It seems like everyone has an Olympic Twitter account. But can you remember a single tweet?



NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- The 2012 London Olympics was supposed to be top time for Twitter.

The company invested in --- brace yourself -- actual human-curated content. How will they show themselves in "new media" circles after such outrageous antics? But if you visit #Olympics you will find a very un-Twitter, old-media-like staff of pro tweet pickers agglomerating all things Olympics on the microblogging service.

I think you will agree that the pick of the five-ring Tweet litter -- what I culled from the company blog -- is a fascinating and fresh perspective of this ancient spectacle.

Twitter has also made a point of playing nice with other media, old and new. On the nouveau side, the Google+ hangout with athletes such as Usain Bolt works. There is an an effective use of mobile apps, and nice support for the @London2012 feed with just under 1.2 million or so followers. I even liked the specific feeds for @L2012boxing, @L2012Volleyball or, my sport, @L2012sailing. (I know, I'm a geek. What can I say?)

On the old-media side, the company stepped down from its social media Mount Olympus. Chloe Sladden, Twitter's oh-so-hip vice president for media, made the PR rounds announcing that her company had inked a deal with Comcast's(:CMCSA) NBC.

"Twitter has become the roar of the crowd during live sporting events," she said in a company release.

Twitter has even run -- shock of shocks -- traditional TV commercials during the Olympic coverage. It all got me thinking, maybe, just maybe, this social media service was finally outgrowing its embarrassing adolescent belligerence. And investors might be looking at a mature company ready for fat IPO payday.

With the games solidly under way, though, my hope was clearly just so many tweets in the wind. Twitter at the big games just raises more big questions.

Twitter, like Icarus, gets too close to the Olympics blaze.
Forget five rings of action -- Twitter at the Olympics feels like a 50-ring circus. Following the information this service produces is almost like following no information at. If found it very, very difficult -- and I do this sort of thing for a living -- to parse the different forms of Olympics content on Twitter. Top search engine results for terms "Twitter Olympics" yields a Twitter feed that I think is for the Olympic museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. But I could be wrong. There is also a U.S. Olympic team feed. There is the AP Sports Olympics feed. And let's not forget the athletes' own feeds, like Rebecca Soni's. She is a swimmer. But the information seemed all the same. There's a USA Today index of Twitter feeds. Oh, wait ... my bad. That was for another year's Olympics -- but again, I am not exactly sure.

It seems almost everyone has a Twitter Olympics feed, because -- let's face it -- almost everyone does.

New York-based PrivCo, which values firms while they are still private, released a report this year called Twitter's Business Disappoints. It points out the business impact of this conflicting content. There are insignificant pageviews per feed. Structurally deficient ad formats that lead to "stagnant interfaces." And what the report sums up as a "top-heavy tweet structure" -- report speak for all that nutty content appearing all over the place.

Now, before the new-media hipsters dismiss these questions as "not understanding" the power of social media, may I direct you to an experimental mircoblogging service called Emoto. This MIT-developed website renders Twitter content in a perfectly compelling and logical way. It sees the messages as a sort of sentiment engine that strings together zillions of tweets, then relates them and renders them as a coherent emotion.

What keeps Twitter from creating something like this? My guess is that the company is too busy managing its mountain of confusing content.

The social media oxymoron
The Olympics gives us the pause to consider the deeper dysfunction lurking with Twitter. What it -- along with Facebook(:FB), Pinterest, LinkedIn(:LNKD) and all the social media rest -- is trying to do is build a many-to-one-thing (that is, a media business) from a whole bunch of many-to-one things (that is, the interactions of social media groups). They're trying to outdo Twitter in the impossible marathon of trying to carry a coherent message across an essentially incoherent, noisy and chaotic landscape.

What the Olympics really is doing is shining a torch under this brutal duality. Try staying close to a Twitter feed during a peak Olympics moment. Say, the 9.6 million tweets Twitter said went off during the opening ceremony. But go look at them. There is no experience there. There is no message. It's just 9.6 million messages, not one of which is memorable. After nearly three solid days of consuming the Olympics on cable TV, streamed over the Web via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, I cannot remember a single tweet. Sponsored or not. But Bob Costas and Olympics Subway ads, those are crystal clear in my mind. And I bet they are in yours too.

Following Twitter during these games has turned out to be like following a mid-talent marathoner who, hope against hope, is miraculously running with the elite pack. No question, he is having the race of his life. But he is already struggling. He will not medal.

And if he is not careful, he probably won't even finish the race.