Twitter reinvents the web comment

If you’ve read my posts before you’ve probably heard me complain about Twitter before, and I’ve thought about it some more: 

I loved Twitter when it was in its infancy, the distributed social asynchronous communication let me learn from and get into contact with people who shared my interests from all over the world. It was empowering.

But Twitter is changing. It's no longer designed as a platform for discussion, but as one for publication.

This new Twitter feels way-to familiar. It looks like Twitter have reinvented the web comment. Same format, same bad tone, same bad social grace. Good job Twitter.

The only real difference between a blog, twitter, and a news site is interface. That's how powerful design is in informing behaviour.

The continuing decline of Twitter

As I've written about before I love Twitter, the service, but I'm not very impressed by Twitter the company. Twitter wants to change that, Twitters claims they have changed. This time things will be different. The problem is that Twitter seems to have become even less likeable. A few days ago Twitter launched Digits, a service completely unrelated to their core product. Possibly because they don't like the whole micro-blogging thing. Digits is a service to help people log in without emails or passwords (in detail over on the Verge).

The interesting part, to me, is how Twitter deals with developers.

Twitter now wants to reach out to developers, to tell us they've changed, by inviting us to a conference about what sounds like dev tools:

As a peace offering, Twitter on Wednesday is expected to announce a suite of tools that aim to make it easier for programmers to build apps, according to people familiar with the matter. - WSJ

But Twitter already burned developers severely a few years ago by closing down APIs. They burned developers so much that Marco Arment just wrote a scathing blog post arguing that we can't trust them. And I think he's right.

Responding to Marcos comments a Kevin Weil ("vice president of product for revenue") tells the Verge:

He (Weil) named a few companies that have made millions of dollars developing on Twitter’s platform, including TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and the social-media monitoring company Radian6, which sold to Salesforce for $340 million. The changes in 2012 were intended only to ensure Twitter had control over its core service, he says. "Our API was so open that we allowed people to compete with us, and so there were changes we had to make."

Wait. What is Weil saying here? That Twitter as a platform should only be available to companies who don't make money? Or just the companies Twitter would like to make money? Or is Twitter NOT a platform at all, but a closed service that has an API just to taunt developers?

None of the services mentioned compete with Twitter as a platform or service. One could argue they had competitive UIs though. But shouldn't all that traffic made it easy for Twitter to monetize? Perhaps sell higher volumes of API access? It's hard to understand just what Weil intends to say with this strange answer. My only possible takeaway is that Twitter prefers its partners to not actually succeed.

I think this proves Marco's point wonderfully. Twitter doesn't want developers. Twitter is not a platform. And they want those meddling coder kids to stay off their lawn.

Twitter is the Twitter-killer

Twitter, the micro blogging service, has taken the world by storm. While there are only a few hundred million users compared to Facebook's massive near Billion, the service has become the place to share real time updates and is often used to gauge peoples reactions by news and analytic firms because the platform is open. But Twitter is about to face it's doom While Google struggle to reproduce the viral effect of micro blogging services Facebook's grab for the real time feed was hampered by the need to privacy. Twitter has already gained wide acceptance and was never intended for private information in the first place. But a series of ominous events are slowly hollowing out the foundations of Twitter.

Twitter is being killed by... Twitter has never been the most stable of tech startups. The service used to be plagued by downtime which became so frequent the Fail Whale error page became as famous as the service. The company itself is also changing management again, and again. Not a great trend this early in a one product company. The lack of leadership is clear to see.

Twitter UX Twitter (the company) is constantly changing and evolving it's product. Which is a great way to organically fit the needs of their users. But Twitter (the company) is doing this in a somewhat odd way. It started when Retweeting (passing on another users tweet as a sign of encouragement while marking it with their name and RT) was made a part of the product, after it's wide adoption by users, Twitter (the company) decided to implement it differently than the usual Retweets. This lead to better statistics, but also a fractured UX as apps now had to implement both ways to RT because users didn't like the new one. Eventually Twitter (the company) incorporated the old style Retweets but called the function Quote Tweet instead. And the problems were just getting started.

Twitter app insanity Twitter apps were almost a category on their own in the beginning of the Appstore. Twitter has become so important to mobile phone manufacturers they always showcase a twitter app with their new flagship phones. But Twitter wanted to control the experience, like Apple. Maybe a good idea. But really bad execution. They bought Atebits, the developers behind the most popular Twitter apps for iOS and Mac. Have you ever pulled down a list to refresh? Atebits invented that. So why was this a problem? Sounds great, right?

Tweetie and Twitter

After being purchased by Twitter (the company), the newly renamed Twitter for Mac and Twitter for iPhone started being updated less frequently... Let me make that clear, having the developer of the apps work closer with the Twitter development team made them update the apps less often.

Then shit really hit the fan. Twitter (the company) redesigned all their interfaces to be similar across platforms. Starting with a roll out on iPad, then web then the rest, Twitter (the company) streamlined their interface development.. in theory. What really happened? The interfaces now looked the same, but they didn't work the same. In fact, certain features only exist on certain platforms even though the interfaces look the same. Which makes it really hard as a user to remember what you can do where.

