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Darren Waters

Twitter tests users with changes

  • Darren Waters
  • 13 May 09, 12:39 GMT

Is your Twitter feed looking a little quieter than usual? Mine is.

Screenshot of Twitter websiteIf so, that might be because of a change to the service rolled out last night that is causing palpitations among users.

It used to be the case that you could control the types of @replies you saw in your feed. The old guard of Twitter, like me, not only saw replies to their updates from other users, including those they don't follow, but also the replies of their followers to people they don't follow.

More recently, it was changed so that the default setting for new users was that the only replies you saw were from the people you follow to you, or to you and another person you also follow, and not those replies from your followers to people you don't follow yourself.

But you could change this to see all replies, and adopt the system above.

Are you following me?

So what do the changes mean?

Well, if @ruskin147 replied to @billt and I followed the former (tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones) but not the latter (tech journalist Bill Thompson) that reply would appear in my Twitter stream.

However, Twitter have now changed the settings so you can no longer see the replies of people you follow to people you don't. According to Twitter:

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.

But it seems many users' don't find this underdesirable or confusing. In fact, it is the method many people employ to discover new people to follow themselves.

And the worse part is, Twitter has taken away any control from the user to change these settings.

It would seem that it has done this to streamline the replies feed in order to become less intimidating to new users, who are suddenly overwhelmed by replies that are mere fragments of conversations they are not party to.

What Twitter has not realised is that it is this very aspect of "overhearing" a conversation between people, some of whom you know and some you don't, that makes the service so appealing.

It is what leads you into new conversations, debates and to meet people you otherwise would not have stumbled upon.

Given the noise on Twitter about this change, I wouldn't be surprised to see Twitter follow the lead of Facebook who have made U-turns on feature changes into an art form.

Are you still following me?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    RT @jearle: Less than 2% of people used the #replies setting they turned off. Mentions still work, people. Storm, meet Mr Cup

  • Comment number 2.

    Twitter was going so well, a rising star in the internet and now this...

    The message of the internet:

    Give the users/consumers choice. Don't decide for them.

    This message is everywhere on the internet: facebook and twitter changes, P2P filesharing vs. the music industry, ISPs to use Phorm, etc...

  • Comment number 3.

    A website made a change. Is this really a big deal?

    Oh, it's because it's Twitter which has no viable revenue source, makes a loss every year and will soon be bankrupt! Oh, and it's because the BBC is paid by Twitter to do PR for them. Please! You don't get paid to report soley on Twitter!

    Twitter coughs, and the BBC looks round in a frenzy!

  • Comment number 4.

    Please stop banging on about Twitter, it is incredibly boring.

  • Comment number 5.

    If I may be permitted to mix my Web 2.0-isms, @richardwhiuk: [citation needed]

  • Comment number 6.

    I guess that I'm in that 2% then. But I liked the functionality, and given that most people start their replies with @replytoname followed by their message, that means that I'm missing out on a lot of interesting conversations.

    Unless there's a massive cost saving involved in not hitting the servers (Amazon S3) quite so much, then I really don't understand why they made the change. Given that Twitter doesn't yet have a revenue model, cost may well count for something.

    As I understand it, for new users, the default was to not show @replies.

    But I've been on the service longer, I had those responses switched on by default and liked seeing them.

    It's interesting that some people think that this is a lot of fuss about nothing. That might be because it's a feature you don't use. If the latest version of Word removes the Table of Index feature, I can honestly say it won't make a jot of difference to me. I've never used it. Most people have never used it. But a few have, and they'd get understandably irate if Microsoft was to do anything so silly. Yet that's effectively what Twitter's done.

  • Comment number 7.

    There is something weird about this whole thing. 2% of users (is that regular users or just total registered users, I wonder?) had all replies set. The default for new users is not to have it set. So unless new users specifically went to turn it on they would have the same situation as now; so this change essentially has no effect for new users except that they no longer have the choice to turn it on. But for long term users and "power" users (hate that phrase), who have either had it set since joining Twitter or have deliberately turned the setting on they have now lost functionality which they cannot get back. So it seems almost aimed at long term and "power" users - the very people that have made Twitter successful. Why on earth would they do that?

  • Comment number 8.

    @retroangusr

    "Why on earth would they do that?"

    Some developer would have to maintain that bit of code. Lets say twitter is working on some new feature, however that new feature might in some way break "power user" replies. Somebody is going is going to have to fix either the new feature or the old replies, and somebody else will have to QA it. This takes money and time. If only a few users are using power user replies then is it really worth fixing?

  • Comment number 9.

    "It is what leads you into new conversations, debates and to meet people you otherwise would not have stumbled upon."

    No, RTs lead you to new people etc. Half sided conversations are really just background noise.

  • Comment number 10.

    @Adam Bowie

    One of the criticism against Microsoft is that they don't remove crufty, little used features.

