There’s a bonafide Twitterstorm on today after a post from Twitter co-founder @Biz Stone indicated that the service would be changing the way it handled @replies. Just check out #fixreplies.
Here’s what @Biz posted to the Twitter blog yesterday:
Small Settings Update
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 Importance of Discovery
Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you’ll still see mentions or references linking to people you don’t follow. For example, you’ll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don’t follow @biz. We’ll be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.
And here’s what he followed up with after today’s tweetstorm
We’re getting a ton of extremely useful feedback about yesterday’s update to Settings. The engineering team reminded me that there were serious technical reasons why that setting had to go or be entirely rebuilt—it wouldn’t have lasted long even if we thought it was the best thing ever. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to wake up and see all the tweets about this change.
We’re hearing your feedback and reading through it all. One of the strongest signals is that folks were using this setting to discover and follow new and interesting accounts—this is something we absolutely want to support. Our product, design, user experience, and technical teams have started brainstorming a way to surface a new, scalable way to address this need.
Please stay tuned and thank you again for all the feedback.
Talk about real-time feedback and response! I’d like to hear more about the technical reasons behind the change.
In the meantime, however, I’d like to propose a simple fix to the Twitter community to preserve the “cocktail party effect” whereby you can catch snippets of interesting conversations and then tune into them and their participants:
Add RE to the beginning of your tweets in front of a given username.
Since, as Laura “@pistachio” Fitton pointed out this morning, @replies were a community generated convention, it’s quite straightforward to continue that practice and introduce a way of indicating to everyone that you are are @replying to someone.
RE = reply to.
At some point, stats wizards can pull out who gets the most RE @ them, just like they have analyzed the RT (retweet). In the meantime, this will “surface” a person for everyone. And, since Twitter and other clients automatically now default to “@mentions” instead of direct replies, we can keep on chatting.
RE is all of two characters to add, plus a space. Yes, 3 spaces out of 140 is a bit dear, but in this writer’s opinion they are worth adding to buck the filter. I’ve posted a comment on the Top 15 Twitter Acronyms to add RE to the list. I hope that RE catches on, as I’d really miss those snippets of conversation.