Twitter Listened! They Gave Us Back Our Replies! Oh, Wait…

Last night, and in direct regard to the shenanigans of yesterday, Twitter made this announcement in their blog (“We Learned A Lot“):

This morning we received lots of great info about the replies setting we changed yesterday. Folks loved this feature because it allowed them to discover new people and participate serendipitously in various conversations. The problem with the setting was that it didn’t scale and even if we rebuilt it, the feature was blunt. It was confusing and caused a sense of inconsistency. We felt we could do much better.

Okay, fine. As I reported yesterday, the removal of all the options in our reply settings caused a huge response on Twitter, notably amongst early adopters and those who preferred the facility to see all replies. So, what will they do to make it better?

So here’s what we’re planning to do. First, we’re making a change such that any updates beginning with @username (that are not explicitly created by clicking on the reply icon) will be seen by everyone following that account. This will bring back some serendipity and discovery and we can do this very soon.

Uh, okay. So if I type @username – say, @NYTimes – as opposed to hitting the reply button, everybody who follows me will see it?

But… but… if I click on the reply button, then it will be treated as a reply, and only my followers who are following @NYTimes as well will see it?

Whaaaaaaa?

This doesn’t even make any sense – both from a general and technical perspective. Twitter.com uses Ajax – when I press the @ key and enter a username and hit space, it changes the ‘update’ button to a ‘reply’. So, surely, anything that starts with @username is going to be treated as a reply?

Before

After

Try it yourself.

Moreover, what about all the external software clients that make up, oh, over 70 per cent of Twitter’s user-base? Will/do all these differentiate between @s and replies? I doubt it.

What this all means, of course, is that every tweet starting with @ is now going to be treated as a reply – as it should and always has been – but now instead of being able to opt in and out of seeing all replies from our followers as before, we now ALL have to see them, all the time. And by all, I mean that 98-99 per cent who didn’t care about or were unaware of the ‘all replies’ settings beforehand. It’ll be interesting to see if that overwhelming majority is more vocal and condemning than the 1-2 per cent of yesterday.

Don’t get me wrong – I can’t wait to see what my pal Timmy told this girl Sally what he had for breakfast. And vice versa. But some people don’t like that stuff.

Unless, of course, the Ajax change on the home page is an entirely superficial event, in which case only ‘manually’-entered @replies will be visible to all followers. You know, the ones that aren’t replies at all, but actually are.

Wait, there’s more:

Second, we’ve started designing a new feature which will give folks far more control over what they see from the accounts they follow. This will be a per-user setting and it will take a bit longer to put together but not too long and we’re already working on it. Thanks for all the great feedback and thanks for helping us discover what’s important!

Now this I like – Qrystal suggested it as a good idea yesterday and I’m 100 per cent behind it. I even started a petition for it on GetSatisfaction.com (until some etiquette monster decided one reply-related discourse on there was enough, even though I was making a completely different point). I like to think Twitter reads this blog and is paying attention, but I’m not an idiot. It’s not that radical an idea, and they’ve probably considered it for some time. Still, assuming they do it the right way – stop laughing at the back – this is progress.

We can look at all of this from one of two angles – either Twitter has listened to the overwhelming criticism and done a partial reversal, or they’ve made an already ridiculous decision even more confusing and illogical. My gut says that unless their blog announcement is poorly-worded to the point of being completely wrong, it’s a mixture of both. This isn’t active yet – at least, not for me – so there’s a chance they’ll one again realise how utterly moronic this is and have another big think.

Meantime, expect more complaints today – I’m not quite convinced #fixreplies has worked its magic yet.