WhatfettleOn Twitter Constraints


I really enjoyed the presentation at LeWeb3 from Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter. Ev said some powerful things, not least:

we’re used to asking the question, “what features can we add to make something better” .. but I’m a fan of another question at the start of a product cycle “What can we take away to create something new”.

As a sometime advocate of Twitter, I was stoked to have an opportunity to ask a question:


LoicLeMeur
Can you introduce yourself?

psd
yeah, sure! I’m Paul Downey. I’m psd on Twitter. I love Twitter! It’s a big part of my life, [blush!] and I want to thank you for that!

ev
thank you.

psd
Something I’m noticing amongst my followers and my friends that we’re descending into using Twitter like irc and that kills the SMS experience. Nanolanguages are forming a bit like chants in a football crowd. A good example might be the L: tag, and the hash, and the at, which I love, but the problem is they’re becoming very intrusive and are spoiling that “What are You Doing?” experience. How can you stop that from spoiling Twitter?

ev
That’s a good question! One of the interesting things that’s happened with features that Twitter didn’t have, was people made up their own syntax to make up for that and it turned out people really wanted to converse, so they made up this @ reply syntax. So people put in this @ symbol and a username to reply to someone else’s Twitter, but that goes out to everybody that is following the sender of that, but may not be following the person they’re replying to, and it gets confusing, and some of these other syntaxes that you are mentioning are having a similar effect where instead of the pure Twitter message that maybe the update from the person sending it, it’s becoming overwhelming. So what we did in the case of the @replies is introduce a feature that gave you a little more control of whether you get those @replies and I don’t know if we offer the ability to not get them over SMS and only get them on the Web but that would be a good feature to add.


psd
So I think embracing the nanoformats and making more control, adding more to the interface would be useful.

ev
Yes, so that’s the line we’re walking now. I think you can start out very simply and add stuff, and it’s inevitable you’ll need to add stuff. What we like to do is follow our users and see what is needed and I think we’re adding stuff like the @replies feature which we never even designed in there and we’re now accounting for that. And there are several other things we can offer. I would like to give a lot more control over what you get over SMS. That should address that problem.


I edited out all the ums and ers, I was unusually nervous as you can tell from the video, 10:30 minutes in.

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