourage abuse.
Hmm. Is it just us, or are we reaching an all time low here of people who don’t get social media, launching social media sites?!
Life is, on the whole, trivial
Human beings form relationships, and have meaningful debates, through “random streams of chatter”. That’s what makes Twitter so great – you can bond with someone over your shared love of Japanese food, instead of (or as well as) developing a business relationship.
“Sticking to one topic” is going to make that discussion artificial and, quite probably, dull, bland and humourless. If that’s what you want from your social network, there are plenty of options out there – carefully selected parts of Quora and or / LinkedIn will do you just fine.
“It’s just full of people discussing what they had for lunch” is an objection we hear about Twitter from time to time. Usually from those who haven’t used it, or are feeling under pressure at the thought of another huge deluge of “data” which they need to keep up with.
Sometimes, lunch really matters
As a minor aside, this week’s other media phenomenon is the story of Martha Payne, whose school lunch blog was banned by her local council and then un-banned again following a huge outcry. A waste of time, or crucial debate about health and nutrition for young people? Yes, that’s not the same as someone debating whether to pop to M&S for a prawn sandwich or get a burger, but the point stands: sometimes it’s the trivial stuff in life which IS important, for all kinds of reasons.
But here’s the thing: everyone’s Twitter is different. There are users dealing solely with research and debates on the frontiers of astrophysics; world-famous entrepreneurs giving their thoughts on the economy; and, yes, people who just want a bit of water cooler chat and may well be discussing what they had for lunch.
Your own Twitter experience will be unique to the combination of people you follow, and if you don’t wish to discuss your lunch, stick to the astrophysicists, or politicians, or whatever is your bag. Starting an entire new social network just because you haven’t figured out how to fine tune your own Twitterverse yet seems a little extreme.
Let people talk, and some will say bad things
The second statement is bordering on delusional. We understand that Ms Mensch has come in for some, at times, unpleasant and unacceptable abuse on Twitter. That’s what happens when you’re a controversial figure using a two-way communication platform; there are some people out there who won’t agree with you, and a few who’ll express that in unsavoury ways. You have two options: delete, block and move on, or go back to publishing articles in the Daily Mail where nobody can answer back (and avoid the online edition at all costs, but then that’s a good general rule for life anyway).
The idea that restricting the “approved” topics on a site – currently on Menshn, you’re allowed to discuss the US elections in general, the Obama campaign, and the Romney campaign, and that’s all – will in some way “discourage abuse” seems wildly misguided. How would you implement such a thing effectively? Program in a limited vocabulary of approved words from which users can make up their messages?! Doomed to failure, that one.
What do you think – do we need a new platform to “exclude” trivia from Twitter?
Meanwhile, the Twitter community, in another example of the genius that can come from triviality, have been busy coming up with other suggested startups which might be relevant to MPs. Read and smile.