Twitter’s @reply fail: a screenshot of hasty decisions

So it looks like Twitter took out an option in people’s user set­tings. This set­ting let you see or not see con­ver­sa­tional replies to which you only fol­low half the con­ver­sa­tion. It is a lit­tle con­fus­ing and an exam­ple would help paint the pic­ture. Let us say this is a con­ver­sa­tion on Twitter:

  • Costello: @Abbott Well then who’s on first?
  • Abbott: @Costello Yes.
  • Costello: @Abbott I mean the fellow’s name.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.
  • Costello: @Abbott The guy on first.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.
  • Costello: @Abbott The first base­man.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.

If you were fol­low­ing only Abbott and not Costello, with the afore­men­tioned set­ting one way, your Twitter mes­sage stream would look like this:

  • Abbott: @Costello Yes.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.
  • Abbott: @Costello Who.

With that set­ting the other way, you would see none of the above. Since you don’t fol­low Costello, you would not see replies directed at him.

Overall, it is a fea­ture that is rather con­fus­ing to new users. Some folks like it because it lets you find new peo­ple to fol­low. Personally, I dis­abled it because I got tired of see­ing con­ver­sa­tional halves and my mes­sage stream is already start­ing to push the bounds of time and atten­tion.

The folks at Twitter, though, per­ma­nently dis­abled the fea­ture in the last day or two. It seems they did it rather quickly and uncer­e­mo­ni­ously. This raised a $#!+storm twit­storm (see also: #fixreplies) of angry peo­ple who loved the fea­ture.

I’m not sure I have much of an opin­ion one way or the other. It was a fea­ture I never used, but it would have been nice if they had bounced the idea off the user­base; per­haps hid­den it under an advanced menu some­where. What I can say is that the removal of this option seems really well thought out:


Oops. They took out the option, but left the explana­tory text in the side­bar.

Posted in: Twitter

2 thoughts on “Twitter’s @reply fail: a screenshot of hasty decisions”

  1. This is why I don’t engage in @ replies. I don’t want to sub­ject my fol­low­ers to half of a con­ver­sa­tion. So when peo­ple send me a reply, I send them a direct mes­sage instead. Until Twitter makes it so I can see an entire con­ver­sa­tion at a glance, I’m stick­ing to this tac­tic.

  2. @Simon: Personally, I pre­fer the use of pub­lic @ replies, as it makes Twitter a more “con­ver­sa­tional” medium. One per­son can ask a ques­tion or say some­thing witty and some­one else can answer or have a witty response, then yet another can add or detract from the answer or play fur­ther off the witty ban­ter. I also like the fea­ture (well, I guess it is now the default behav­ior) of hid­ing @ replies to peo­ple you don’t fol­low. It’s less sen­sory over­load for me. But I also can appre­ci­ate that peo­ple use it to find oth­ers and to get in on big­ger con­ver­sa­tions, and that it sucks to have this option ripped out overnight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *