Nishtha KanalAug 30, 2013 12:30:01 IST
Twitter has always been interested in aiding conversations although it has not always been on the right path when it comes to implementing this. There’s a method to Twitter’s madness as far as its reverse chronological order of tweets go that hooked users see as a way of life now.
The micro-blogging website has kicked up a hornet’s nest with threaded tweets. The feature was being tested slyly for a month or so now but was finally introduced to all users this week. What seemed like a decent idea when it appeared, hours later caused an explosion of tweets by unhappy users who ran over the feature with a roadroller. When you log into Twitter now, you will sporadically see conversations of about two to three tweets bunched together. The mess up here is that these are in a chronological order.
Nope, nope, nope!
The pale grey line that demarcates one tweet from another disappears so you can classify these as a single conversation. These tweets are also distinguishable thanks to a line that passes vertically through these tweets, now being referred sort of distastefully as the “blue line” since it is in that colour by default.
Twitter, with the threaded tweets feature, is aiming to help you keep up with conversations and follow the buzz on the site. Good intentions, but not every one seems to find this new feature agreeable. A simple search for “Twitter blue line” throws up tweets by users who’re finding this feature hard to keep up with. It’s the rare occasion where Twitter is at the centre of a backlash, even while the services are not on a blink.
Twitter blue line is a great illustration of why Twitter wanted so badly to kill 3rd party clients and we wanted so badly to keep them.
— Tim Maly (@doingitwrong) August 29, 2013
Can we all take a moment & let @twitter know how lame this blue line thing is?
— PK (@Star_Fawkes) August 28, 2013
Of course, there were the funny ones.
Nobody else thinks the Twitter blue line is like a bottle of Ujala dripping over your timeline? Okay.
— Khamba (@gkhamba) August 29, 2013
Does this Twitter blue line show who's pregnant and who's not?
— TheStarBanger (@SpltFingerCurve) August 29, 2013
Let’s try and cut Twitter some slack and understand that this is a new feature and feedback is required to make it work in a lot better, more intuitive way. Even so, Twitter has got a few things fundamentally wrong in this blue line fiasco. Most importantly, Twitter has gone against its own rule of keeping things in a reverse chronological order.
Picture this: You’re scrolling down (or up, if you prefer) your Timeline and you come across a cluster of conversations that are in the absolute opposite order to the one you’ve been reading in. Disastrous. Let’s face it, if you’ve been on Twitter for over a few weeks, you know the order of tweets you need to follow in order to read through a conversation.
Not too long ago, Twitter had introduced the original way you could hone your stalking skills in order to follow a conversation. Clicking on a tweet would open up a drawer of a couple of replies to the tweet in question. In case you wanted to know more about the conversations, you could click on the time stamp and it would open up the page where you could see nearly every single reply to that tweet. Now, isn’t that a much better way to follow conversations? Clicking on the tweet in order to read a conversation was voluntary and the blue line feature shoves spoonfuls of conversation down your throat.
You’ll see exactly why most people are averse to this new feature and think of it as forceful once you check out your home page. Conversations you could have simply forgotten about as you refreshed the page are not going anywhere; they’ll keep surfacing even as someone you follow replies to it. God forbid someone you follow gets into a flame war. All that you can do is sign off, pack your bags and run off to the Himalayas for a few days of self-discovery.
You will be forgiven for drawing a parallel between this resurfacing of tweets on Twitter and bumping up of posts on Facebook. Twitter has always been known to be real-time and quick with its chatter. Out of sight is out of mind for people here. A couple of ways to keep up with topics across the website is to see if people you follow are tweeting or retweeting about it. You can also check out trending topics and hashtags on your left to keep up with the times.
But resurfacing old stories? That’s so Facebook. With its spanking new algorithm, Facebook has decided that you need to see stories that your close friends have been talking about. Stories with most likes and comments as well as ongoing threads are surfaced regularly to the top of your News Feed to try and draw you into conversations. At a time when Facebook has unapologetically decided to adopt Twitter’s much-loved hashtag and verified pages features, it does not make any sense for Twitter to make half-baked efforts to ape other social networking websites.
At least some are seeing the funnier side to the blue line
The best bit about the blue-line feature is also the worst bit. When conversations are displayed to you, there will also be tweets directed to or from people you do not follow in the cluster. While this feature could be great to figure out what a certain conversation is about, being bombarded with tweets from random users might make you lose your cool and tweet, “Get a room!”
It’s understandable that Twitter is coming up with newer means to keep its audience engaged and draw them into conversations. Sooner or later, the micro-blogging website is heading towards an IPO and the service needs to show numbers to investors. The IPO is expected to land sometime next year and Twitter has been conducting a host of tests to roll out features that will be widely accepted and more importantly, useful, to users of the service.
However, there is a huge question mark about whether threaded comments are the right way to go for Twitter. The service recently rolled out a feature where you could find context to tweets by checking out which articles it had appeared in. This again, was something you could find in the tweet drawer or the tweet page, not the Home tab. Twitter will need to understand that the home page is sacrosanct and loved just the way it is.
Facebook receives flak on a regular basis for making changes to its user interface. You may wake up one day to find that the notifications drawer has shifted sides or that you can no longer get rid of the chat roll from your News Feed. Twitter users have silently been proud about the fact that the service is stable when it comes to introducing new features. Except the occasional times when Twitter has completely revamped its look and feel, the only time one can point fingers at it is when the Fail Whale appears for brief moments or when it manages to mess up yet another third-party application.
The blue-line feature has been the cause of Twitter’s headache since its wider roll out yesterday. Hopefully, it will be prompt to take into account user feedback and make tweaks to the threaded-tweets feature. Having said that, Twitter is never going to pull back this feature, so you might as will grin and bear it. Or you can choose to use a third party application or a browser-based service like TweetDeck, but it’s only a matter of time before they jump on to the blue-line bus themselves.
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