Ok , I do not want to pick on Facebook. I know that Twitter also has its issues, as John Dvorak points out.
Here are the top seven:
Elephant syndrome: News reports from casual observers roaming around a newsworthy situation can only result in the “elephant syndrome.” This refers to the three blind men who each are told to describe an elephant. Each describes the lone aspect they’re touching. The snakelike trunk, the treelike legs, etc. Nobody comes close to describing an elephant. A big breaking-news story, I can assure you, is an elephant.
Unvested reporters: The general public and most bloggers have no idea how to pursue a story and get the facts. They witness a few things, generalize with commentary, such as, “It’s really bad. The police are beating people.” And that’s the end of it. The silly notion of citizen journalism propagated by J-school professors seeking some excuse for their continued existence is part of the problem.
Vulnerability to manipulation: Twitter, above all other systems, is ripe for this. I can foresee the day when some sharp operator, like the World Workers Party (remember A.N.S.W.E.R.?), sets up shop with 50 fake accounts and a few followers. It would be so easy to observe an incident and blow it out of proportion for some political reason. This could be going on now, for all we know.
Hoaxes and goofballs: Users of the Internet can never forget the fact that the system is filled with kids who love hoaxes. And, from everything I’ve seen over the years, the public falls for these elaborate gags over and over.
Lack of access: Generally speaking, a casual user of Twitter has zero access to spokespeople and officials. It’s just a person with a phone taking a picture. While this may be useful in exposing an abusive cop beating up an old lady, it’s not good for much else.
Lack of analysis: Twitter in particular, with its 140-character limit, does not lend itself to analysis. And while a tweet can link to analysis, we do not get analysis from Twitter users themselves.
Skewed priorities: A must-read this week is MarketWatch Editor-in-Chief David Callaway’s flippant take on Twitter’s latest round of notoriety — that it’s jumped the shark a second time. He accurately points out that Twitter is mostly about the user himself or herself. “Can anyone find me a good restaurant?” … ” I’m cold.” … ” I just ate a cheese sandwich.” … ” I almost got killed in Tehran.” And while the last example is a kind of reporting, these idiots with their cell-phone cameras should probably get out of harm’s way.