Ears Plugged

Listening is a basic tenet in community building and communication. Ears open right? Not so much in Twitter’s case this evening. They made a ‘small change‘ to their reply settings by changing the replies tab from showing all @replies to only showing those from people that you’re following. Reading their explanation sounds very condescending as it is – who said the replies option (hence the word option) was ‘undesirable’ or ‘confusing’? Twitter obviously doesn’t listen to the community to know what we find beneficial & functional in our everyday use.

As discussed a lot already tonight (check the #FIXIT and #fixreplies hashtags), many of us found new conversations through this option, as we were able to connect with people that were talking about us who we weren’t already following. Now, they’ve taken that ‘undesirable’ option away and hindered a big part of how we were able to build connections.

My Thoughts

Twitter scaled back this ‘small’ option to help benefit their lack of scalability. We’re all aware of Twitter’s past server issues and concerns about scaling the platform as popularity continues to grow, but they seemingly turned away from the voice of the community and saw a change that would be great for them and only them.

My Advice

Unplug your ears, Twitter (no matter how mainstream you’ve gotten), and take a listen to what your community is saying. Just because you grew up in the 2.0 world doesn’t mean we don’t want to be heard by our own people.

You would expect that a platform that allows for listening and monitoring of your brand/community, would be used as such by the actual platform…

Update – Twitter has updated their post, which is still confusing and still with a lack of options.

Update 2Follow-up post indicates @reply functionality will be brought back and seen by users, as long as the actual reply button is not clicked. Secondly, they’re already working on a new feature that’ll give us control on what we see from the people that we follow.

Kudos to Twitter. Though it took a huge uproar from the community they’ve seemingly listened and, for the time being, brought back a bit of the functionality back while working on a new feature to better suit our needs. I don’t know where these promises will lead but even with their lack of communication from the get go, I’m hopeful they’ll be able to right their wrong.

15 comments On Ears Plugged

  • Oooh…no likey. 🙁 I *like* seeing @ replies from people I’m not following yet. Helps to see who engages with the same topics and therefore makes a good follow. Important too lfor finding new people!!

    Obviously not a decision made for our benefit…

  • Er… “from” == “to”…

  • Twitter needs to please the mainstream if it wants to make money. If the mainstream gets confused by too much “white noise” (aka, seeing messages from people they don’t know), they won’t stick around long enough to pay for anything.

    Something tells me Twitter will sell “discoverability” back to those of us who want it. This may be a new Web 2.0+ business trend — realizing your original free assets are the only thing people would pay for in the first place, so you limit them and start charging.

  • I agree with @Justin, that Twitter is likely figuring out what value it can provide and then leveraging that for revenue.

    I’ve been researching the Twitter mobile interface, and my guess is that will be the core offering online (since its minimalist interface presumably scales better than the browser version). Other features such as search, branding, social components will be fee-based.

  • @Justin – I’d disagree that the mainstream would even give a hoot about a pay model by Twitter (or however they’re going to make money). The mainstream flocked to Twitter because of celebrities and news media. They’re trying out the cool new fad, but why would they want to pay for that? Twitter’s core users, those of us who helped build up its popularity since SXSW, are the ones who would be willing to pay and the ones Twitter would be better suited in helping out, rather the mainstream.

    I understand the mainstream outnumber the core users by probably millions, but it’s not about the numbers; it’s comes down to the quality and use of Twitter by the smaller number of evangelists, the ones who made Twitter an actual viable business strategy – those are the people that’ll always stick with them.

  • @Sonny – Right, the mainstream wouldn’t pay for Twitter; we (the longtime users) probably would. That’s why I think they may be scaling back the functions *we* want, so they can charge us to re-add them later. Anyone using Twitter for business is making money off the service, yet the service isn’t making money off us, so they have to find a way to leverage that relationship.

    @Roger – Twitter may be able to charge for branding, but if they charge for search, someone will develop a 3rd-party app that does it for free. Also, if they were smart (which is debatable), they would offer a subscription discount to anyone who’s been on the service since the beginning (and, therefore, helped it succeed). Maybe a sliding scale that depends on how early you joined — x% off per month pre-Oprah? 🙂

  • So mad about this. It’s pretty much a huge bunch of bs. Half the interesting people I’ve met/found simply by clicking through a conversation they were having with someone I already knew. If they keep doing stuff like this…Fonzie has already jumped the shark.

  • Following conversations is crucial to the twitter experience. If I wanted to operate inside my own cocoon, I’d spend more time on Facebook. Huge mistake. I hope to see it change. This is probably great news for Friendfeed, as many are heading that way in droves.
    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

  • I am always amazed that so many Web 2.0 companies don’t “get” the way that the consumer expectations have shifted. It is not like Twitter would not have access to a willing (and vocal) group of loyal users that they could ask. It seems that many companies are willing to build their businesses based on the openness and power of social networks, yet drive their business decision making using old-style processes and non-collaborative systems.

    I guess we just expect more – but as shown by the stampede to FriendFeed, we are impatient with those companies that don’t include us in their thinking / communications.

  • This is a weird one for me. See, I can see why so many users are upset, but at the end of the day, I think there’s also a lot of overreaction.

    The @ feature was always an unofficial innovation that users came up with, and yes, it worked pretty well. Yet it can be confusing if you don’t know what it is. And with Twitter attracting many more users, they need to make it as simple as possible to use for the majority.

    They could have handled the transition better, or made suggestions and went with the popular vote.

    They didn’t – but they did listen. Mistake made, lesson learned, let’s move on.

    And remember, it is still their tool to tailor as they wish.

  • Appreciate all the great comments here – thanks guys!

    @Danny – That’s one thing I disagree with that’s been mentioned – “it’s their tool to tailor as they wish.” Their platform was built around the community. That community consists of core users that are the evangelists, the techies who helped boost this platform into the mainstream. Those core users are the ones who made sense for businesses and brands to get on Twitter and implement it within their strategies.

    The platform may be free but I strongly disagree that because we don’t pay, we don’t have a say. They still have a responsibility to us, their community, and should (and seemingly have) listen to us. In the long run, we’re the ones who will help them sustain.

  • You’re right, Sonny, we do have a say – everyone does, from early adopters to recent users. And it’s that “say” that Twitter has listened to and made adjustments accordingly.

    It’s everyone’s platform to use. I wouldn’t say it ‘belonged” to the early adopters that helped it grow, or that they’re the core community. They may be the more active users, but every single person using Twitter is part of the wider community.

    Just because someone was “there first” doesn’t make something that person’s property. It just makes them more experienced than newer users – yet that changes quickly as we all know.

  • I’m definitely hopeful on the changes they’re making now after listening to the community. I don’t think the platform belongs to us, the early adopters, never thought that. But I do think that Twitter has a huge opportunity with those loyal core users. Will they take advantage of that opportunity? Guess only time will tell!

    Thanks for the discussion, man.

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