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.

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