So, it's the weekend. I'm rattling up to Edinburgh from London on the train, as I often do, and I'm keeping in touch with the Twittersphere on my phone (*).
But no longer. The client I've been using since my G1 Android days, Twidroid, informs me — somewhere between York and Newcastle — that it's been turned off by Twitter for nameless violations. If I wish to download a Twitter-approved client and leave and read tweets again, I can click on a link.
A link isn't really what I was hoping for. For me, perhaps for many of us, Twitter isn't just the thing that lives on www.twitter.com. It's a service mediated by our favourite client software. Changing that through forced disconnection is impolite at best.
Whatever Twidroid had been doing must have been very naughty. What has it been doing? At this point, the story gets weird. Trademark violations? What? An issue with direct messages over 140 characters in length? What is this, I don't even...
As far as I can tell — this being late on a Friday night, me being off-duty and undeniably in Scotland — it's all a lot more complex than that.
Twitter has taken against Twidroid's owner, UberMedia, and disconnected all of its Twitter clients for slights imagined or actual. UberMedia has been collecting Twitter clients and, it is reported, is close to buying Tweetdeck, the client I (and most other tweeters of taste) use on our desktops.
Perhaps Twitter doesn't like that and wants to warn UberMedia off. You can see why it might get nervous if some other company is doing an end-run around its service.
Or perhaps Twidroid really is a trademark violation of Twitter, as it shares many of the same letters of the alphabet. Three are even in the same order. In these days of intellectual property madness, that might be enough. Who can tell?
But what I can tell is that as a user of Twitter, a promoter of Twitter and a big fan of Twitter, this is so not my problem. I've been thrown off for a dispute that didn't concern me, that didn't threaten the service in a call-security-he's-stolen-the-crown-jewels way, and that has left me wondering whether I really should have invested this much time, effort and love in the service.
It clearly doesn't love me back: I can think of a number of ways it could have dealt with the problems with UberMedia, whatever they were, without leaving me in the lurch. Or at least, giving us all some warning and letting us make our minds up. It chose not to.
It gets worse. If, as seems at least possible, my use of Tweetdeck will result in a further disconnection just as soon as UberMedia buys it and thus does... those bad things... whatever they are.... that's me gone from mobile and desktop. What did I do?
So, er, Twitter thinks it can get on just fine without me. I'm sure it can, and I without it.
But it's an odd way to run a social network.
(*) Since the East Coast mainline train company withdrew free wi-fi, in one of its many attempts to solve its customer service problems by annoying all its customers away, I use the phone for data services a lot. That almost keeps me on the train. However, with your latest seat reservation nonsense and fare increases, you're nearly there, chaps! Don't worry, I shall soon annoy you no longer, going by air instead. It's what you want, isn't it?
I do worry that, as with Twitter, this turning of customers into barely-tolerated annoyances may not be a sensible long-term strategy, but let's think of it as evolution in action.
(edited because having used the app for years, I still got its name wrong. Y oh y oh y...)