(From the archives) If Twitter has the guts, it could improve the service with a few counterintuitive tweaks

(From the archives) If Twitter has the guts, it could improve the service with a few counterintuitive tweaks
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Good post outlining some of the hurdles Twitter faces and touches on something I’ve felt for a long time. While there are certainly services that benefit from pure network effects (where more connections directly translate to a better experience), I’d argue that many of the most popular feed-based products (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) walk a thin line between “enough varied content to be interesting and something you want to check regularly” and “so much content that you have a difficult time extracting the signal from the noise. ” The stream is a consumption vessel with clear limitations and I worry that Twitter’s approach is encouraging pure volume over better signal, especially for lightweight users who they need to stick around.

I know it’s a personal thing but I don’t understand how people follow thousands (I’m genuinely fascinated by it and would love to read any blogposts people have of their consumption workflow with 1000–2000 followees). I know I’m always on the hunt to prune my feeds across services in an effort to keep it to content I care about (and can reasonably keep up with) and people I engage with. Attention is time and time is a finite resource so there’s no time for hurt feelings if people get unfollowed. If I unfollow you it’s because the content you’re sharing isn’t for me, it isn’t because I think you’re a shitty person.

Pro tip alert! I visit a site called Manage Flitter every month or so to help me keep the people I follow to what I’ve learned is a manageable number for me which is ~450 (YMMV). The free version of Manage Flitter gives you tools to help you slice and dice the people you follow by different criteria (Not Following Back, Inactive, Talkative/Quiet, etc.) and then easily unfollow folks right from their site. I suggest everyone give it a try at least once and see what you learn about the people you follow. It’s fantastic.

While a service like Manage Flitter can give you coarse ways to manage the people you follow based on aggregate data, I’d love to see Twitter (and other services in a similar predicament) leverage what they know about me to help me follow the people that will give me the best/most informative/most engaging Twitter experience. If Twitter made sure I was following the right people (and unfollowing the ones that were just generating noise in my feed), I suspect it would become an overall stickier experience for everyone, even if it meant following fewer people.