Wednesday, May 13, 2009

@Replies, Who's Listening?

The New Fail WhaleImage by kmakice via Flickr

Twitter announced a 'small settings update' yesterday that removed the ability to see when someone you're following on Twitter @replies to someone you aren’t following. Fragmented conversation is a popular method of discovering new friends but Twitter perceived receiving one-sided fragments via replies in your timeline as undesirable -
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… Confused? That’s understandable and exactly why we made the update. ~ Biz [Twitter]
Cue the Backlash..

Removing popular features carries a certain element of risk, admittedly total satisfaction will always be difficult to achieve but when you remove core functionality backlash is inevitable. It has been suggested many times that Facebook has Twitter envy but the circumstances Twitter found themselves confronted with today were anything but enviable. Mark Zuckerberg knows all about the furore that can escalate from dissatisfied users and Facebook learnt a valuable lesson from the experience. The @replies backlash can be tracked on Twitter with the hashtags; #fixreplies and #twitterfail which are both popular trending topics. Communication and discovery are core elements which make the decision to remove @replies confusing...

Woah PR Fail..

Many have viewed the original blog post from co-founder Biz Stone as oddly condescending, that post has since been amended and Biz then responded to the 'extremely useful feedback' -
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. Nevertheless, it's amazing to wake up and see all the tweets about this change. ~ Biz [Source]
Revealing the true reasons behind the removal of the feature is a PR failure, the original blog post provided misleading information. The fact that there were serious technical reasons why that setting had to go and not that the feature was undesirable and confusing..

The Compromise..

Just as Facebook relented with the homepage redesign, Twitter announced a compromise, stating that the problem with the setting was that it didn't scale and even if they rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency -
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.

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
~ Biz [Source]
Make sense? After reading You Can Now See Twitter Replies Sometimes, Except When You Can’t on TechCrunch I'm more confused than ever. Until the next time then?!

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