Posted May 13, 2009 12:21 pm by with 13 comments

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twitter-logoIt looks like Twitter is now in the process of deciding how they can please everyone all the time. Its most recent change to its service is to eliminate the option to see @replies that involve folks you don’t follow. Here is part of Twitter’s explanation from their blog

We’ve updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we’ve learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow—it’s a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today’s update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

Needless to say many people are not happy about this change including Jason Kincaid over at TechCrunch. Part of his take goes as follows

There was an option to receive all @reply messages from any users you were following. This led to an increase in noise, but it also exposed you to new Twitter users and conversations that you might have otherwise missed out on. I’ve had it turned on for over a year. But apparently that option has confused too many people, so Twitter is killing it

He goes on to say:

Gee, thanks Twitter. I didn’t realize that an option I manually activated was undesirable. Any other things I shouldn’t like that you’d like to make me aware of?

ReadWriteWeb calls it as they see it as well:

In what the company called a small settings update, users no longer see public replies sent by friends to people they themselves are not following. (Fragmented conversations, they are called.) This isn’t a small change at all, it’s big and it’s bad. The new setting eliminates serendipitous social discovery.

So the thought is that there has been such an influx of new users that are not tech savvy enough to make decisions that could cut out the noise that confused them that the folks at Twitter unilaterally removed the option all together. Long time Twitter users, however, had learned to use that opportunity to discover people that they may not have ever been exposed to. Rather than too much noise it was noise they wanted to sift through themselves and determine for themselves who to pay attention to and who to not pay attention to.

In a rather poor attempt to appease these folks Twitter has come up with a process to refer other users via a suggestion format

Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you’ll still see mentions or references linking to people you don’t follow. For example, you’ll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don’t follow @biz.

Never fear though because the post goes on to assure us that Twitter will be making more decisions on your behalf on the best way to use their service in a way that they deem fit in future updates. Ah, can you smell the freedom?

So what’s your take?

Andy’s Update: Could it be that Twitter killed the option because it would have meant a complete overhaul of its system? Or perhaps it was simply due to cost?

Update 2: It looks like the system needs a complete overhaul. Twitter gives an official response:

The problem with the setting was that it didn’t scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt.

They also explain how they plan to tackle the problem in the interim.

  • This is really, really lame on Twitter’s part. Wouldn’t it have made more sense, if they really wanted to please everyone, to make that feature optional for users to choose. Seems to me they are getting more focused on the mainstream (which btw, visits but doesn’t stay) and forgetting those of use who have made the service what it is today. A big disappointment.

    Unfortunately, will the revolt be big enough that Twitter will actually care? Doubt it.

    Maria Reyes-McDavis’s last blog post..Choice Theory and Influence on the Social Web

  • Hi,

    I was just getting used to understanding half of what was going across my twitter account, and now everything’s changed again. Thanks twitter. I’m really ex-static about it!

    Craig Hesser alias Jimmy Craig (G**gle me?)

    Craig Hesser’s last blog post..A New Member of the ?Clan?

  • I really do *not* get why removing the feature was a more desirable option than just making it clearer (for new users) what it actually does. A service should never take away features just because part of the userbase doesn’t understand it!! That’s ludricous!

    I’m particularly upset because I pruned my Following List *specifically* so I could turn that feature ON, in an effort to discover my friends’ friends and now it’s not even available to me!

    There has been enough noise about it on Twitter that I’ll be shocked if they don’t re-instate the feature…

  • I’m bummed about this – mainly because I completely ignore the “so-and-so is now following you” emails – there are too many of them and too many bots/empty accounts following on a daily basis.

    So the only way I’ve been finding out about new followers who are worth a damn is when they @ me and join the conversation – THEN I follow them back.

    But I’m sure I’ll get on just fine with my life and work…

    MikeTek’s last blog post..5 Great Internet Marketing Blogs You Shouldn’t Miss

  • @Chasy – do you really think they will change? I doubt it – I think they will just try to weather the storm and leave it as it is (not as it was). Too much programming went into it with adjacent fixes, etc., I expect.

    Craig Hesser alias Jimmy Craig (G**gle me?)

    Craig Hesser’s last blog post..A New Member of the ?Clan?

  • Anyway, it gave me the opportunity to figure out why my Gravatar wasn’t working 🙂


    Craig Hesser’s last blog post..A New Member of the ?Clan?

  • Pk

    I’m new to twitter and this issue is probably least confusing barrier to use.

  • I agree that the feature to see replies from other people you don’t follow should be optional. The way I see this problem is that there are a lot more technologically challenged people than technological savvy people out there. Since the technologically challenged people are the majority, they are the ones who make the complains because they want the service to work right (their way) for them, rather than venture and God forbid learn what the service has to offer for themselves. (Basically this people are afraid of breaking the computer or pushing a button that they don’t know what it will do).

    One solution could be that at the time you sign in for a new account, new users are forced to reed or watch a video summarizing the basic functions of twitter, doing it this way, twitter educates new users on how to best use their platform as is, and not trying to change it as they want.

    We can’t please everyone ever, therefore, we all have to stop trying to please, there will always be people who like what we have to say and/or offer some, and others who will not.

  • That move from Twitter and the reason behind it was one of the most amusing ones I have come across. While fully understanding the need to make Twitter more affective to the less tech savvy population it has, but that doesn’t mean Twitter should start taking taking decisions on *everyone’s* behalf. It would have been better to simply put a check box and let people decide

    Sardar Mohkim Khan’s last blog post..Twitter removes @reply options to spare users of confusion

  • I think making it optional would have be most sensible option as has been mentioned. It a little concerning that they’re forcing changes like this to their followers, unanounced without even consulting their userbase, quite a large change to make … could this be an indication of power going to their head?

    The again, it’s currently a free service to use, and it’s also advertising free, so you can’t really argue too much…

    Adam Tudor’s last blog post..Google Goody Bag Winner!

  • I have a blog entry in draft that I started yesterday about the @replies setting. I had noticed it missing even though the Help page still existed. With this news, I’ll have to update my post.

    Bob Williams’s last blog post..Internet Marketing, eCommerce Marketing, and the 4Ps

  • After all the debacles facebook went through, you would think twitter would have taken the lessons from their mistakes. Poor judgement on their part to yank the feature, having to deal with the service going down mid-day, then now having to deal with the PR damage. Should have been upfront about what was going to happen before implementing such a change.

    However having said that, in a few weeks this will be old news and won’t be even an issue.

    But that’s just me.

    Clean Cut Media’s last blog post..Twitter Statistics: Visitor Growth

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