Every tweet is precious  MAY 13 2009

This "small settings update" to Twitter sucks.

We've updated the Notices section of Settings to better reflect how folks are using Twitter regarding replies. Based on usage patterns and feedback, we've learned most people want to see when someone they follow replies to another person they follow -- it's a good way to stay in the loop. However, receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don't follow in your timeline is undesirable. Today's update removes this undesirable and confusing option.

The semi-private/semi-public thing that Twitter has going on is one of the most significant features of the service, IMO. It's the magic. There's serendipitous social discovery factor but more to the point: when I follow someone, I want to see *everything* they post. Those @replies to my friends' friends are part of their narrative, part of what I want to hear from them. Arbitrarily cutting out some tweets sucks. Besides, isn't the "problem" solved by this "feature" mostly addressed by locked accounts and private messaging?

It's also odd that Twitter would release this feature, which makes it easier for people to communicate in self-contained groups, when it seems like the company is moving in the opposite direction towards a broadcast model, where the emphasis is on tweeting at large groups of people that you don't know. Two big examples:

1. They inserted a "suggested users" step in the sign-up process which made a small number of people on Twitter into superusers and implied to new users that Twitter is a service for following celebrities instead of chatting with your friends.

2. And then there's all the press they've been doing. You don't go on Oprah to talk about how Twitter is for small groups.

(Would you like to post this link to Twitter?)

Update: Twitter reversed their decision on this. Sort of.

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 sentence is also interesting:

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.

I'm not sure that makes any sense to anyone who doesn't work at Twitter. Maybe Twitter will wow us with simple and intuitive per-user controls but it seems to me that the service works best when it's simple. Having to think about to what degree you're following someone multiplied the number of people you're following starts to feel like the friendship maintenance crap that everyone loves to hate about other social networking sites.

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