Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twitter must evolve


Retweeting—copying another person’s tweet and crediting them using an @mention—is an extremely popular use of Twitter website/application. One which was unplanned for when Twitter was first developed. In the development team's words, "Retweeting is a great example of Twitter teaching us what it wants to be."

However, this use is also working against what Twitter was designed for: short, simple, person-to-person communication. All the tagging, hash-tags, and bit.ly links are clogging the tubes of communication, and something has to be done about it.

For example, the New York Times places a link to an article in their feed, one of your friends finds it and relays it with a re-tweet. One of their followers finds it interesting and does the same. By the end of it, you’ve got three tweets all directing you to the same link—one which you may not be interested in yourself. It’s a lame self-promotion strategy that is turning the micro-blogging site into unreadable code that offends the eyeballs. (RT@bentheintern @newyorktimes bit.ly/ty79m #newmedia #socialnetworking– it’s all over the screen!)

Twitter is working hard to remedy that, after recently announcing a new project to officially support and better incorporate re-tweeting into its user interface.

Hopefully, this means they’ll be shoving all the tags and hashes somewhere else, away from my poor retinas. They could take a cue from rival online communication tool Facebook, adding a ‘like’ feature where people could simply state their enjoyment of an article and spare us the visual assault—put it somewhere else, give it another page or something.

The site was not originally built for passing on links in this way. Indeed, the question that is asked when you look at your input space on Twitter—What are you doing?—is rarely ever answered, in my experience.

Passing on links to interested people is all well and good, but Twitter is turning into a tagging and linking machine that lacks the inter-personal connection that it was designed to create. It is imperative that Twitter be redesigned to incorporate and separate tagging, linking, and retweeting from original messages, or soon, it will turn into a glorified RSS feed—and I’ll have no reason to read or contribute.