Later on the developers behind Atebits have left Twitter (the company), possibly in raging despair. And Twitter (the service) is fracturing into a mess. Not just between interfaces but functions as well. For example with the roll out of the activity tab you can follow some of the things people are doing through Twitter, following, unfollowing, making lists and so on. These features, which btw totally contradict the extreme simplicity of the core product, are weirdly integrated into the web interface as the afterthought they are. And it's only available on the web.

Summery Twitter (the company) is destroying Twitter (the services) with some sort of odd design-by-committee culture.  No matter if you like or dislike these new features, the case is clear that teams behind Twitter (the service) definitely aren't working towards the same goal.

This is sad. Because I love Twitter (the service). And I don't like that it's being killed by Twitter (the company). Please RT this if you agree.

Update:

Apparently the sentiment is echoed by people leaving Twitter (the company).

Update 2:

In December 2011 Twitter updated their entire line of interfaces. The design changes were clearly aimed at making Twitter a lot more interesting for new users.

Twitter divided itself into different parts, seemingly with different uses:

Twitter areas of interest

Sounds great right? What could possibly be the problem!

Twitter didn't actually change. And Twitter (the service) does not actually have these different areas of interest. So any user checking them out will quickly get confounded. What is the difference between "Home" and "Me"? I have no idea. But to make this obvious, Twitter (the company) has removed Me and Tweet from the web interface which basically means they have these left: Home (My feed), Connect (replies, RTs and follows) and Discover (search damnit, it's just search!).

To make things better worse, the UI is even more fragmented. Twitter no longer has updated clients for iPad and Mac. Apparently the job previously done by one single guy is just to much for an organization of 300 or so.

But it get's even better worse. The UI of the web and iPhone version, while both being updated simultaneously for this new paradigm, still do not follow the same UI standards and are structured differently. Don't ask about Android. Twitter (the company) must really, really, hate Android.

Anyone want to build a Twitter killer, possibly built upon the API of Twitter to simplify the transfer of users? I'm available right now.

Roman philosopher explains Twitter

In a letter to his friend Lucilius the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca reflects on how having friends means you are never truly alone. And when you are, communicating with them makes you connected to them. He writes:

I see you, my dear Lucilius, I hear you at this very moment. I feel so very much with you that I wonder whether I shouldn't start writing you notes rather than letters!

Writing a friend notes of events and thoughts and feelings instead of letter. This is how I use twitter. I share these things with my friends and anyone who wants to follow me. A quite futuristic idea for a Roman born over two thousand years ago.

Twitter is censuring Wikileaks

With the storm of debate sparked by Wikileaks Twitter has been forced to publicly speak out defending Trending Topics. This Thursday Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner claimed that "Twitter favors novelty over popularity,". The trending topics are set algorithmically and aren't affected by human intervention.

There is however a huge flaw in this statement. We can clearly measure, using Google RealTime search, that the discussion about Wikileaks has increased in with the same frequency as Apple events usually do.  And Apple events DO show up in Trending Topics...

So the question remains, why is Twitter censuring Wikileaks?

Twitter censorship

Official Twitter client for OS X

Some time ago the amazing developer(s?) at Atebits launched Tweetie. It quickly became the defacto standard of quality for twitter apps, both on the iPhone and on desktop OS X. Since then Atebits have been purchased by Twitter and Tweetie2 for iPhone has been rebranded and rereleased as the official Twitter app for iPhone.

Well that's great. But before that happened I was waiting for the OS X update for Tweetie that Atebits had been working on for some time. Twitter might be more interested in the mobile market but I hate to see good design wasted, and I really want to keep using Tweetie on my mac. So please Twitter, release the official Twitter client for OS X, the app formerly known as Tweetie2 for mac.

Why I tweet

Tired of telling people why you are active on Twitter? So am I. So we've started a little project, me @heidi and @dcarlbom is aggregating tweets about why we tweet and will be using them to make the definitive explanation to why Twitter is so great. Help us out! Just add #whyItweet to your tweet and explain why you tweet. We'll be posting more about the project and following up on the results.

Real time search - the problem

Both Google and Microsoft's new search service Bing has partnered with Twitter to provide real-time search results for queries. This is great news for finding valuable information but it also creates new problems to overcome; filtering out the irrelevant data. Search today is based on relevance through counting the number of links to and from a site. This relevance also weights the linked sites. This is the basic idea behind Google's PageRank system. But its fundamentally flawed, namely the older the site the more information and weight it can get. Google has of course tried to minimize this affect but it's still visible when searching for certain topics.  Google "next apple event" for an example. The search result is completely useless.

Twitter however has the opposite problem. Without a system like PageRank to value the posts a lot of relevance comes from time. The latest posts are the most relevant. But this also means that topics that aren't current might not yield any relevant information available. So the time problem is reversed from Google's PageRank time problem.

So how will we solve this? Well, I don't have a definitive answer of course. But I've more and more come to believe in crowd sourcing as a means to get accurate data. Perhaps relevance can be calculated not from the content itself but from how we interact with it. If users can be filtered out from bots (usage patterns for bots are really hard to mask over time since the cloud could potentially remember ever mouse move they make) relevance could be weighted from number of users who actually read or view the content.

No doubt Google has teams working on this. And no doubt they will eventually buy some small startup doing it a lot smarter than they are. It's an interesting problem nevertheless.