    As a counterpoint - look at Apple, who remove little used/obsolete feature with an almost alarming regularity. When Apple removed firewire from MacBooks, a lot of people weren't all that happy but very few people started screaming how it was the beginning of the end of Apple.

  • Comment number 11.

    Richardwhiuk:

    'Oh, and it's because the BBC is paid by Twitter to do PR for them.'

    That's a heck of a charge to make given that the BBC doesn't do advertising, or are you simply throwing anti-BBC mud without any evidence to back up your assertions?

  • Comment number 12.

    "The old guard of Twitter, like me, not only saw replies to their updates from other users, including those they don't follow, but also the replies of their followers to people they don't follow."

    Can you re-write this post in English, Mr Waters ?

  • Comment number 13.

    "More recently, it was changed so that the default setting for new users was that the only replies you saw were from the people you follow to you, or to you and another person you also follow, and not those replies from your followers to people you don't follow yourself."

    This is the worst example of written English I have seen in the last ten years. It is completely incomprehensible. It follows none of the rules of English grammar as they are understood by Fowler's English Usage.

    Go back to the drawing board and re-write the whole thing.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is truly, dismally, royally appalling.

    "What Twitter has not realised is that it is this very aspect of "overhearing" a conversation between people, some of which you know and some you don't, that makes the service so appealing."

    'some of which you know'.. Do you mean that you know 'some of the conversation' ??

    Or do you mean 'some of whom you know', to refer to the participants to the conversation ?

    It is totally unsurprising that there is so much confusion in the tech world, when it seems they cannot communicate in the English language.

    No doubt this hiatus at Twitter is due to such an abysmal ability to construct sentences, the basis of all written instruction, in a clear way without room for ambiguity.

    To use your vapid parlance 'EPIC FAIL'.

  • Comment number 15.

    I thought as much - Twitter are saying that there were "serious technical reasons" why it had to go. http://blog.twitter.com/2009/05/whoa-feedback.html

  • Comment number 16.

    This article causes me to laugh, cry, and despair! An uncomprehendable explanation of an incomprehensible 'problem'...

  • Comment number 17.

    This clearly isn't a complaint. This blog post is raising a discussion as to whether this change fundamentally alters how people use this tool. If you no longer see fragments of conversation, you lose the extended network effect. Imagine Facebook without photos of your friends from people you don't know.

    The post said that old users keep the old setting and all users can toggle it. The question is, are new users getting a vastly different Twitter?

  • Comment number 18.

    Facebook and Twitter are all part of the same deal, a pointless way to find out the trivialities of what people you know or don't know up are up.

    "Jonny X is cooking chicken for dinner"

    "Susan H is looking forward to the weekend"

    "Terry P: just done a poo. Longer than yesterday's and a bit wider too"

    Tim Berners Lee might have invented the web for physicists to publish and distribute scientific information, but the BBC is more interested in a service that lets people with no lives document their toilet breaks and eating habits.

    In these days of a return to mass unemployment, these services present the perfect 21st century alternative to the DSS queue. Now instead of 15 minutes a fortnight to discuss your empty lives as you wait to receive your dole cheque, you can do it 24/7 from the privacy of your own home.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Twitter have already made a slight U-turn

    http://blog.twitter.com/2009/05/we-learned-lot.html

  • Comment number 21.

    First thing I did was turn this off. Can you imagine seeing everything Stephen Fry says to his followers directly, answers to questions I didn't see, and comments on tweets I have no interest in?

    Speaking of revenue models - would people really leave twitter if every 10th tweet was a 140 character advert?

    @evergrowinbrain - read a book, drink some wine, play a computer game.
    Can I have my consultancy fee now please? Hey - here's a controversial idea, if my last 9 tweets were gushing about my iPhone (as if) then make the ad for an iPhone app/tune/case etc...

  • Comment number 22.

    @mrspinach

    A very apt analysis of Twitter. But the BBC doesn't overpublicise Twitter for the sake of promoting pointless, terrible technology which detriments the way we think, behave, and treat our language.

    Rather, the BBC, in appreciation of the overabundance of free, online journalism, has realised that Twitter is a largely untapped, wholly free, amateur, and ubiquitous source of crazed, online amateur journalists.

    Why send a reporter to deepest Ossetia? Or Iraq? Or Pakistan? Why does a reporter need to examine unfolding events in locations which breaking news is occuring? Too much hassle, too hands-on. No, all they need to do, is browse the Twitter archives, look for new events and rooms flourishing in the wake of a particular incident, and voila. Speculative, online, immediate, omnipresent journalism. And you don't need to leave the comfort of your own office.

  • Comment number 23.

    Twitter is inane and a waste of time, whereas all the nice essays written here by the above commenters are hugely important and certainly worth reading!

 

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