You may be wondering why #RIPTwitter has been trending for the last 24 hours. The answer is this rumour: apparently, Twitter is going to abandon its signature chronological timeline in favour of an algorithmic timeline that will prioritise popular tweets. There have also been rumours buzzing that the iconic 140-character limit will be replaced with a ridiculous-sounding 10,000-character cut-off point. If all this sounds rather familiar, it’s because we already have that social media service. It’s called Facebook, and it stopped being cool about 7 years ago when all our grandparents joined it.
Back when I was a prolific Facebook user, I used to laugh at how upset everybody would get whenever there was an update to the service. But this time round, I suddenly get it. Because I actually love Twitter. And because these changes aren’t just a minor new thing to get used to; they actually undermine the very core of what makes Twitter great.
The death of a real-time timeline spells the end of live-tweeting and of Twitter chats, and it will make it even harder for smaller accounts to get noticed. Right now, Twitter is a global conversation, in which everyone’s voice is equal. If the alleged algorithmic timeline kicks in, that conversation will become heavily curated, making it inevitably more one-sided than its current organic form.
So that’s why we’re all in mourning for what could be the death of Twitter. But it’s not like Twitter is perfect as it is. In fact, there are several features that I’d love to see changed—most importantly, having systems put in place to deal with Twitter’s harassment problem.
Us: Can you improve harassment reporting?
Us: Okay but that's not
Twitter: New timeline, who dis?
— BAEtter Clingin' (@wstafrican) December 8, 2015
The people making these changes don’t seem to even use Twitter; many of the statements released about the rumours have shown a serious lack of understanding of their user base—including one from a Twitter employee expressing surprise at his tweet going viral. *Eye roll*
So to make it easy for them, here are 6 things Twitter should be focusing on—instead of an algorithmic timeline and 10,000-character tweets.
1. Require an account to use Twitter
Twitter has certain measures in place to reduce harassment, such as the ability to block or report certain accounts, but all of this becomes pretty useless when you remember that nobody even needs an account to look at Twitter in the first place. Suddenly blocking that troll doesn’t feel all that reassuring after all…
2. Ability to remove yourself from lists
Now and then, I’ll get a notification that a user has added me to a list of “feminazis” or some other idiotic and unpleasant title. These lists are public—anybody can subscribe—so my inclusion on that list means that any MRA with a hatred for women on the Internet now knows exactly where to find me. Of course, I can just block the user and instantly be removed from the list, but it’s not always so clear-cut. A lot more often, I get added to positive lists: “book bloggers” or “writers I love” etc. These are lovely on the surface, but it doesn’t stop Internet trolls popping up and deciding to send rape threats to everyone in a user’s “my favourite feminists” list. In those cases, I usually don’t want to block the user—but if they don’t respond to my request to be removed, I’m left feeling vulnerable. Twitter needs to give us the access to quietly remove ourselves from any lists we don’t want to be on.
3. Control who can @ mention you
When someone starts harassing you on Twitter, it’s easy enough to block their account from sending you any further tweets. Except, all that actually happens is that you stop receiving what they send—they’re still totally able to write it. In other words, they can tweet out a direct link to your account to anyone who follows them. Of course, Twitter can’t prevent them from writing out your username, but they could easily strip out the link.
4. Let you know when someone embeds your tweet
Journalists often embed tweets in online articles, as a useful way of showing public opinion on a topic; I’ve embedded two tweets in this blog post, because they made me laugh and nicely summed up what I’m talking about. But there can be downsides to this: writers might embed a tweet maliciously, or to illustrate a controversial topic, which can lead to the user getting an influx of abuse without knowing where it’s coming from. I reached out to the accounts to ask them myself, but really we need Twitter to take control. If Twitter could notify us when and where our tweets are being embedded, we at least have the option to request their removal. Even better, an account setting could give you the right to opt in or out of having your tweets embeddable in the first place.
5. Keep track of who is quoting your tweets
When somebody quotes your tweet, you get a notification—but other than that, there’s no way to keep track of where tweets are being quoted (which kinda messes up your retweet stats, jussayin’). Keeping track of this would be a pretty neat feature—when I see a tweet that interests me, I’d love to see where else it has been quoted, and what people are saying about it.
6. And of course… an edit button
'Lie back,' she whispered, 'And tell me what you want.'
'An edit button,' he replied.#RIPTwitter
— 50 Nerds of Grey (@50NerdsofGrey) February 6, 2016
People have been clamouring for an edit button long before I even joined Twitter. I see the problem: imagine you retweet somebody’s hilarious joke only to find they later edited it to include a controversial and offensive message. But there’s got to be a way around this, because noticing a typo in your viral tweet sucks.
Photo credit: HowToStartABlogOnline.net