Why Does Twitter Hate That People Want to Have Conversations on Its Site?

by Mack Collier

If you talk to any long-time Twitter user, one of the first complaints you will hear is ‘I miss when you could actually have a conversation on Twitter’.  Those of you that joined Twitter within say the last 4-5 years wouldn’t know, but Twitter used to be a hotbed for organic conversations.  In fact, that used to be the primary appeal of the site, going to Twitter and meeting new people and having discussions with them.

But several years ago, Twitter made a very small technical change that signaled its true intent.  For the first few years of its existence, when someone you followed replied to someone you didn’t follow, you could see that tweet.  Here’s an example from Veronica, who I am following:

@MazzyStarFan Hey don’t forget that the tweetup is tonight at the Half Pint, on 3rd Ave and 4th St!

Now even though I am not following @MazzyStarFan, in the ‘old days’ of Twitter, I would have seen this tweet.  And in this case, the tweet would have told me there was a tweetup tonight that I didn’t know about, so I might want to attend.

But the change Twitter made was that in order to see this example tweet, I have to be following both Veronica and @MazzyStar (or Veronica has to put a dot in front of her reply to @MazzyStarFan).  Since I’ve never met @MazzyStarFan and have no idea who she is, I can’t follow her, and I miss this tweet and miss the tweetup as well.

This also makes it much harder to organically meet and follow new people on Twitter.  Because if I am having a conversation with Tom, and he starts talking about the same topic with Jennifer, I can only see and comment on Tom’s tweets to Jennifer if I am following Jennifer as well.  Basically if Twitter was a mixer or networking event, you would only be able to interact with the people you already knew.

Why does Twitter do this?  Because Twitter thinks it can do a better job of deciding how you want to use its site, than you can:

 We’re trying to avoid the situation of you hearing someone answer a question when you didn’t hear the question (for instance). Also, you don’t have to hear answers to the question from people you don’t want to hear from. (If you’re not following them, you won’t see their answer.)

That’s great, but why not give me a setting that lets me decide if I want to see replies from people I don’t follow?  Why assume that you know the type of user experience that I want?

And now there are rumors that Twitter wants to eliminate at replies and hashtags.  What the hell is going on here?  Add in that so many blogs are now ditching comments and it seems that there’s an all-out war on conversations on social media sites.  Share content, but don’t discuss the content.

I hate to be an old social media fogey, but give me the good old days (2007-2008) when I could actually have conversations on social media sites with friends versus today when I go, try to wade through a stream of self-promotional tweets, then throw my hands up and leave.  That’s not progress, it’s clutter.

Twitter, stop messing up my Twitter.

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