Why do most people use Twitter? The majority that is? Fun? Probably. Twitter, at its root, is essentially a more commonly accepted (and increasingly mainstream) take on the chat room, en masse, affording you the opportunity to choose who you want to listen to out of those 5-6 million Tweeters.
The thing is, Twitter, as an experience on the web (i.e., Twitter.com), is pretty limited. There are certain things you can do to raise your personal enjoyment level, and we’ll get to those in another post, but there are some things that Twitter themselves could be doing to make the service a lot more user-friendly. Here are ten of ’em we’d like to see on the next major update.
A Chance To Edit Your Tweets
Like all of us from time to time I make a glorious typo in one of my Tweets. Or maybe the link is wrong (or it went TinyURL when I didn’t want it to), or I forgot to add an ‘RT’, or accidentally proclaimed my love for Scientology, or whatever. On these occasions, my options right now are limited to:
a. Living with it, or, the preferred choice
b. Erasing the previous Tweet, and re-doing it
You’d be amazed how many people do the former. You see it again and again, with somebody just posting up a TinyURL link, then realising they probably need to explain what it is, but instead of deleting the previous Tweet, they just re-post it. Thanks for that. Now I’m not going to click on your link twice.
Few people seem to have the courtesy to erase the bad Tweet, and start-over. The thing is, even those that do are at the mercy of the bad Tweet getting ‘out there’ before they can act. Cue, everybody laughing and pointing. So what to do?
Well, what Twitter should do is apply a grace editing window of 30-60 seconds. No more, as this means people can tamper with their messages after seeing the response and making themselves look better than they really are. Pretty much every social network and every forum in the history of the Internets allows one at least a moment of time to edit one’s gaffs. I don’t see any reason why Twitter needs to be any different.
Better Search Facilities
As you may know, Twitter is on the verge of making its largely ignored search function – a situation which was entirely their own doing – a more central part of the home page. The search operates in real-time, meaning when you submit a query, if you leave the page up it will keep updating for you. Which is great, and when it becomes a main part of the service, will be extremely useful indeed.
Problem is it’s not useful enough. Unless you’re a whiz with keywords, it’s very difficult to search for Tweets or users in certain criteria. For example, by location, or by the user’s bio or job description. It’s true that other services make this available to you, but shouldn’t that be something that Twitter offers as standard?
A Way To Mass-Delete Direct Messages
Sometimes it’s nice to get a DM on Twitter, maybe from a friend or somebody who has something private but significant to share. Most of the time, however, direct messages are a colossal pain in the ass. The majority are auto-sends from various follow/unfollow services (which do have their uses), and it’s true you can, with a bit of a tinker, remove yourself from these deliveries, but that doesn’t help with the hundreds of DMs you’ve already built up. I want a ‘delete all’ button, and I want it now. Or at least a mark facility, so I could remove the ones I didn’t want (while keeping the pervy stuff).
Also, while we’re at it, I hate the idea that you can only DM somebody who has followed you. While I understand the reasons why this is important – there are something like five thousand mentals for every one celebrity on Twitter – I think that neither party should be allowed to DM unless you’re both following each other. Is that too much to ask? Common courtesy, and all that. And remember: celebrities can go mental, too.
Sometimes, a subject will come up that several Tweeters want to take part in. Right now, that means @ing masses of people, the end result of which is a shorter and shorter message. That’s insane, right?
Threaded Tweets would allow one to mark a Tweet in a certain way – maybe in a system similar to hashtags, but more within Twitter – and anyone else could get stuck in by re-applying that mark. Any time a Tweet was marked in such a way, previous markers, until they chose to un-mark themselves, would get the Tweet. Maybe clicking on it showed you who was reading/replying.
They could do something similar with DMs, as well, allowing you to have threaded – but private – conversations.
Sometimes, 140 characters just aren’t enough. I don’t really want to see Twitter move away from this feature (or do I? See below), but from time to time – maybe when you’ve got something really special to say – it might be nice to be able to group a Tweet or two together. This might add a little image that represented a ‘more’ and possibly a ‘previous’ link, so if somebody caught one side, they could quickly zip to the other.
Folk do this anyway, often adding [1/3] and that kind of thing to do the end of Tweets. So why not make it an option?
Drop The 140-Character Limit
I’m in two minds about this. The last thing I want Twitter to become is Livejournal, full of hideous fan fiction and emo-types submitting wave after wave of terrible poetry. But… what’s wrong with, say, 200 characters? It’s not enough to be a threat to our senses, but it offers that little bit more for things like re-Tweets (those RT @s can kill you), follow-Fridays, and all that kind of jazz. Maybe you could be allowed five 200-character Tweets per day? A bit mad, perhaps, but other services offer similar limited bonuses.
Okay, I realise this might disrupt the SMS-service a little, but texts can, believe it or not, carry over one message.
And why does Twitter tease us with a 160-character limit for our bios? They hate us, they really do.
Using a service like TweetDeck, one can set up groups for ‘interesting people’ and that kind of thing (I know I do), and try and turn a blind eye to the hundreds of other Tweets flooding through the system (or even turn them off altogether, but that seems to defeat the point).
However, what if the people you actually like are boring the pants off of you that night? What then?
Specifically, I’m thinking about services like blip.fm, and their impact on the Twittersphere. We’ve all done it – I use blip.fm quite a bit (especially when under the influence of Madam Smirnoff), but if you’re not in the mood for music, and looking for something a bit more meaningful, endless repetitive Tweets from blip.fm-endorsing friends can be a real pain.
This is where a filter on Twitter would be of great use. Temporarily, or permanently if it took your fancy, one could elect to remove Tweets containing certain words – say, ‘blip.fm’. It could be switched off at any time, but, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t bother.
Marked Favourites To A Re-Tweeter
A lot of folk try to do this manually, but I’d like to see an official Twitter re-Tweeter that picks up any Tweet that any user marks as a ‘favourite’, and then re-Tweets it. Favourite Tweets are all available for public viewing anyway (check out any celebrity), and it might be a useful way to get the best stuff out there, and help us all to meet new and interesting folk. (I’d strongly suggest some kind of filter that stops a user from marking their own Tweets as a favourite, else chaos will inevitably ensue.)
Adopt A ‘Fair Ratio’ Policy
A lot of celebrities just aren’t getting Twitter, especially those with a following count of zero, or only a few other celebrity mates. It isn’t a place to come to gloat and be loved. It’s a two-way medium. I’d quite like Twitter to implement a feature – possibly on new accounts only – where you can only have X people following you if you’re following X people yourself. Not 1:1 – that’s a little extreme – but at least 1:4. So, if you have 40,000 followers, you need to be following a minimum of 10,000 yourself. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Otherwise it all risks turning into the shallowest of wading pools.
This is a little controversial, but perhaps for $10/month, or thereabouts, ‘pro’-level users could be afforded a bigger chunk of the Twitter API? Or perhaps all the features above could be offered to these pro accounts. Twitter itself needs to remain the same – the end result must be the same for all users, irrespective of whether you pay or its free – but for power-users and others who really like to push the service to the max, maybe paying for more is a fairer solution for everybody?
What improvements would you like to see? Or is Twitter just right, as it is?