Monday, December 15, 2014

Hey, Twitter, don’t do anything stupid

Twitter is by far my favorite mobile app. With it, I keep track of the news and people I’m interested in using my smartphone. I also can join in on the global conversation, whether it’s about a news event or a television show.
I also love the Twitter website on my desktop PC. It’s a great service.
But I’m worried about Twitter’s future.
Twitter as a business faces a lot of questions. (For the uninitiated, Twitter is a microblogging service that lets people and organizations post short messages called tweets that are limited to 140 characters. These tweets often include weblinks and photos.)
To keep investors happy, it needs to grow its user base and increase revenue from advertising. Changes to its service to address either of those things could piss off existing, hard-core users like me.
Twitter made some changes this year that improved the service. Most notably, it spruced up user profile pages.
But it also started tinkering with users’ timelines. This summer, Twitter started showing users tweets from people they didn’t follow in their timelines.
“These weren’t retweets, but favorited messages from other people that they followed,” Hootsuite writer Evan LePage said in a blog post. “The change itself is clearly an effort by Twitter to open up the timeline, making it easier for people to discover other users based on interactions with the people they already follow. Many people weren’t fond of this particular idea though, especially those that use favorites casually.”
I agree with the critics. I use the favorite button both as a placemark to show where I finished reading tweets in my timeline and as a way to mark links that I plan to check out later. In no instances do I favorite tweets because they are my “favorites.” In fact, a better name for the tool would be a bookmark.
I’m concerned that Twitter may start limiting the tweets that show up in users’ timelines in the same way that Facebook messed with its newsfeed.
I already limit the tweets in my timeline by only following 22 accounts. Some users follow many more (often hundreds) and so interesting tweets are bound to get buried.
The chronological timeline of tweets is sacred. If Twitter wants to expose interesting tweets, it should do so in the Discover section of the app and website.
I don’t mind minor changes such as keeping retweets and replies out of the timeline, but Twitter should not mess with tweets.

Related stories:

Can Tantalizing Twitter Rock Wall Street? (Investors.com; Dec. 5, 2014)

Twitter: Of course it’s junk, Blodget says (Yahoo Finance; Nov. 14, 2014)

Almost As Many Twitter Quitters As Active Users (Investors.com; Nov. 10, 2014)

Twitter Initiation Report Cautious On User Growth (Investors.com; Nov. 3, 2014)

Photo by Marisa Allegra Williams for Twitter.

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