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Seesmic's LeMeur: the Twittersphere's King Canute?

Last night (my time) I sat up and watched the live stream from Chirp as in turn Twitter execs, VCs and more Twitter execs tried to mollify the Twitter developer community. It was interesting to see the trending items upon which Twitterers pounced.
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Written by Dennis Howlett on

Last night (my time) I sat up and watched the live stream from Chirp as in turn Twitter execs, VCs and more Twitter execs tried to mollify the Twitter developer community. It was interesting to see the trending items upon which Twitterers pounced. Trawl through this lot to see what I mean.

Given all the broo-ha-ha around Twitter's acquisition announcements the questions coming in from the audience were - lame. Nobody addressed the elephant in the room: "You've acquired a mobile client, do you have plans to acquire a desktop client?" Of course no exec in his right mind is going to answer that question but a failure on the part of an allegedly ticked off developer group to get close in addressing the question was - quite frankly - pathetic. Another interpretation might be that the 100,000+ developer organizations are crap scared and that Twitter knows it.

Corralling hundreds of developers in a single place, making nice noises (we don't want to be evil etc) but hogging the microphone for 90% of the time is a great way to control the crowd. Anyone who's been to an antsy shareholder's meeting with an agenda knows that. So where does Loic LeMeur, CEO Seesmic fit into this equation?

Seesmic was the very public target for Mike Arrington's analysis of Twitter's direction. Regardless of what you or I might think about Arrington, I say it is a brave investor who publicly calls out an investee. I can only assume that Arrington has counseled LeMeur and found he has tin ears. But it gets worse.

I've known Loic around five years. He's a charming person with many great qualities. But like everyone I know (including myself) he is fatally flawed. He can't handle criticism and doesn't understand that friendship is an ephemeral thing with no bearing on hard dollar value delivery. On his most recent blog post in the aftermath of the Twitter announcements he says:

I have had an interesting week myself, it started with Michael Arrington explaining that I was in denial with an awesome picture to defin  e the situation, then emails from friends, partners sorry to hear that we are going to be in huge difficulties competing with Twitter and some employees literally wondering if they would have a job (think about my mobile developers who were told by Fred Wilson that they should stop filling holes). My morning has been mostly populated by meetings with friends and press looking totally sorry as if someone had died in my family.

OK - so welcome to the shark pool. But instead he chooses to title his post in a NSFW manner along with a video explaining why he is happy with the Twitter announcements. I don't believe any of it. Sorry Loic but if you read his Tweets he already knows that Twitter is coming after his core market: interfaces to the firehose.

In another video, Loic says that he's happy with Promoted Tweets because it gives Seesmic a business model. Turn that around. Seesmic has no business model for its Twitter integration. In other words Seesmic has developed no perceived value add. My prediction is that Twitter will end up 80% gamed promo from brands and that will turn people away. Regardless of what Loic may think - on one video he says people are used to advertising - Twitter's business model is borderline garbage.

OK - having flayed Loic it is worth pointing out that he realizes the risk. Investors that live on the edge can make massive returns. They have to given the failure rates elsewhere. Seesmic is building out interfaces to many other services. In other words, Seesmic is becoming a portal. But. I hear nothing about how Seesmic might take incoming data, curate that and present the end user with a rich and coherent stream of useful information - for which they will pay. Instead, I hear this lame notion that people will somehow put up with not-advertising-ad-Promo-Tweets. Do not for one second believe that's a viable model. We will Tivo out or go elsewhere.

Enterprisey types are often cast as dinosaurs that know diddly squat about what's going on. There is truth in that. The flip side is that unlike many of the Twitter developers, us enterprisey types have been around a long time swimming in the shark pools. If companies like Seesmic don't get that Twitter's backers are just as voracious around returns as any shareholder then they are naive. This is not kumbaya time. Earlier today I noticed the ax is falling on Ning. Do the many free services that hang off Twitter think they will survive without a monetization model?

All of which is great news for the Yammers and SocialText's of this world. They understand that enterprise value has to be monetized early. What part of that is boring Loic?

Bottom line: Loic has been one of the most vocal people in the Twitterverse and as such is a natural target for critique. But in a curious way he represents the naivety with which the current generation of developers and short sighted VCs approach the world. I'm sure that in his heart of hearts Loic knows that he's in a dangerous place. He'll figure a way out. My advice would be to take note of the past successes and failures of the enterprise world. Yes, enterprise is boring but it generates $3 trillion in spend each year. Twitter? Not so much. If not then sadly, he (and his business) looks like King Canute.

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