Twitter probably thinks it’s doing us a favour algorithmically sorting tweets but what it’s really doing is creating a frustrating Twitter feed balagan.
One of the reasons I use Twitter so much more than Facebook (which I barely use, such that when I do open the Facebook app, I frequently see messages from Facebook trying to reassure me that it’s safe to return) is that Twitter has historically let me just see tweets in reverse chronological order.
Sure, Twitter also has a sort of “featured tweets” section at the top of my feed. For the most part, that’s ok, because I can scroll down to see everything else. That doesn’t happen anymore. If I look at a sampling of my Twitter feed (below*), it’s a mess. I have tweets presented in random time order and I’m not even sure if that is all of them.
Twitter may be doing this because they realise that users who follow a lot of people hardly ever see everything. Or something. At the same time, don’t mess with what I do get to see. This algorithmic approach to presenting my Twitter feed just kills the value for me.
At the moment, the only thing that keeps me returning to Twitter is because I haven’t worked out how to follow all the awesome people who make it worthwhile, outside Twitter (yet). As soon as I figure that out, the Twitter app will join Facebook in Phone Limbo.
*Here’s that Twitter feed sample, if you’re interested. Look at the timestamps:
I get a kick out of how the social networks celebrate events like Father’s Day and its #ThankYouDad campaign is a fun example. Even though Father’s Day is over for the year, I wanted to share two tweets I enjoyed.
The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.
Largely unsubstantiated speculation
Read that carefully. What Bloomberg said is the following:
Some anonymous person said Twitter will stop including links and images (well, image links, effectively) in the 140 characters limit.
This might happen in the next two weeks.
Twitter declined to comment.
While all of this might happen, this news report is pretty much unsubstantiated speculation (well, aside from the “person familiar with the matter” who could be a guy who passed an open window where someone who looked like a Twitter employee said something about 140 characters and links).
This speculation has then been reported as pseudo-fact by a variety of other publications. The Verge, for example, reported this:
Twitter is planning on letting users craft longer tweets by not counting photos and links toward its 140-character limit, according to a report from Bloomberg today. The change may happen in the coming weeks, and it would remove one of the more annoying product hurdles that has persisted on Twitter for years. Links and photos currently hog 23 and 24 characters respectively.
Secondly, Twitter reportedly declined to make any comment. In other words, Twitter either won’t confirm it because –
it’s just another rumour about something Twitter is still thinking about;
Twitter isn’t going to make the change; or
Twitter is being coy because it thinks this sort of frenzy might just convince all those Facebook users to switch.
Lastly, surely this sort of “news” isn’t worth all this attention? We’re literally talking about roughly two dozen characters where people either post multiple tweets to express a whole thought or do what Dorsey did back in January and publish an image of a lot of text. To add to that, a lot of people even publish thoughts that can’t be contained in 140 characters in those things we old-timers call “blogs” (it’s a real thing and it’s in the dictionary).
It might happen
If this change comes to pass, it will be a good thing. Twitter shouldn’t be counting links and media in the already constrained character limit and commentators have been calling for this change for years.
It won’t change the tweetstorms, tweets attaching images of longer texts and other stuff. It will just mean that users can probably avoid publishing multi-part tweets when they happen to be a word or two over the limit and still want their tweets to be intelligible.
Making this change won’t bring about peace in our lifetime; fix global warming or make the wifi on my train work any better. It really isn’t that big a deal, people.
I read Anil Dash’s post titled “Nobody Famous” on Medium recently and it is worth reading if you are either wondering if it is worth the effort attracting a large Twitter following or if you believe your large Twitter following is somehow meaningful.
I noticed that a tweet I posted was getting a lot more attention than my usual stuff so I took a look at the activity on that tweet. What I saw immediately reminded me of Dash’s post. Relative to my usual tweets, this particular tweet received a lot of attention and my one thought was that I should have written a post on this blog about WooThemes’ terrific news to benefit from the attention the tweet received but then I noticed the actual click-throughs.
Twitter used to be this really important web traffic driver. It still is significant, relatively speaking, but it is hardly the killer engagement tool it is sometimes made out to be.
General consensus when it comes to people like Richard Catto online is “don’t feed the trolls”. That usually means you don’t engage or even acknowledge their existence. I adopt that approach for the most part but after reading some of Catto’s tweets in Sarah Britten’s post about free expression on Twitter, I chose this option:
Trolling is one thing but tweeting that rubbish goes too far.