Two Fixes for Twitter

There are two things in particular that everyone struggles with on Twitter. Here are my humble suggestions as to how Twitter can do something about it.

1. The Asymmetrical Direct-Message Conundrum

What it is: User A is following user B, but User B is not following User A. User B direct-messages User A, and when User A tries to reply to that direct message, they cannot, because User B is not following them.

Fix: Give User B a way to set a message that will DM User A with some contact info automatically. Something like “Unfortunately I can’t receive direct messages from you, but please contact me at blahblah@domain.blah.” A more complicated fix that might help would be to allow User B to set an optional exception for receiving direct messages for anyone User B has direct-messaged (but whom User B is not following), for a given amount of time or a number of messages. It’s not perfect, but it will handle the majority of these occurrences.

2. The “DM FAIL”

What it is: User A means to send a direct message to User B, but accidentally tweets it to the whole wide world.

There are a couple of variations:
a) The SMS Reflex Response: User A gets a text from Twitter with a direct message from User B; User A types a reply and hits “send” before realizing it’s from Twitter and should’ve had “d username” (or now “m username” ?!?) typed before it.

b) The Prefix Fumble: User A is in same situation as above, but does realize it’s a text from Twitter — however, since they’re so used to thinking of Twitter usernames in the form of “@username” they type that out, forgetting they should be using the other prefix instead.

Fix: allow me to turn *off* the ability to create a tweet via SMS; and reply to my SMS text with a “hey you can’t do that” reminder if I forget I have it turned off and try doing it anyway. Let me turn it on and off via SMS text with commands, so if I’m stuck on a phone where I need to tweet that way, I can still do it. But so many people have smart-phones with Twitter apps, there’s no reason why I can’t receive SMS from Twitter without being able to create via SMS as well.

There you go, Twitter! My gift to you 🙂

(By the by, I have no illusions that I’m the only one thinking about how to solve for these problems, and the bright designers at Twitter probably already have better solutions. But … you know, I thought I’d share, just in case … )

Twitter Info for … Me!

Hey, I’m Andrew! You can read more about who I am on my About page.

If I had a “Follow” button on my forehead, and you met me in person and pushed that button, I’d likely give you a card that had the following text written upon it:

Here’s some explanation about how I use Twitter. It’s probably more than you want to read, and that’s ok. This is more a personal experiment in exploring network etiquette than anything else. If you’re curious about it and read it, let me know what you think?

Disclaimers

  • I use Twitter for personal expression & connection; self-promotion & “personal brand” not so much (that’s more my blog’s job, but even there not so much).
  • I hate not being able to follow everyone I want to, but it’s just too overwhelming. There’s little rhyme/reason to whom I follow or not. Please don’t be offended if I don’t follow you back, or if I stop following for a while and then start again, or whatever. I’d expect you to do the same to me. All of you are terribly interesting and awesome people, but I have limited attention.
  • Please don’t assume I’ll notice an @ mention within any time span. I sometimes go days without looking.
  • Direct-messages are fine, but emails are even better and more reliable for most things (imho).
  • If you’re twittering more than 10 tweets a day, I may have to stop following just so I can keep up with other folks.
  • If you add my feed, I will certainly check to see who you are, but if there’s zero identifying information on your profile, why would I add you back?

A Few Guidelines for Myself (that I humbly consider useful for everybody else too 😉

  • I’ll try to keep tweets to about 10 or less a day, to avoid clogging my friends’ feeds.
  • I’ll avoid doing scads of “@” replies, since Twitter isn’t a great conversation mechanism, but is pretty ok as an occasional comment-on-a-tweet mechanism.
  • I won’t use any automated mechanism to track who “unfollows” me. And if I notice you dropped me, I won’t think about it much. Not that I don’t care; just seems a waste of time worrying about it.
  • I won’t try to game Twitter, or workaround my followers’ settings (such as defeating their @mentions filter by putting something before the @, forcing them to see replies they’d otherwise not have to skip.)
  • I’ll avoid doing long-form commentary or “live-blogging” using Twitter, since it’s not a great platform for that (RSS feed readers give the user the choice to read each poster’s feed separately; Twitter feed readers do not, and allow over-tweeting to crowd out other voices on my friends’ feeds.)
  • I’ll post links to things only now and then, since I know Twitter is very often used in (and was intended for) mobile contexts that often don’t have access to useful web browsers; and when I do, I’ll give some context, rather than just “this is cool …”
  • I will avoid using anything that automatically Tweets or direct-messages through my account; these things simply offend me (e.g. if I point to a blog post of mine, I’ll actually type a freaking tweet about it).
  • In spite of my best intentions, I’ll probably break these guidelines now and then, but hopefully not too much, whatever “too much” is.

Thanks for indulging my curmudgeonly Twitter diatribe. Good day!