Back in 2008-09, the legal tweeting community was widely looked down upon, its members derided as narcissistic nerds. The tables have long since turned, of course. But after a period basking in the glory of their foresight, the legal Twitter elders seem to be growing restless. Statements like “Twitter isn’t what it used to be” have become increasingly common. Which is why App.net is interesting…
Basically, App.net – the hot new social network creating a buzz in the tech community since its launch in August – is Twitter in 2008: i.e. far fewer people, less commercial, more friendly. The difference is that you have to pay: $5 (about £3) a month or $36 (£22) for the year. Oh, and you get a longer character limit (256 characters, as opposed to Twitter’s 140). Potentially most significant of all, though, is that App.net is open to third party developers, who it is hoped will take the site to the next level by creating exciting new features.
Over the weekend, I opened up a @LegalCheek App.net account and went searching for lawyers.
There weren’t loads, but already there is the making of a small community: barristers, solicitors, law students and US attorneys – all doubtless hoping they’ve happened upon the next big thing. Happily there’s almost a total absence of the drab corporate law firm accounts, hard-sell legal marketing personas and personality-free legal magazine feeds that have proliferated on Twitter.
Plus, in an encouraging sign for the medium as a whole, famous Twitter early adopter Stephen Fry is on there. Fry has already garnered 4,387 followers, which is massive in App.net terms.
The problem is that few people are saying much. Popular solicitor tweeters Jon Bloor and Laurie Anstis, who are both on the site, don’t post regularly. Nor do the handful of law students I came across. The US lawyers on there aren’t very active users, either.
Fry, meanwhile, hasn’t done an App.net – not the most natural of verbs – since November 5.
There are, however, exceptions to the rule. For example, Duncan Roy, a Brighton-based barrister, typically makes several posts daily. But then Roy is sensibly taking a break from Twitter following his mistaken decision to name Lord McAlpine in connection with false paedophile allegations (he has since apologised).
That seems a decent enough reason to fork out for an App.net subscription. But at the moment, I can’t think of many other ones. Naturally, if Twitter ramps up its advertising considerably, and starts using its members’ data more aggressively, that might change.
Even if it doesn’t, I suppose App.net could, with the aid of some new features, perhaps carve out a niche as the social media equivalent of a private members club – which would play to lawyers’ love of hierarchies. But right now that seems a long shot. So did Twitter, though.