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Twitter to #FixReplies Users: We Can’t But Please Be Quiet

Twitter to #FixReplies Users: We Can’t But Please Be Quiet

by Ben Cook on May 13, 2009

Update 2: Twitter says they’ve learned a lot and responded with another blog post saying:

The problem with the setting was that it didn’t scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency. We felt we could do much better.

I still don’t understand where they’re getting that the feature was confusing or caused a sense of inconsistency from. If you used it, you saw every tweet from the people you follow. That seems pretty simple to me.

The post continues:

So here’s what we’re planning to do. First, we’re making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account. This will bring back some serendipity and discovery and we can do this very soon.

So wait, only @replies that aren’t generated by clicking the reply button will be shown? Meaning users now have to choose whether they want all of their followers to see a reply, or whether they want to link the reply to the tweet they’re actually replying to?

And that’s supposed to be making things LESS confusing? Riiiight.

@Biz concludes by saying

Second, we’ve started designing a new feature which will give folks far more control over what they see from the accounts they follow. This will be a per-user setting and it will take a bit longer to put together but not too long and we’re already working on it. Thanks for all the great feedback and thanks for helping us discover what’s important!

And wait a minute, did you just call this an important issue? I thought the feature wasn’t used by anyone and too confusing.

Putting that issue aside, this actually does sound like an improvement. What makes Twitter great is the ability of users to turn it into whatever they want it to be.

Of course, given Twitter’s history of down time, problems with scaling, and their recent pathetic attempt at a cover-up, I’m not going to be holding my breath on these new features.

@Biz says that Twitter learned a lot from this flap.

Judging from their continuing unwillingness to simply admit they lied about the reason initially and are simply unable to continue to support the feature, I’m not sure they learned anything at all.


Update: Due to the uproar over the “small settings update” Twitter has published a new blog post saying:

The engineering team reminded me that there were serious technical reasons why that setting had to go or be entirely rebuilt—it wouldn’t have lasted long even if we thought it was the best thing ever.

In other words, “Remember how we told you we killed the option because it was ‘undesirable and confusing’? Well really we had to kill it off because we don’t have enough resources to run our service.”

Bottom line: Twitter lied. (& I’ll now be using the #TwitterLied hashtag)

Rather than admitting that despite taking on millions in venture capital, they still don’t have the resources needed to continue running their service properly.

As experienced as the Twitter founders are in social media, I’m a bit surprised they’d try and then admit to a cover-up of this magnitude. As always, their failure is now an even bigger story than it would have been if they’d have been open and honest with their users from the start.


As many Twitter users will notice this morning, #fixreplies, #TwitterFail, & Goodbye People I are all trending topics.

For those of you wondering what this is all about, I’d point you over to Twitter’s blog post announcing the “small settings update” but in reality that wouldn’t help much.

Why? Because Twitter apparently doesn’t explain things very well.

Maybe it’s because they’re used to only using 140 characters, but whatever the reason, the result has been a mass of confusion in the Twitterverse.

Your Reply Tab Hasn’t Changed

Despite the many panicked tweets you may have seen on the subject,  you’re STILL able to see every message that mentions your Twitter name.

Whether you follow that person or not, if they @reply or drop your Twitter handle in a tweet, it will show up in your @replies tab.

What Twitter Broke

What Twitter actually changed, was a setting that they say many users didn’t use or understand in the first place. If you follow me on Twitter, and I @reply to someone that you don’t follow, you will no longer see my tweet.

Judging from my debate with @DanZarella (who by the way is a good guy to follow for Social Media info) this morning, it seems that some people may not understand why you would even WANT to see a one sided conversation.

Who Cares?

Personally, I find it’s the best way to discover new users that I would like to follow. If I see several people in my Twitter stream responding to a person I don’t know, chances are I’ve just found someone else useful to follow.

Also, there are a lot of questions being asked and answered on Twitter. And just like in grade school, even if I wasn’t the one asking the question, the response might be quite useful to me.

By eliminating the option, Twitter has essentially forced you to only be exposed to people you’re already following. Rather than frequently being introduced to new people to follow, Twitter has moved us into our own exclusive cliques.

Why Remove the Option?

The only reasoning for this change that Twitter gave was that:

” 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.”

You know what was cool about options? They’re optional. As in if you don’t like the feature you can turn it off. If you do like it, great, use it!

So, rather than allowing users to determine whether the option was “undesireable” on their own, they’ve made the decision for you.

Rather than doing a better job of explaining the supposedly “confusing option” they just disabled it, pissing off the users who liked the option.

Heaven forbid Twitter would actually educate their users on the option, possibly allowing them to get even more value out of their service.

New Features!

But don’t worry! Twitter will

“be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.”

Now, I’m no expert but if you have to create a new feature to replace the one you just killed off, maybe the old one had some value after all.

But just to get ahead of the curve, I’d like to put in a request to Twitter for a new feature. I’d really like to be able to follow ALL of the tweets of people I follow, not just the ones directed at people I already follow.

In other words, give us back the option you just took away.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

redwall_hp May 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

“You know what was cool about options? They’re optional.”

Haha, best phrase I’ve seen today so far. 🙂


Scott May 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Twitter is also free


Skitzzo May 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Scott, it absolutely is free, although they have introduced ads which I’m sure they’ll expand in the future and they definitely want people to use their site/service.

However, your comment did give me a great idea for another post that I’ll try to bang out in the next day or so.


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