Twitter-cide: Is Twitter Killing Itself?

November 12, 2009 / 7:42 pm • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

Is Twitter trying to kill itself?

That’s the question I’m asking, because it sure seems like it. Here are a list of things I do not like about Twitter currently and many have to do with “innovations” meant to “help” and by “help”, I mean help Twitter not use as much bandwidth.

1. See Everything: Remember when you could see conversations with people even if you weren’t following both participants? I want that feature back, please. Make it something people can turn on and off. I found the best, most interesting people this way…by watching their conversations with other people. It’s a great way to learn, too.

2. Retweet: I read Evan’s rationalization. Here’s what he said:

If five people you follow retweet the same thing, you get five copies, which can be useful but it a lot of noise. This comes up even more in search. Popular users can get retweeted enough to saturate a search query.

This is a way, Evan, to ascertain the importance of a topic to people. I’m often shocked by what gets RT’d. In fact, some things turn into a trending topic because they touch a nerve. It is unpredictable. I don’t mind seeing 30 RT’s in my stream of the same thing. I like it. Now, I can see Twitter not liking it, because again, it takes up space. And this new innovation is all about saving space…for Twitter.

Then, Evan says this:

The other thing some people will not like is that, unlike organic RTs, there’s no way to annotate or leave your own comment when you retweet something with the new system.

This is a problem. Already, I have followers who think I agree with something because I RT it. Many times, I add a comment. It CAN get confusing. Whatever. People see the content morph and can jump in and question. It provokes conversation. And my comments, my take might make the RT relevant in a way that a random RT unannotated would not.

For example, a simple word | “Snort” after some stupid comment can indicate that this tweet is either stupid and/or ridiculous and/or funny. People usually get which.

Again, I only see Twitter benefiting from this feature, not the users. It makes streams less cloggy. Okay, fine. You know what? Make these “features” opt-in/out.

Twitter can be a messy, difficult to follow mish-mash. Oh well. It’s social. It’s conversation where a person is going in and out of the stream. What’s wrong with that? Why does it have to be “clean”?

Some of the fluff is dealt with in 3rd party Apps anyway. A person can filter. And Evan says that a person will only get the info they want. But that’s just it. People can follow the people they want who give the content they want or don’t want. Some is bunk, but every once in a while, there will be something really good. How do you control for that gem?

What I see Twitter doing is trying to take the humanity out of the Twitter–to make this social media less social and more pure information sharing. Yuck. I like Twitter because it’s like the best, hand picked group of friends I could ever want all sharing stuff but sometimes being amazingly juvenile (like the Star Wars Sex meme). That’s called being social and human. It’s fun.

Streamlining Twitter might be nicer for Twitter, taking less bandwidth and server space, but what of the user experience? I already don’t like missing so many conversations. What if I could just have a way to watch all conversations by the people I chose? What if I could RT w/o comment or with comment (tagged, for example) with a pop-out like the TwitPic–a cloud around the original comments with people’s comments?

The solution isn’t to pare information, it’s to make more information accessible. At least, that’s the solution I’d be shooting for.

  • O Bloody Hell

    I don’t twit (yeah, I know people think it’s cute to use “tweet”. Sorry, that should’ve been seen and considered before they named it).

    But much of what you speak is valid, speaking from a long, long history (30 years and running) with computers.

    A certain amount of structure is good. It keeps things comprehensible. But there is an ideal amount of randomness to things, too — you want to get to pay attention to the things you have elected as worth attention — but you should also get random inputs as well, in order to bump into new stuff. Ideally, that’s not all totally random, some of it should be “edited”, and that’s a missing component.

    You probably want (my own numbers, yours will vary) 50-60% stuff you know, 25-35% stuff selected “editors” have sent you, and 5-15% stuff that’s completely random.

    What’s probably missing in Twitter is the editor factor, though it is currently being partly filled by your friend/conversations with others (though it sounds as though the geniuses at twitter are actually removing an essential function). There should be some form of editor function, where things you tweet go specifically to people who “sign up” to receive them, with the idea that you specifically want to call attention to them so that others will share, as opposed to stuff you just randomly want to say (kind of a “significance” factor — most stuff may not be all that significant. other stuff is stuff you think has some profound element, or “need to know”, to it).

    You may not want to get all the random conversations that other bloggers you know have to say, but they may have things they identify as “important” and those you might want to be part of a network to receive. Blogs kind of perform this function, I think, but we’re talking about a kind of more interactive social “do everything” kind of app.

    This, by the way is what “Push” is really all about. They talked a lot about it 10 years ago but never really understood that “mass push” would never work. Push can only work on the networked individual level.

    I think the problem with twitter is that, as a medium, it’s also too small (one of the key reasons I don’t twit). It needs to allow for larger things to be associated with it, if not “sent” with it. As far as I know, it doesn’t have that. It needs a companion network that’s usable for larger stuff, which could be nothing more than a merging of twitter with something that also pulls up associated URLs and/or emails when clicked — that being the chief thing, easy access to the “expanded” form.

    As the above missive shows, that’s one reason I don’t twit — most of the stuff I want to say takes more than 100 characters or so.


  • O Bloody Hell:

    The good doc is complaining, not about a missing ability to forward things to her buddy list, but about the missing ability to comment on and twist the meaning of the things she retweets.

    I don’t have any problem doing that with Tweetdeck, so maybe the problem is the web interface rather than twitter itself.

    There is also a perfectly fine way of attaching shortened URLS and twitpics to tweets (a twit isn’t a message. it’s a person).

    I guess the answer to Doc Clouthier’s problems is to use Tweetdeck.