4 ways I would improve Twitter

It was a rough year for Twitter. No buyer. That whole election thing. Minimal innovation. Layoffs. I don’t know about you, but I can feel the stagnation within my personal network.

I’m not going anywhere – yet. The open, simplistic nature that creates so many challenges for Twitter are the same reasons I have valued it so much as the center of my professional network for the past 6 years. I have yet to find another channel that provides that same value.

Founder/CEO Jack Dorsey just turned to users for suggestions on how to improve the platform in 2017 …

As Recode observed, early replies focused on safety, bookmarking and edit features. While I’m not a fan of editing (you can’t alter real-world conversation after it happens), I agree wholeheartedly that themes of safety and accountability must drive Twitter’s evolution in the coming months. The deeper integration of video via Periscope should also not be overlooked as a considerable add that may lead to long-term benefits. At the same time, there are some basic things Twitter could do within its core functionality to strengthen the overall user experience.

Here are 4 ways I would improve Twitter …

Feed Filter

I want the option to knock certain types of content out of my feed. Using keywords, hashtags, topics and content types, an advanced filter would give me greater control over the types of content I consume from my curated network. This functionality has several use cases …

  • Spoilers: If I miss an episode of The Walking Dead, I have to avoid Twitter until I catch up. If I could knock out references to the show from my feed until I’ve watched, I wouldn’t have to self-silo myself indefinitely.
  • Media: Video and images can make it more difficult to read text as I scroll my feed. This is especially true when following discussion via a hashtag. Sometimes you want GIFs. Sometimes you just don’t need the distraction.
  • Disinterest: Conversation on Twitter is trendy by nature regardless of the makeup of your network. Sometimes you just don’t want to hear about the same topic over and over again and need a self-imposed break – but without going into a social media silo.

Elevated Lists

Lists are one of those “I didn’t know Twitter did that” features that has the potential to make the platform that much more powerful. It’s difficult-to-impossible to maintain meaningful lists without help from another tool (ex: IFTTT), and using lists to filter your feed requires several extra clicks into the bowels of your Twitter profile. Lists could become part of the advanced filtering capability I have already outlined. The option to list a user should also become an optional part of the click-to-follow decision. Lastly, list maintenance would be greatly-enhanced by the option to quickly identify and remove inactive accounts.

Secondary Mentions

It’s difficult to follow back-and-forth discussion on Twitter, especially when the conversation segments across groups of users. While I don’t have an exact vision for how the product could evolve to better handle this (without defaulting to threaded comments), I would like the option to specify primary and secondary users in my reply. This could be similar to traditional email in that an intended receiver could be designated while others could be “copied” on the message for awareness.

Accountability via Crowdsourced Rating

Freedom of speech on Twitter is an interesting consideration. After all, Twitter is a private entity with its own rules. They can theoretically shut you down for any reason at any time. But, this isn’t a very user-friendly or scalable policy. Beyond extreme situations, users must dictate the acceptability of shared content. What if users were able to “rate” one another based on the value they provide to the community rather than just block or report? Then, using that advanced filter option, I could opt to restrict my feed to users with specific ratings. Sure, this could be abused along the way, but the option to employ the rating-based functionality would be up to each user. It could further be balanced out by allowing the option to trigger filtering based on your own network’s assigned rating rather than the general population. Twitter could also use this crowdsourced feedback to identify potentially problematic accounts, even if they haven’t clearly violated the terms of use.

How would you improve Twitter? What suggestions have you shared via #Twitter2017? Are you looking for a new sharing channel, or do you plan to stay with Twitter as long as possible?

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  • Richard J McVey

    Crowdsourced Rating: After having elected Trump I question the wisdom of the crowd. I’ll pass on this idea.

    • JD

      I still believe the crowd – whether it be the entire user community or your curated network – can help inform your decision to engage with another user. Otherwise, noise will dominate. There is no perfect system, but I think this level of insight could be explored further. Thanks for the comment! JD