Twitter is often making news — sometimes for the right, and sometimes for the wrong reasons. And whenever that happens, everyone piles on with their opinion and suggestions on how to save it, remake it, or improve it. Today it is my turn to play armchair quarterback/fantasy league manager, and propose some modest improvements to Twitter.
Last week, Twitter (the company) lit Twitter, the service (and technology news media) on fire, when rumors emerged that the company was thinking about a 10,000 character option. This is “Twitter wanting to suck all our writing into their platform. But they didn’t invent the idea, so don’t blame Jack,” wrote Dave Winer on his blog. That decison is akin to being Medium, except on Twitter. Or like Facebook Notes on Facebook. Or Facebook trying to keep everyone on Facebook using Instant Articles. Pick anyone of the analogies – Twitter wants to keep people on Twitter longer. Twitter wants new people to come to Twitter, more often.
That meme, made me wonder is instead of trying to be yet another content island, shouldn’t Twitter focus on doing things to improve the experience, if not for new users, but for others who come to the service often. I mean Twitter had 300 million users and getting even a tenth of that total to come back several times a day will be enough for Twitter to sell more advertising. So any improvement can be good for the company.
Take for example, the “quote a tweet” feature. I really enjoy the idea of being able to quote a tweet, and write a complete response to it, giving it some context. It is one of the smarter additions to the service. Why doesn’t Twitter take it one step even further and embed entire conversations, so there is always some context for anyone who casually stumbles across the conversation. You aren’t teaching people new behaviors, but instead are making the current features easier and more usable. Why stop at quotes? Why not remove any penalty for attached media payloads and thus give all 140 characters for tweeting your thoughts.
Similarly, why don’t they start introducing simple, easy to use feature enhancements that can help Twitter become more useful for non-Tweeters. Polls aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are interesting when seen in the context of news — how about encouraging their media partners to create polls that can spark a conversation, both on Twitter or off-Twitter. Twitter, thanks to its unique ability to gather news links, chatter and Internet sentiment, can easily create the next generation “Front (News) Page of the Internet.” Twitter is the embodiment of “sources go direct” movement Winer has talked about for a while – they should be highlighting that, and only accelerate that behavior. If I were them, I wouldn’t even try to do anyting daring — just make it look like the front page of a newspaper.
I do have detailed and specific ideas, but for now I will keep them to myself!